Pat Blythe – London Bluesfest….the road trip isn’t over yet

Fall has finally arrived (weather wise) and September’s been busier than stink. Extremely exciting things happening in the life a young singer/songwriter friend….finally….it looks like gingerpennies may become a full-fledged business, loads happening in the clubs around Toronto (and a couple I completely forgot about)….that was a major “squirrel“…..writing copy for a website out of Birmingham and the AirBnB thing is non-stop. Another year older but not necessarily wiser. My battery hasn’t run down yet and it can always be recharged. Life is good.

Crowds at London Bluesfest 2017

OMG (as they say). What a weekend of fantabulous everything!!!! Three days of incredible music and amazing musicians, all in one spot. Again, the weather was unbelievable and the crowds at Harris Park had a phenomenal time. Where to begin….. Robert Cray, Molly Hatchet, Wild T (Toney Springer) & The Spirit, Burton Cummings and The Carpet Frogs, Bill Durst, Scott Holt, Rick Derringer, BS&T and so many more. I had a blast! A veritable who’s who of blues and rock.

A few notes……Thank you to Chris Campbell for providing the three-day Media/VIP passes to the London Bluesfest. It was an extraordinary weekend and it was lovely to be able to easily move around taking pictures. Shout out to Tara Scott who also worked it to obtain a weekend pass for my girlfriend visiting from B.C. Actually, all the passes/wristbands fell into place with hours of each other. Since I was given two media passes, I gave one to Scott who celebrated her ‘birthday Sunday’ at Bluesfest.

Josh and Elaine Sawyer’s sandwich company, Wich is Wich, “a proper sandwich shop” was the official London Bluesfest caterer to “the stars”. Elaine and her staff were responsible for feeding and watering “cast and crew” alike from early morning breakfast to evening dinners. Elaine, a well-known and very popular (former) morning radio host on Q97.5 for many years “retired” (do any of us really retire) and promptly invested in her son Josh Sawyer’s new venture. Having spent 15 years on the west coast “cheffing” in upscale restaurants as well as preparing meals for Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio and so many others, Josh moved back to London and opened Wich is Wich with Elaine. ….and the food….oh my…..the food is deelish. Every person who dined in her tent had nothing but rave reviews and seconds and thirds. Throughout the day there appeared to be more than just the performers et al nonchalantly wandering in and sampling her wares. Folks just kept coming back. When in London, plan to visit them at their King St. store, across from Covent Garden Market in London. I guarantee, you WILL NOT be disappointed.  Check out their menu here

I grabbed a snap of the company vehicle

….and now for some blues…….

Grammy award-winning Robert Cray performed at the Danforth Music Hall to a sell-out crowd the night before his gig at Bluesfest. I understand there were more than a few folks walking around outside the venue looking for a “spare” ticket. I had the pleasure of watching him the following evening, up close and personal (so to speak). Born in 1953 in Columbus, Georgia, Cray has had a long and storied career beginning with his first band, One Way Street, while still in high school. Focusing on blues and soul, Cray mastered the guitar, developing his own technique and way of performing the music he loves. Cray has had the good fortune to see some of the great blues players perform live including Muddy Waters, Freddie King and Albert Collins, all of whom have been a big influence on his career. He moved to Eugene, Oregon and formed his next band, The Robert Cray Band. He also appeared in the National Lampoon film Animal House (uncredited) as the bass player in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights. He released his first album, Who’s Been Talkin’?, in 1980 and has continued to release material almost every other year since. His most recent production, Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm, was released this year.

Don’t Steal My Love – Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm

Cray is a “guitar god” to many blues players and particularly guitar aficionados. His two guitars of choice are Fenders and Stratocasters. Cray has two signature guitars, one made in the U.S. and the other made in Mexico. The Robert Cray Customer Shop Stratocaster is identical to the one he currently uses on stage. His playing is smooth, sharp, precise with a unique “Cray” feel. He swims in the blues, barely coming up for air before he’s immersed himself again.

