Bluesman Ellis to ‘Speak No Evil’ at EvolutionWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After watching The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” 8-year-old Tinsley Ellis begged his parents for a guitar. But it was the King of the Blues who made him want to really learn to play.
“I was really into the music of the British invasion, like The Animals and The Yardbirds, Rolling Stones — they always talked about B.B. King,” Ellis said. “And an older guy said, ‘Well, if you like that bluesy kind of music and that twangy guitar, you need to check out B.B. King.’ And I said, ‘What is a B.B. King?’
“And around the time I was asking that question, [King] came and played at a hotel in North Miami Beach where I grew up in south Florida and did a teen show,” he recalled. “Mr. King did an hourlong set for kids. And I actually got a chance to meet him, and it just knocked me out. It floored me the way he would sing and then he would imitate with the guitar playing — the guitar playing was sort of a musical interpretation of the words.”
As if meeting a legend wasn’t inspiring enough, the 14-year-old took home a piece of the show.
“[King] was playing Lucille and bearing down on [his guitar], and his E string popped. We were in the front row, so we reached up and got that string and divided it amongst us, as kids do, and I’m the only one who kept the string,” Ellis said during a call from his Atlanta home.
Since his 1988 Alligator Records debut, “Georgia Blue,” the electrifying guitar slinger and his searing style have earned quite the reputation. Rolling Stone compared him to Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. And he even toured with King.
The singer-songwriter will play an 8 p.m. concert May 6 at Evolution, 519 N. Reynolds Road. Tickets are $18 and $15 for Black Swamp Blues Society members.
“We count on these blues societies like the Black Swamp Blues Society to keep us on the road and to keep their members — new members and prospective members — aware that we are even coming to town. This will be a good night,” he said.
Ellis will play songs from his 2009 disc, “Speak No Evil.”
“The themes of blues songs are timeless,” the 54-year-old said. “People are always going to be losing jobs; there’s always going to be taxes; people are always going to be breaking up with their loved ones; people die — those are the themes of the blues.”
That said, Ellis aspires to take people away from their worries.
“I hope they leave the show with the feeling that they’ve had some relief. We need relief; we need the kind of relief that doesn’t leave you with a hangover, unless it’s a blues hangover.”