The Activities Council of Thomson is proud to announce the 2015 lineup for the 22nd Annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, Saturday May 9th. The festival has been bringing great roots musicians and blues players to Thomson, in eastern Georgia, for over two decades. The festival is always held in honor of Thomson’s Blind Willie McTell, an early 20th Century pioneer on the 12 string guitar. McTell played in a variety of musical styles, including blues in the Piedmont style, ragtime, and gospel music. McTell was born in McDuffie County and is buried in the Happy Valley area of the county. His influence extends over a wide variety of artists, including The Allman Brothers Band, who famously covered McTell’s “Statesboro Blues”, and Bob Dylan, who paid tribute to McTell in his 1983 song “Blind Willie McTell”.
This year’s lineup stars Marcia Ball, John Hammond, the Golden State-Lone Star Blues Revue, Chris Smither, Mingo Fishtrap, and the Bruce Katz Band. Tickets will be on sale March 1st at www.blindwillie.com . Prices for tickets are $30 advance and $40, the day of. There is no charge for children, ages 12 and under. Great regional food will again be featured along the food court. Gates open at 11 in the morning, with music beginning at noon.
About the artists…..
Marcia Ball has played McTell Fest, first in 2004 (with a lineup that featured Pinetop Perkins) and again in 2011. She and her combo put on a dynamite show of New Orleans influenced blues, featuring Ms. Ball on vocals and piano. She had been nominated for five Grammys and has won the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of The Year five times in the last ten years…an award given each May by the Blues foundation in Memphis. Ball’s New Orleans boogie and Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music fans all over the world. She’s touring behind her sixth release for Alligator Records, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man.
John Hammond has been out singing and playing solo blues guitar and harmonica since the early sixties. During this time he’s recorded 35 albums, 8 of which were nominated for Grammy awards. His collaboration with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Koko Taylor and others, called Blues Explosion, won a Grammy in 1985. Hammond was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012. His 2014 release, Timeless, is nominated for a Blues Music Award this year in the category of Acoustic Album of the Year, along with a nomination for Acoustic Artist of the Year. He has performed or recorded with Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield, JJ Cale, Tom Waits, The Band, John Lee Hooker, Dr. John and many more. He truly is one of the world’s premier acoustic blues artists.
The rest of the lineup is a who’s who of great players. The Golden State-Lone Star Blues Revue is a five-piece, featuring Mark Hummel on vocals and harp, along with guitar greats Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh. Baty and Funderburgh have appeared a number of times in Thomson….Anson with The Rockets and “Little” Charlie with the Nightcats. Soloist Chris Smither appeared in Thomson in 2000. He has been playing and singing and writing for over 50 years. Chris comes into town touring behind his career retrospective Still on The Levee, his 17th release. His finger-style guitar playing is rooted in the syncopated blues style of say, John Hurt, and his original tunes have been covered by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Diana Krall and many others.
From Austin, Texas, soul-funk revivalists Mingo Fishtrap bring a soulful, rootsy sound to Thomson this May. This 8 piece band with a full horn section is fronted by songwriter and vocalist/guitarist Roger Blevins Jr. Formed in Texas in the Mid 90’s, they’ve recorded 6 albums. Their latest release is 2014’s On Time. Opening the festival this year will be piano/organ virtuoso Bruce Katz and his combo, the Bruce Katz Band. Bruce played here last year with Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and has been a mainstay of the New England blues and jazz scene for decades. Bruce’s current album, “Homecoming,” is #8 on the Living Blues Radio Chart and getting heavy radio play on XM/Sirius Bluesville Channel. As an added collaboration for 2015, we’re pleased to announce that Bruce and his combo will play with John Hammond for about ½ of his set later in the afternoon.
Organizers of the festival, the Activities Council of Thomson (ACT) are a non-profit organization founded in 1974. ACT was formed to foster education, appreciation and promotion of American arts, particularly those that draw from Southern history, culture and the American experience. To this end, its primary purpose over the past two decades has been to expose this area of Georgia to styles of music and musicians that, without our effort, would likely pass us by. For our work, we were honored with the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities in 2014.
For more information visit our Facebook page, www.blindwillie.com, or call 706-597-1000.