Bradenton's Doug Deming looks forward to playing at home

The Detroit transplant is among the musician's at this year's Bradenton Blues Festival

mclear@bradenton.comDecember 1, 2013 

He's perhaps Bradenton's most famous bluesman, but he didn't play at the Bradenton Blues Festival last year.

"I wasn't able to play at the inaugural festival," Deming said. "I was on tour in New York."

He certainly heard a lot about it though, both from his local friends and from blues musicians who had come to town to perform.

"What blues musicians like is a festival that's run smoothly, so you're not standing around wondering 'what am I supposed to do now?'," He said. "That, and a festival that's well-attended. This one was both."

He's most definitely playing this year's festival, though, and he can't wait.

"It's going to be great to reach the maximum number of people without having to get in my car and drive for a month," he said.

It will be Deming's first local show since he received the Sean Costello Rising Star Award at the 2013 Blues Blast Music Awards, one of most prestigious awards in blues music.

"I certainly consider it a major honor," he said. "My band's been working really, really hard and this shows us that people in the industry are taking notice. A couple of the other people in my category have been around a little longer and they've been working the social media harder, so I really didn't expect to win."Singer-guitarist Deming and his band the Jewel Tones, along with his frequent collaborator Dennis Gruenling, will be playing all day at this year's festival. (The second annual festival, as most every music lover in Bradenton must know by now, is slated for 11 a.m.-7:35 p.m. Saturday on the Bradenton Riverwalk.)

Deming and his band will play short sets, maybe 15-20 minutes, while other acts are setting up for their shows.

"They asked me if I'd do it, and I said that since I live here, that's actually ideal for us," he said. "That way we can play for everybody who's at the festival, all day long. If we played from 1 to 2, we'd only reach the people who are at the

festival between 1 and 2."

Deming was living outside Detroit and was a force in the national blues scene before he came to Bradenton four years ago.

"The weather was the main reason," he said. "But the economy in Detroit was going downhill, and my wife's business, which was manufacturing, was failing."

They might have toughed it out in his hometown, he said, but then they learned that a Burger King was going in next door to his property.

"We decided it was time to go," he said. "We made up our mind that our next move was going to be a warm one. We looked around Florida and Bradenton seemed to be the place that was most like our little town, with the addition of sunshine and palm trees."

The downside of the Bradenton move was that he had to start from scratch and put together a new band.

"It was difficult because I didn't know anybody," he said. "I had toured in Florida a lot, but I really hadn't come to this area. I didn't have any connections."

He finally put together the Jewel Tones. Besides Deming himself, the band includes Devin Neel, a drummer who had previously toured with Damon Fowler Group, and Andrew Gohman, whose band the Bottom Feeders had been a staple on the Tampa/St. Petersburg blues scene.

The Jewel Tones' regular harp player is Madison Slim, who has played with Jimmy Rogers, among many others. (Coincidentally, all the other members of the Jewel Tones are also Midwest transplants to the Bradenton area -- Neel is from Indiana, Gohman from Ohio and Madison Slim from Wisconsin)

Slim joins the Jewel Tones for most shows around this area, but he'll be sitting this one out. New Jersey harpist Dennis Gruenling has a long-time musical partnership with Deming. He usually plays when Deming's touring around the country, but he's making the trip down to Bradenton specifically for the blues festival.

Putting together a band isn't easy, Deming said. There are plenty of great musicians around this area, but Deming's music has a distinctive flavor that not every musician has a taste for.

"I fell in love with all that old-school music," he said. "So there's Chicago blues, '40s swing, a touch of jazz, a touch of rockabilly. If I was had to out a one-word description to it, it would be 'blues,' but there's a lot of other influences too."

And even though finding exactly the right people wasn't easy, Deming said he struck gold.

"I got really, really lucky," he said. "I was difficult to find the right guys because not only do you have get guys who have the same musical interests as you do you, have to find guys you like to be around. And that's what I have. They're just great guys to hang out with.

"It's not many people who can admit to being as happy as I am."

For information about the Bradenton Blues Festival, go to www.bradentonbluesfestival.org.

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

IF YOU GO

What: 2013 Bradenton Blues Festival

When: 11 a.m.-7:35 p.m. Dec. 7

Where: Bradenton Riverwalk

Tickets: $30 adult, $20 student, $10 children 5-12.

Show times: 11-11:40 a.m. Albert Castiglia; 11:55 a.m.-12:55 p.m. Johnny Rawls; 1:10-2:10 p.m. John Nemeth; 2:25-3:25 p.m. Anthony Gomes; 3:40-4:40 p.m. Trampled Underfoot; 4:55-6:05 p.m. Eddie Shaw & the Wolfgang; 6:20-7:35 p.m. Shemekia Copeland; All day between acts Doug Deming, Dennis Gruenling and the Jewel Tones.

Information: www.bradentonbluesfestival.org.

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