Rising music star who headlined the 2018 Bradenton Blues Fest dies

Less than two months after he headlined Bradenton Blues Fest, a popular blues musician has died.

Mike Ledbetter of the Welch-Ledbetter Connection died on Monday of an unknown medical emergency at his Elgin, Ill., home, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

He was 33 years old.

The Welch-Ledbetter Connection was the featured and final act of the 2018 Bradenton Blues Fest on Dec. 1.

The band played to a massive crowd at the sold-out event on Bradenton Riverwalk.

Organizers of the Bradenton Blues Fest expressed condolences via Twitter.

“With great sadness, rest in peace Mike Ledbetter, a brilliant and talented musician. Condolences to his family, his friends, and the Blues community,” read a post from local non-profit Realize Bradenton.

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The Welch-Ledbetter Connection headlined the 2018 Bradenton Blues Festival. Realize Bradenton

“He was scrupulously healthy,” bandmate Mike Welch told the Sun-Times. “On and off, he was a bodybuilder. There’s no lessons about the pitfalls of the road. This is a man who took care of himself, loved his kids, loved his girlfriend Kathy.”

Mr. Ledbetter’s musical talents went beyond blues.

In his youth, he performed opera in the Chicago area for more than a decade, according to his website. He also sang soul, gospel, pop and R&B throughout a career that led him to perform around the U.S. and overseas to Europe and Russia.

Eventually, Mr. Ledbetter was called back to his blues roots, performing as a rhythm guitarist with the Nick Moss Band for seven years before starting his latest project with Welch.

The Welch-Ledbetter Connection’s 2017 album “Right Place, Right Time,” won the award for Best Traditional Blues Album from the Blues Foundation. This year, they are up for Band of the Year.

Mr. Ledbetter posted on the social media platform Instagram in the weeks leading up to his death.

On Jan. 11, he posted a video in which he workshopped a new tune.

And the day before his death, Mr. Ledbetter posted a montage of his son Michael laughing.

“Loved this,” Mr. Ledbetter said in the post. “Me at anyone who tries to stop my shine this year.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been created on behalf of Mr. Ledbetter’s partner, Kathy Cahoon. It has nearly reached a $30,000 goal.

Ledbetter also leaves behind two small children, Holland and Michael.