Do Savannnah

'Blues Trinity' joins Savannah musicians and B.B. King’s former drummer

  • B.B. King
  • Albert King
  • Freddie King
  • Tony Coleman, former drummer for B.B. King
  • Savannah musicians Ray Lundy, from left, Eric Culberson and Eric Dunn will participate in “Blues Trinity: A Tribute to The Three Kings."
 

'Blues Trinity' joins Savannah musicians and B.B. King’s former drummer

22 Sep 2015

In November, the Lucas Theatre played host to a one-night-only live event many folks around town still speak of enthusiastically.

That super-sized concert, a salute to Bob Dylan’s legendary proto-Americana musical cohorts The Band, featured a variety of songs written and/or popularized by that now-defunct group, performed by a massive ensemble cast of standout rock, country, folk and blues musicians from our immediate area.

It was an exuberant celebration of timeless American songwriting and the copious, often overlooked or under-appreciated talents of local players and singers, many of whom had never shared a stage before, or even hung out together, for that matter.

IF YOU GO

What: “Blues Trinity Concert: A Tribute to the Three Kings”

When: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Where: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1

Cost: $21

Info: www.lucastheatre.com

“Life Is a Carnival” (as The Band tribute was known) came awfully close to selling out the 1,200-seat Lucas, and that somewhat unexpected success instantly made the notion of showcasing local musicians — who, generally speaking, are more likely to be found plying their trade in small bars, restaurants and nightclubs — on the stage of one of the largest and most ornate historic venues on the Georgia coast a much more viable idea.

Fast-forward 11 months, and three of the artists featured at that event have joined forces again to spearhead a similar musical celebration — this time in honor of three iconic singing electric blues guitarists who, despite being unrelated, all share a common surname: Albert, Freddie and B.B. King.

It’s an opportunity to marvel at the stunning caliber of performers in our midst, as many faces and names familiar to followers of the Savannah music scene are either serving in the “house band” for “Blues Trinity: A Tribute to The Three Kings” or will join that group for a portion of the show as special guests.

I spoke with singing guitarists Eric Culberson (aka EROK) and Ray Lundy (frontman of the psych-garage blues combo Bottles & Cans) in anticipation of this highly anticipated event.

 

How did you come to be involved in this?

Eric Culberson: I played some songs for The Band tribute last year, and was asked to organize and coordinate the music for this blues tribute. I came up with the concept, the name and the material used, and got most of the musicians involved. It’s only been in the works for a couple of months.

Ray Lundy: It was maybe mid-summer when Eric Dunn (bassist and organizer of The Band tribute) called and said he and Culberson were talking about doing a show celebrating B.B. King, since he’d just died. Shortly after, the idea expanded into paying tribute to Albert and Freddie, too.

 

How is the Three Kings tribute similar to last year’s salute to The Band?

EC: The Band concert was awesome and inspirational. It brought more camaraderie and closeness to an already good situation amongst Savannah musicians. We’re doing this show because that one went so well, and hopefully that camaraderie will continue to grow.

RL: One similarity is the massive amount of music. These three blues giants each have their own distinct sound and style. Both shows required a lot of study and rehearsal in what seems like a short amount of time. Otherwise, I think these two tribute shows are actually quite different from each other — especially musically.

 

When and how did you first become interested in the blues?

EC: I first became interested when I was a young teenager. My parents and all my brothers and sisters were musically oriented and the blues was just something I was more naturally attracted to.

RL: Back when I was just a kid, my dad took me down to the music store and specifically bought me three tapes by B.B. King. One was “Blues & Jazz.” Y’know, it has the cover with the black guitar cake covered in confetti with the little B.B. on top? (Laughs.) The second was “Live from Cook County Jail” and the third was a “Greatest Hits,” I think ...

B.B.’s music led me on to Muddy Waters, Little Walter and ultimately Howlin’ Wolf. Then I discovered Bob Dylan, and really took an interest in playing guitar and trying to sing a little.

 

Are you specifically a big fan of Albert or Freddie as well, and their respective playing styles?

RL: Well, somebody could say that B.B. taught everybody how to play, and I’d probably agree with them. I mean, his influence can be heard in almost everybody that’s playing blues nowadays. He sure had an impact on the other two Kings.

But, you know me, Jim ... I dig Howlin’ Wolf the best!

 

How would you explain to someone who may not be familiar with the “Three Kings” what made each of them important figures, and how each one’s vocal and instrumental style is different from each other?

EC: B.B. King was the first blues guy that I really heard about. Everybody knows “The Thrill is Gone,” right?

Then I got into Albert pretty heavy and then Freddie as well. Respectfully, they each brought a certain element to the blues in their own unique way. Albert was hardcore — like a rusty butcher knife. Freddie brought funk to the mix, and B.B. brought class and elegance.

 

Will the participants in this show emulate the singing or playing styles of the Three Kings?

EC: I think there’s going to be an even blend of both emulation and our own personal flavor on display.

RL: Dude, Eric Culberson can play just like all three!

We’re going to be playing all the tunes pretty close to how they were recorded originally, but, y’know, I can’t sound like anybody else but me, so I’ll just have to try my best to honor the music the only way I know how.

 

Who all will be taking part in the show?

EC: Tony Coleman from B.B.’s band will be playing drums and singing a few. Eric Dunn (Velvet Caravan) is on bass, and a five-piece section from The Bonaventure Horns will be there.

Anders Thomsen (lead guitarist for local honky-tonkers Damon & The Sh!tkickers). A fabulous female singer named Laiken Williams. Guitarist John Banks from the Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love, Mike Walker (late of GAM and Bottles & Cans) will play a couple on bass. Stan Ray from The Accomplices will sing, Paul Mazo and Jared Hall will be on keyboards, Jonathan Murphy from Jon Lee’s Apparitions, and of course, the core band will be my full-time band, which is Jon Hill on bass and Larry Duff on drums.

 

Anyone you’re particularly excited to play alongside?

RL: I’m real happy about Anders taking part. Once in a while, when schedules allow, he’ll sit in with my band and his playing brings everything up to a whole other level. He’s just a fantastic musician.

Laiken has been just amazing to work with. She’s jazzy, smart and sassy. Jon is one of my favorite local soul singers, and Jared is a monster on the keys, as always. There’s a rumor floating around that a famous rock star might pop in for a visit, but that was just something I heard ...

 

How much rehearsal is going into this event?

RL: Hopefully, just the right amount!

 

What would you say to someone who may not consider themselves a fan of blues music — or who feels all blues is one big, boring song — to convince them to give this special show a try?

EC: The blues is probably one of the most varied genres of American music out there. If you think it’s boring, you sure haven’t heard enough. Either way, this show is going to be amazing and definitely worth experiencing.

RL: Well, if you ain’t had the blues yet, then just keep on living! Because everybody gets the blues sometimes. Blues music is not for some sad trip; it’s really a dance music that is made to help people forget about their problems. Hell, most of the blues is about sex, and who doesn’t like that?

 

What’s been the biggest surprise so far in preparation for this event?

RL: The songs that Culberson chose for this. We’re going pretty deep into the archives. This has been an education for me on Albert and Freddie King, for sure. That’s some pretty progressive stuff for essentially being blues music.

 

How did you convince B.B. King’s former drummer to come to town just to sit in at this show, and is he doing any rehearsal with the band or just showing up and winging it?

EC: Tony and I were on the same King Snake Records label back in the early ’90s, so I hit him up and he responded with a big YES. He’s not rehearsing with us. Maybe just a little on the day of the show. He knows these songs. Hey, he’s B.B. King’s drummer, after all!

 

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