Blues Fest to showcase local talent today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2006

There's Delta blues, country blues, swamp blues. How ‘bout some electric harmonica blues, jump blues, and St. Louis blues?

And there's lots more where that came from.

Music lovers will get the chance to hear many different types of blues today at the Sweet Gum Bottom Blues Festival in downtown Greenville.

Blues music is truly an all-American art form, Blues Fest musicians say.

&#8220Without blues, we wouldn't have country music, or jazz or rockabilly. A lot of artists, from Eric Clapton to Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac, were influenced by the blues,” Butler County resident Jeff Cummings, said.

Cummings' four-man band, &#8220The Blue Light Specials” will be performing this afternoon. &#8220We aren't going to quit our day jobs, but this music is a great emotional release for us, a real creative outlet.”

Cummings said time spent on a family farm in northern Butler County got him interested in the blues as a child.

&#8220There was a wonderful black couple who lived on the farm. I used to go down there and sit on their front porch and listen to him play the blues. That intrigued me,” Cummings said.

After getting &#8220too cool for the blues in my teens,” the musician played in a number of different types of bands over the years, eventually returning to the beloved blues of his childhood.

&#8220This music lets you bare your soul. It's heartfelt and nothing you can hide behind. Audiences respond to that,” Cummings said.

His love of music led him to be involved as a volunteer with the Alabama Jazz and Blues Federation, where he spent four years helping promote those genres of music in the state.

&#8220I got ‘volunteer burnout' after a while, decided to take a year off and get serious about the music.”

Cummings and his band mates, William Watson, formerly of Greenville, Warren Colter and Chuck Mann, have put their focus on festival venues.

They entered a statewide battle of the bands blues challenge in Birmingham last year and came in second. This year, they won first place.

&#8220We get to go to Memphis for the international competition. Just to have the opportunity to visit Beale Street and the places where B.B. King, Elvis and Muddy Waters playedŠthat's the best,” Cummings said with a grin.

Butler County native Rock Killough, singer, songwriter and musician, will be performing with famed country songwriter Sonny Throckmorton, kicking off the live blues music at 2 p.m. today.

Killough has had several of his songs featured on top-selling albums by artists such as Randy Travis and the Oak Ridge Boys. Throckmorton has penned tunes for Tanya Tucker, Doug Stone, Merle Haggard and many others.

The Brewton-based band, Sweet Lovin' Daddy, featuring Greenville's Eric Fennell, along with Jason Gleaton, Shannon Brantley, Neil Jackson and Schwayn Bradley, will perform this afternoon.

Topper Price, Junior Thomas and the legendary Jerry &#8220Boogie” McCain will round out this year's blues bash.

Gates open at noon today, with local contemporary Christian performer Ben Nelson kicking off the bevy of musical offerings.

&#8220We might just have a few musical surprises in store, so you are definitely going to want to be a part of this event,” Cummings said.

A classic car show, children's rides and fun activities, arts and crafts displays and southern-style concessions are also all a part of the Sweet Gum Bottom Blues Fest, located downtown behind the Ritz Theater. Bring your lawn chairs to enjoy this open-air event.

Admission is $5 for adults, with children 12 and under admitted free.