the luster of the blues

by rick grant
Break out the sunscreen and folding chairs. The largest free outdoor music event in Florida, the George’s Music Springing the Blues Festival (GMSTB), is coming for three solid days of great music to grace the Jacksonville Beaches’ Seawalk Pavilion, April 3 – 5.
Sam Veal is the venerable brain trust and executive producer of the GMSTB. Every year at the press party the second week of March, Sam is genuinely excited by the festival lineup. He’s a tireless promoter of this free event and is ubiquitous at the Festival, running around making sure everything is on schedule.
Over the years, the festival has received accolades by various blues authorities. It was named by Downbeat Magazine as one of the top 50 Music Festivals in the world. Also it was named by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the top 20 destination events in the country. The fact that the festival is free and right on the ocean in the cool breezes of Spring makes it very attractive to tourists.
Throughout its 19 year history, (since 1991) I’ve trudged out to the GMSTB for every event. The shows that stick in my memory go back to before the Seawalk Pavilion was built. The festival was presented at the same spot on the small concrete slab and outlying grounds facing the ocean. At that time, it was a much smaller festival. It was during that early period that I remember Susan Tedeschi’s debut performance at the event with her first band that included another female guitarist.
Since then, Susan Tedeschi has gone on to glory and multiple Grammy nominations. Along with Susan, I remember witnessing the greats of blues at the festival. I caught Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown before he passed away and a legion of other original blues artists.
Alas, a lot of the blues legends are gone, but a new breed of dedicated blues artists carry on the tradition and are willing to make the sacrifices in a genre that has its ups and downs. Senior blues icons such as Buddy Guy, (73) Koko Taylor, (80) and B.B. King (83) are still touring on a limited basis. The young Turks of blues include Greg Baril, Conrad Oberg and Tommy Castro, another inspiring blues artist. One year, Tommy Castro and Tab Benoit played on the Seawalk Pavilion stage during the Saturday’s main event. That was a great show.
This year the fest is presented on two stages-the Seawalk Pavilion stage and the West Stage across from the Beaches City Hall. Performaces kick off on Friday, April 3 at 5 pm with the John Miller Band. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band will headline the Friday event. Chubby has presented his Bayou Zydeco music at several other festivals at the Seawalk Pavilion in previous years.
The awesome Saturday schedule features variety of blues artists performing from 11:45 am to 8:45 pm, with Lucky Peterson ending the night. One of the highlights of the Saturday schedule is E.G. Kight at 2:45 pm. E.G. is getting tons of ink for her masterful guitar work, full range voice, and songwriting skill. She is a must see.
Plan to go early and stay late to catch all the great blues artists. There’s much to see and do, with vendors serving a variety of food and plenty of beer.
The buzz for Sunday afternoon is Nicole Hart and the NRG Band at 2 pm. I was so impressed with her last year, I called her for an update and asked Nicole how her career was going.
“2008 was my best year yet, starting with my performance at the 2008 GMSTB. It was a milestone event. I did a recording session for 2008 Blues Music Award nominee, Albert Castiglia’s CD These are The Days. During that session, I met Blues Leaf Records label president, Joseph Morabia who signed me to his label.
“Consequently, I recorded my Blues Leaf label debut CD Treasure, which will be released nationwide April 14, 2009. On the recording, I did a duet with Albert Castiglia and it was produced by Jack Kriesberg (Paquito D’Riviera, Elvin Jones). I’m thrilled by how the CD came out. Last year I inked an endorsement deal with EM Acoustics. And of course, I’m excited about returning to the GMSTB,” Nicole says.
At the press conference on March 11th, Sam announced the new festival motto: “Let’s boogie.” He also announced the new fun features this year such as a Meet the Musicians booth.
Sam said that there will be a photo and video contest as well. Ed Cotton will host a guitar workshop at the Seawalk Hotel indoor stage Saturday at 2 pm as well as spearheading the “George’s Music Blues-In-The-Schools” outreach program. Sunday, Roger “Hurricane” Wilson will hold an electric blues guitar workshop in the same location at 5 pm.
The peripheral events include a surfing, running, and bicycle blues events at various times and locations. Sam went on to say that this year the festival will have reduced prices on food and beverages
At the Press Conference, Toots Lorraine and the Traffic plus Ed Cotton performed live. Toots will be performing on the West Stage Friday night at 6 pm. Ed Cotton performs on the West Stage Sunday, at noon. The official festival restaurant, Mojos Kitchen provided the delicious lunch and will hold after hours jams featuring various GMSTB performers each night from 10 pm until late.
For me, after 19 years, the festival hasn’t lost its luster. I still enjoy going out to all the festivities. For the diehard blues fans to avoid the parking hassles, check into a hotel for the weekend and make it a mini-vacation. Go to for everything about Goerge’s Music Springing the Blues festval.
Read George Hines: Spotlight on Festival Presenter

show schedule

Friday, April 3
Main Stage Schedule*
5:00    John Miller Blues
6:00    J.P. Soars and the Red Hots
7:30    Regi Blue
9:00    Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band

West Stage Schedule*
5:00    Tommy Thunderfoot and the Accelerators
6:00    Toots Lorraine and the Traffic
7:30    J.P. Soars and t

Saturday, April 4
11:45    Skinny Legs and All
12:45    WSNB
1:45    Marquise “Manchild” Knox
2:45    E. G. Kight
4:00    Dave Herrero featuring Felix Reyes
5:00    Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm
6:15    Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang
7:30    Legendary JC’s
8:45    Lucky Peterson

Sunday, April 5
12:00    Willie Mae
1:00    Samuel James
2:00    Nicole Hart and the NRG Band
3:00    Jim McKaba and the After Hours Band
4:00    Robin Rogers
5:00    Greg Baril
6:15    Shane Dwight