As a tried and true blues guitarist, Tinsley Ellis holds no delusions of taking the world by storm. Besides, the workman musician — who just turned 55 — already gets to enjoy something just as good.
A father figure of sorts in the genre, he helped spawn the career of a young Derek Trucks, who since has twice appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” gracing a 2007 cover as a “New Guitar God.”
Ellis speaks of such accomplishments like a proud papa.
“One of my favorite moments of my career is having Derek Trucks make his recording debut with me in 1994. His dad brought him out to a show when he was 11, but we made him wait until he was 14 to sit in with us,” Ellis said. “He wasn’t just one of the most amazing 14-year-old musicians I’d ever come across, but really one of the best I’d come across, period.”
At that age, Trucks performed as Ellis’ opening act.
“Lo and behold, now he invites us to open up shows for him,” Ellis said. “It’s kind of a gas.”
A well-respected background figure in the scope of blues music for decades, Ellis has shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic and Buddy Guy, constantly touring and always working as an integral cog in keeping the blues churning.
He’s released 10 studio albums and an acclaimed live album over the past quarter-century, with 2009’s Speak No Evil being the most recent.
“It’s gone the opposite way that you might think is logical. Lots of acts start out more rockin’ and then get mellow over time. We have experienced, for some reason, the opposite,” he said. “I started in this more traditional blues style, but I’ve gone backwards, so to speak, getting louder and more rockin’ as I’ve gone along.”
Ellis noted that Speak No Evil doesn’t hew entirely to the blues playbook.
reminds me of what I listened to in the early ’70s: Cream and Jimi
Hendrix and ZZ Top. It was fun to go in with the Les Paul and Marshall
amplifiers and do it up,” he said. “The blues police weren’t with us,
anyway, so we could amp it up without risking alienating anyone.”
Atlanta native is eyeing a new disc sometime in the near future. Until
then, he works steadfast through his ceaseless touring — such as
headlining at the annual free Bricktown Blues & BBQ Festival — to
bring the blues to the people who crave it, regardless of current
gone full circle. When I started, there was no such thing as a blues
star. Stevie Ray Vaughn came, changed the scene and held the door open.
The rest of us walked in behind him. Then he died, and it’s gone back to
1978,” Ellis said. “Everyone is waiting for the next star to emerge.
Maybe there won’t be one, but at least we had the ’80s.”
Bricktown Blues & BBQ Festival performance schedule
5 p.m. Doc Blues Revue
6:30 p.m. Amy Lee and The Second Line
8:30 p.m. Earl and Them
10:30 p.m. Sugar Ray Norchia and the Bluetones
noon Doc Blues Revue
1:30 p.m. The Roland Bowling Band
2:45 p.m. AJ Johnson and Why Not
4:30 p.m. The Otis Watkins Band
6:30 p.m. Terry Quiett Band
8:30 p.m. Anthony Gomes
10:30 p.m. Tinsley Ellis