Smoking Gun – Robert Cray

Molly Hatchet…..never, ever thought I’d see these guys in action. Founded in 1971 by the late (Sept. 3. 2017) guitarist Dave Hlubek, Molly Hatchet  originates from Jacksonville, Florida, which remains their home base today. The group’s original lineup included three guitarists, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Steve Holland. Lead vocalist was Danny Joe Brown, on bass was Banner Thomas with Bruce Crump on drums. Throughout the ensuing years the revolving door of band members was kept busy with even Hlubek leaving the band for a time. The “boys” I had the good fortune to hear were John Galvin (keys), Bobby Ingram (rhythm and lead guitar), Phil McCormack (lead vocals), Tim Lindsey (bass) and Shawn Beamer (drums).

L-R – Phil McCormack, Bobby Ingram and Tim Lindsey

The band is named after a Southern prostitute who apparently mutilated and decapitated her clients. Shades of Jack the Ripper, Southern style.

Shawn Beamer

Molly Hatchet’s first album was released in 1978, seven years after their inception, but it was their second LP the following year, Flirtin’ With Distaster that broke them wide open and is still their most popular album to this day. Molly Hatchet have traversed many genres throughout their career….country-influenced Southern rock, hard rock, hard rock boogie, blues, pop/rock…..and back to their original Southern rock roots with a distinct blues influence. Molly Hatchet have performed worldwide and continually draw rock, blues and country crowds alike. With three platinum albums under their belt (Flirtin’ With Disaster went 2x platinum), they released their last and 13th album, Justice in 2010. Their blazing live performances today combine hints and flavours of all their musical influences. Sitting in the Wich is Wich food tent, I had the pleasure of meeting Beamer and McCormack and chatted with Beamer for a while. Listening to his stories about the great (and sometimes disgusting) lengths fans will go to just to get an autograph, had us all both laughing and wrinkling our noses. My condolences to the band for the recent loss of Hlubeck and bassist Banner Thomas earlier this year.

Flirtin’ With Disaster – Molly Hatchet

Dreams I’ll Never See – Molly Hatchet

Wild T and The Spirit joined the festivities in London and performed on the third day of the festival. A great choice to start the day off, Toney Springer (Wild T), bassist/vocalist Guenther Kapelle and drummer Murad Gunduz “bloozed” and rocked through their set to the thrill of the crowd. Springer struts and glides around on stage with ease, swinging his guitar over his shoulder then down to his knees, never missing an note….or a beat.  Springer, who has played and toured with David Bowie and Rough Trade among others, is a master of the six strings, making the instrument moan, weep, laugh and simply soar with music, mesmerizing and drawing both himself and crowd into the whatever song he is playing.

Springer dining out….

Springer’s dedication to his craft and his love of music is palpable. His respect for the art form and especially other musicians is what makes him so loved and respected himself. His sense of humor is uncensored. The man speaks his mind. He is a true entertainer as well as musician and you never know what he, or Kapelle, are going to do next. I happened to be on the stage when Kapelle decided to join Springer in the requisite Jimi Hendrix guitar “lunch” much to the crowd’s delight.

Kapelle’s solid bass and Gunduz’s beats are the backbone to Springer’s music. Kapelle, who has been with Springer for almost 18 years, is also tasked with roping in Wild T and his antics. Springer loves nothing better than being on stage and playing the music he is passionate about. It was such a pleasure to see the three of them in my hometown. We all had a great conversation after the show in the food tent. What a pleasure to converse without the cacophony of a bar.

Murad Gunduz

Guenther Kapelle

Midnight Blues – Wild T and The Spirit

Love Crazy – Wild T and The Spirit

There’s more to London’s Bluesfest but that will have to wait. ‘Nuff said here. I gotta run.


All photos copyright A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker” unless otherwise noted.


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

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dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

2 Responses to “Pat Blythe – London Bluesfest….the road trip isn’t over yet”

  1. Marlene Schuler Says:

    No dust settles on you. Like the gingerpennies announcement. Know a lady that started with fudge and now it is in every well known grocery store and speciality stores. Has been for years.

  2. Peter Montreuil Says:

    What Marlene said! Another great column. I love Robert Cray.

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