Monday, May 7, 2012

UPDATED 5/11: Countdown to the Blues free concert series starts May 20 in Bradenton

UPDATED 5/11: Congrats to Ruthie Foster, Biscuit Miller and Johnny Sansone.

These three artists playing at the Bradenton Blues Festival on Dec. 1 won last night at the 33rd annual Blues Music Awards.

Scroll down for complete list of festival artists who were nominated.

The inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival doesn't take place until Dec. 1, but events leading up to the big Riverwalk bash are already beginning.

Organizers have arranged for six months of free concerts and seminars designed to entertain, educate and introduce area musicians and music lovers to the rich history of the blues.

The series kicks off with seasoned guitarist and showman George Worthmore, 5 p.m. May 20 at Sarasota Guitar Company’s Bradenton location, 2111 Cortez Road W., and continues every month through October.

“This monthly concert series is part workshop, part seminar, and all entertainment,” said Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham in a statement. “Thanks to the sponsorship of Sarasota Guitar Company, we are able to offer the Countdown to the Blues series for free so area music lovers can begin to explore the many facets of the blues as we count down the months and weeks to the inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival on December 1."

Sarasota Guitar Company owner Scott Cook came up with the idea of presenting the free concerts as a prelude to the Dec. 1 festival after speaking with several local musicians and blues fans who wanted to learn more about this compelling musical genre. He also wants to help get the word out that Bradenton attracts the world’s finest musicians.

“Bradenton has always been a town where some of the world’s best musicians congregate to play and record," Cook said in a statement. “By bringing the Countdown to the Blues concert series to the community free of charge we hope to do our part in spreading the news that Bradenton attracts the talent and has the community support to emerge as the next Austin or even the next Nashville.”

Worthmore began his professional career as a guitarist with Kinky Friedman and has played backup guitar for Bo Diddley, Ben E. King, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Lou Christy and The Platters. He has also appeared as a guitarist with the band Hot Tuna. Worthmore will discuss the role and evolution of the blues during the Great Depression as he explores blues artistry from the 1930s. He will demonstrate the music of such great blues artists as Blind Blake, Pink Anderson, and Tampa Red.

The Countdown to the Blues Series continues on 5 p.m., June 3 at Ace’s Live, 4343 Palma Sola Blvd, Bradenton, where Chicago native and Bradenton-based blues man Steve Arvey takes the stage to present an evening of homegrown blues. Arvey will demonstrate different blues styles using his collection of homemade instruments, which includes a three-string cigar box guitar, a one-string diddley bow cigar box, an axe handle guitar, and a gator lap slide guitar—all created in the Tampa Bay area. Arvey, who is slated to open the Bradenton Blues Festival, has been performing his own style of blues around the globe for 35 years.

On Sunday, July 15, roots rocker RJ Howson will bring Countdown to the Blues back to Sarasota Guitar Company’s Bradenton store with a performance and overview of the Chicago blues. Fire branded in the Chicago blues circuit, Howson picked up his skillful guitar chops performing and jamming with blues icons at Buddy Guy's Legends club, Rosa's Lounge, Kingston Mines, BLUES on Halstead and many other clubs in the Windy City. Since relocating to Bradenton Beach, he has been busy playing a steady stream of shows all over Florida. Howson will perform with veteran bass guitarist Gregg Voorhees as he shares his experiences and perspective.

For more information on the Countdown to the Blues series and for a schedule of performances through October 2012, please visit

Also, The Blues Foundation has announced the nominees for the 2012 Blues Music Awards. The 33rd Blues Music Awards will be presented May 10 at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis.

Here are artists up for awards appearing at the Bradenton Blues Festival.

Album of the Year: "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil is Too" Johnny Sansone

B.B. King Entertainer: Ruthie Foster

Contemporary Blues Album: "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil is Too"

Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Johnny Sansone, JP Soars

Instrumentalist-Bass: Biscuit Miller

Instrumentalist-Other: Ben Prestage, diddley bow

Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female): Ruthie Foster

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Victor Wainwright

Song: "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil is Too," Johnny Sansone

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