Fated to be a guitar hero

Feb 19, 2014
Tinsley Ellis

Rockland — The weekly blues series continues March 3 with a 7 p.m. show featuring Tinsley Ellis. Admission at the door will be $10.

Atlanta bluesman Ellis grew up in southern Florida, initially found the blues via the British Invasion and fell in love with the Kings — Freddie, B.B. and Albert. At 14, already a guitar player for six years, he was in the front row of a B.B. King concert when King broke a string on Lucille, changed it without missing a beat and handed it to Ellis. Thus, his fate was sealed; and yes, he still has that string.

While still a teen, the blues guitarist returned to Atlanta and soon joined the Alley Cats, a gritty blues band that included Preston Hubbard of Fabulous Thunderbirds fame. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After three Heartfixers albums, Ellis headed out on his own, making his raw and powerful solo debut in 1988 on Alligator Records.

Subsequent releases, and re-releases of his earlier music, cemented his guitarist hero status … and by now, his talents as a songwriter equaled his guitar prowess. Averaging more than 150 live shows a year, Ellis has played in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. Whether out with his own band or sharing stages with major artists like Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule or Widespread Panic, he always digs deep and plays as if his life depended on it. Last year’s tour with Blues At The Crossroads II: Muddy & The Wolf with the Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson, James Cotton, Jody Williams and Bob Margolin was by all accounts one of the best shows of 2013.

Upcoming in the weekly series are: March 10, the Barrett Anderson Trio; March 17, Bobby Messano ($10); and March 24, Samantha Fish, who wowed the crowd during last year’s North Atlantic Blues Festival. For more information, visit northatlanticbluesfestival.com and click on the Time Out Blues link. Also on the site is information about this summer’s fest, July 12 and 13. Advance blues festival tickets are $25 for either day or $50 for the full weekend.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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