Jammin' with Tinsley

By Perry W. Aberli

Thursday, July 23rd's appearance at the Lonesome Pine Special by Tinsley Ellis and Lonnie Mack was one I almost missed and one that developed into much more than the advertised blues doubleheader. A late afternoon call on my answering machine from Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records informed me that he was flying in for the performance and was expecting to see me backstage. I made it to the Kentucky Center with about 20 minutes left in Tinsley's set and settled in backstage to talk blues with Bruce and refresh a 20year-plus friendship that is punctuated by all-to-infrequent visits, calls and letters. (I met Bruce when he was still working for Delmark's Bob Koester.) After a short but intense set that was heavy on the Freddie King influence, Tinsley came down off the stage primed to play more. Bruce, founder and owner of Alligator, for whom Tinsley records, asked me where "Tins" could go to gig. It didn't take long to conclude that the place for Tinsley to head after the show was the Cherokee Blues Pub.

After a blues jam with Lonnie Mack at the end of the performance, Tinsley did the usual stint selling CDs, tapes and T-shirts and prepared to head out. The "entourage" headed up Broadway and made it to the Cherokee at about 10:30. The Rib Tip Kings were just finishing a set as we all arrived. Introductions were made all around and Bruce, Tinsley and the band forged into the Cherokee.

In a surprisingly brief time Tinsley's band was set up and Tinsley tore into a high-energy version of "You Upset Me, Baby." It was evident that Tinsley was much more relaxed and laid back in the friendly confines of the Cherokee and still pumped from his Lonesome Pine set. After a couple of numbers Tinsley called local blues legend Foree Wells to the stage for a jam. The contrast between Tinsley's high-end, machine-gun guitar style and Foree's smooth chording and runs made for a unique blues blending. I left around midnight, but the bandstand was just starting to heat up.

It was a pleasure to give Bruce Iglauer a taste of the local scene and perhaps set a precedent for future touring blues visitors to follow.

All in all it was an exciting evening of blues in the River City.

(Perry W. Aberli is the president of the KYANA Blues Society.)