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Singing the blues

Charlie Musselwhite plays 17th annual Blues Bash
Charlie Musselwhite
Legendary bluesman Charlie Musselwhite is playing the 17th annual Blues Bash.

After provincial funding cuts threatened the future of the Vancouver Island Blues Bash, The Victoria Jazz Society decided the show must go on, and it will, thanks to the generous support of new corporate donors.

Between Fri. Sept. 2 and Mon. Sept. 5, Victorians will be treated to more than 10 free blues performances, as well as two ticketed shows at Ship Point featuring legendary blues musicians Charlie Musselwhite (Saturday) and Lucky Peterson (Sunday).

“These kinds of festivals are great, and it's a great place to showcase blues because the whole family can come and it's a really healthy environment,” says Charlie Musselwhite. “It take it blues out of the bars, I mean the bar is a great place to hear some blues, but not for the whole family.”

Musselwhite says these type of festivals give blues musicians an opportunity to open people's ears and minds to the blues.

“Some people hear the term blues and they think it's sad music, but it's actually to get rid of that feeling,” he says. “It's uplifting. It has great spirit to it, you know, no matter how bad things might be, we can do this, we can get through it, and we can have a good time.”

Musselwhite will be performing new music from his latest album, The Well, as well as music from his 30-album repertoire, and some he hasn't yet recorded. “There will be something for everybody, so bring your dancing shoes and we'll have a good time and everyone will go home with a smile on their face,” he says.

“What makes this album different from the rest is that I wrote every tune on it. It was the producer's idea. And that's what a producer is supposed to do — push the artist to get the best out of them. They can have perspective on the artist that the artist can never have on themselves. I'm glad he did that.”

Musselwhite says he takes his songwriting inspiration from his everyday life. “That's what the blues is about. I say blues is your buddy in good times and your comforter in bad times. It's all purpose music. It's is all about life.”

Musselwhite got his first guitar from his father when he was 13. “I already had the harmonica,” he says. “I wasn't even thinking about it as something I could do to make a living. I just liked it and I learned by seeking out the people who played it and just hanging out with them.”

It wasn't until he moved to Chicago at 18-years-old that he started getting serious.

“I was going to all these bars and I wasn't going around asking to sit in or anything like that, I was perfectly happy just to be there. One night someone told Muddy Waters that he had to hear me play harmonica. Muddy already knew me from just hanging out, all those guys were flattered that I would go out of my way to see them and that I knew the names of their tunes. So when they found out that I played they asked me to sit in, and it was kind of intimidating.”

“I wasn't really planning on anything like that, but they must have liked the way I played because from then on, anytime Muddy Waters saw me, he would insist I sit in with him. I would always sit in with him at Peppers Lounge, which was his home club when he wasn't on the road, a lot of musicians hung out there and they heard me playing and said 'hey man, come on over to this club next weekend and sit in with us, and we can pay ya,' that really got my attention, that put a whole new light on things. This was my ticket out of the factory. So I started getting really focused. I was big for my age and I already knew how to drink, so I just fit right in. I was from the south and that was to my credit as far as they were concerned.”

Musselwhite will be playing guitar and harmonica alongside June Core on drums, Mike Phillips on bass guitar and Matt Stubbs on guitar.

The Blues Bash kicks off Fri. Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. with a free preview concert in Centennial Square featuring the Stephen Barry Band in partnership with the Victoria Francophone Society.

Saturday starts with free music at noon with a full line up including The House Cats with Rockland Moran, Summer & The Sinners, The Roper Show and David Vest Band before the Charlie Musselwhite Band takes the stage for a ticketed performance at 7:30 p.m.

Sundays free set includes the Victoria Soul Gospel Choir, the Gary Preston Band, Sandy Bone & The Breakdown, and the Bill Johnson Band before Lucky Peterson takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.

Monday features free performances starting at noon with Deb Rhymer Band, Jason Buie Band and the Midnights. M


Blues Bash

Sept. 2 to 5 at Ship Point

Ticketed shows are $29 each or both for $45. Tickets are available at Victoria Jazz Society office (250-388-4423), Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records and the McPherson Box Office (250-386-6121) or online at For more information visit