New blues festival debuts in Sarasota

Kenny Wayne Shepherd headlines the Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival

mclear@bradenton.comOctober 24, 2013 

If you're any kind of a blues fan, you know that the Sarasota Blues Festival, which for more than 20 years brought the world's best blues musicians to town every year around this time, has been canceled.

But there's still plenty of great music heading our way, thanks to a company called Turnstile Productions and a brand-new event called the Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival.

It's set to make its debut Oct. 26 at the Sarasota Fairgrounds.

"When we heard the Sarasota Blues Festival had been canceled, we didn't want that tradition of 22 years or 23 years to die," said Ed Morrell of Turnstile LLC, the St. Petersburg company organizing the Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival.

This year's inaugural edition of the festival features the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, Popa Chubby and Samantha Fish.

Even with just four headlining acts, Morrell said, the festival offers a lot of diversity within the blues genre.

Fish is an acclaimed young Kansas City blues guitarist who won a Blues Music Award last year from the Blues Foundation for Best New Artist Debut. She has a new album called "Black Wind Howlin'" that reportedly has a more sophisticated sound than her first two albums.

Blues-rock veteran Popa Chubby is "a little more hard-driving, rougher, biker kind of music," Morrell said.

Estrin is widely acknowledged as one of the best harp players in contemporary blues. He was a member of Little Charlie & the Nightcats, and the band's name changed when Charlie Baty went into semi-retirement in 2008. Baty will join the band as a special guest in Sarasota.

"We're really happy that Little Charlie will be joining the band for our festival," morel said. "It's going to be something special."

Shepherd, 36, is a former wunderkind who has been topping the blues charts since his 1995 debut album, "Ledbetter Heights," hit No. 1 and went platinum.

"When you hear the name Kenny Wayne Shepherd, you think of blues guitar," Morrell said "Kenny Wayne Shepherd and blues guitar just sort of go together."

Opening the show are locals Big T & the Tornadoes and Lady Sings the Blues. They were chosen for the festival through a talent competition

Morrell and his partners in Turnstile all have extensive experience in putting on shows and events, and in fact they all worked as consultants to the Sarasota Blues Festival in 2012.

Morrell said the plans definitely call for the Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival to become an annual event.

"We'd love to make it a two-day event down the road," he said.

Details: Gates open at 11 a.m., music starts at noon, Oct. 26, Sarasota Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. Tickets $27 advance, $32 say of show. $22 advance tickets available at all area Walgreens stores. Children 12 and under $10. Information: www.floridabluesandmusicfest.com.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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