Pat Blythe – Tom Petty, Burton Cummings, Scott Holt and Bill Durst…..

I open today’s column with great sadness. Tom Petty, a true rock ‘n’ roller and one of the most respected individuals in the music business today, as both as musician and a person, has died just days before his 67th birthday. Social media was on fire with the news, jumping the gun just a tad early (thanks CBS) but nonetheless, we instinctively knew in our hearts he wasn’t going to make it. I traversed the 70’s and 80’s with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, listening to and loving his work. Not your “classic” rocker, in both appearance and musically, but we all knew Petty was pure talent. The “humanness” of his lyrics, his way of combining them with a unique melody and his distinctive voice, touched a certain part of your psyche and drew you in. You stopped to listen. There will be so much written about him over the next few days and weeks I won’t drag it out here. Suffice to say this is one rocker I will truly miss. I send my condolences to his wife Dana York, his two daughters Adria and AnnaKim, his step-son Dylan and his extended family.

“Don’t you hear it? she asked & I shook my head no & then she started to dance & suddenly there was music everywhere & it went on for a very long time & when I finally found words all I could say was thank you.”

Unheard Music, Brian Andreas

Thank you Mr. Petty.

I often wondered how people described the blues and what it meant to them. As a writer, descriptives and adjectives can be over-used or, you just simply run out of them (unless of course you are Darrell Vickers, the human dictionary/thesaurus). So, I decided to do a bit of research and this is what I’ve found:

“The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn’t know how other people would take it.” BB King

“Gut wrenching bliss. ” Avner Sorek

“Blues is a feel”, “influential”, “old soul”, “undefinable”, “one of the most personal and sincere genres out there”, “the sound isn’t just a sum of its parts; there’s something more”, “turns feelings into musical notes”, “both humbling and electrifying”, “a religious experience”, …..and on it goes

Back to London Bluesfest…..

Scott Holt beginning his journey through the crowds at Bluesfest

Saturday (of a three-day blues fest) I was introduced to the man and music of Scott Holt. Again I confess I had never heard of him but then my deep dive into the blues has only been recent and the learning curve HUGE! The more I listen, the more I research, the more I don’t know but I’m loving the process. I was fascinated by Holt’s relaxed and easy demeanor as I watched him play his guitar, jumping off the stage and calmly cruise through the crowds at Harris Park, handing his instrument to various audience members to play (yes he was still ‘plugged in’) while his band continued on stage without missing a beat. Holt strode through the throngs, a huge smile on his face, thoroughly enjoying his connection with crowd, trailing a swarm of photogs behind him. Classic!

One lucky audience member with Holt’s guitar

Damn Right I Got The Blues – Scott Holt

No stranger to the road, Holt is a born and bred Tennessee man, and with his well-traveled family also made homes in Texas and Mississippi. At the age of 12 Holt was presented with his first guitar but it had to wait seven years before he Holt decided it was his instrument of choice. Already influenced by Jimi Hendrix, and only playing for a year, his dad took him to see Buddy Guy. It was a night that changed Holt’s life. After the gig, Holt followed Guy into the street and watched him play, casually leaning up against a car. After following Guy and Junior Wells to their gigs that weekend, even playing Guy’s Guild guitar after Guy showed him a few licks, Holt was more determined than ever to become a bluesman. Through Guy, Holt was introduced to the music of …Sonny Boy Williams, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, congnac and the many uses of the word “motherf***er.” Fortunate enough to jam with Guy many times over the following years, at the age of 23, he was asked by Guy to join his band, The two men developed a close relationship with Guy becaming his teacher, his mentor and his friend. Ten years with Guy and his band traveling all over the world presented Holt with exposure and opportunities most aspiring musicians can only dream of.

The hand of bluesman Scott Holt and his guitar

While working with Guy, Holt was also focusing on his own project in Nashville, the Scott Holt Band, and building a strong reputation as hot live act. In 1998 he released his debut album, Messing With The Kid. In 2000 Holt released his second  album, Dark Of The Night. The incredible assemblage of musicians that contributed to Holt’s second solo outing are a who’s who of blues. “…Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton and Reese Wynans from Double Trouble and produced by Eddie Kramer who engineered albums by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Led Zeppelin…The original version also included a recording of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) with Mitch, Billy and Scott…the first recording of that song by that rhythm section since they had last played it 30 years previously with its composer Mr. Hendrix himself!”

Angels in Exile – Scott Holt

The Fool – Scott Holt

According to Holt, “I am a bluesman through and through. It’s just who I am when recording or performing. If you listen…you’ll always hear the blues in the foundation of my playing, but my mentors and guides, the greatest bluesmen, like Buddy, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, were always changing, experimenting and evolving. I’ve tried to maintain that philosophy and attitude towards my own music, just create the music and let people call it what they want.”

London’s own Bill Durst…..

Bluesfest was the first time I have managed to see Bill Durst (sans Thundermug) and it wasn’t for lack of trying over the past few years. Every time, something seemed to get in the way. The closest I came was listening to a recording of  All The Blues in The World at The Duncan Showroom a couple of years ago. The music just absorbed you until you became part of it. I was thrilled to see that Durst was part of London Bluesfest…..finally…..I would see him live!

Bill Durst

What a show! A founding member of London band Thundermug and a highly-respected bluesman, Durst and his band took the stage and delivered what we had all been waiting for. Durst’s way around his well-worn, much-loved guitar is amazing to watch. I got so absorbed in watching him I almost forgot to listen to the music.

You Really Got Me – Thundermug (Kinks cover)

Ahhhh……Thundermug…..1969….the beginning of Durst’s career. I used to head to Centennial Hall in London, Ontario whenever they were performing. I loved the  band and since I am a bass and drums person, they certainly answered that call. Original members were Durst, Joe De Angelis, Ed Pranskus and James Corbett, and when they hit the stage, the just band would just explode. Fast forward two incarnations of Thundermug (the original and a revamp in the 90’s), several albums, a stint with Tres Hombres and Durst continues to perform his brand of the blues all over North America and Europe with his own band. Singer, songwriter, and deep-down in the belly bluesman, Durst has appeared with BTO, John Mayall, Savoy Brown, Little Feat, George Thorogood, Slade, Edgar Winter Group, Yardbirds and so, so many others.

Bill Durst with former and current bandmate Joe De Angelis

Local firefighter and drummer extraordinaire Corey Thompson

A career that has seen 12 albums, over 125 songs (seven of which charted nationally) Durst continues to deliver with his “little, fuzzy, psychedelic blues band” he formed in 2004.  Along with De Angelis and local powerhouse drummer extraordinaire, Corey Thompson, Durst was everything and more than what I expected. His music is raw, compelling, at times gut-wrenching and deeply soulful.

I had the pleasure of meeting Durst briefly after the show and passed along greetings from his good friend Greg Simpson. A bear of a man, Durst is every inch the gentleman. The urge, however, to gently tug on his trademark, braided beard was strong, but I managed to resist. Thank you Mr Durst for such a wonderful show!

All The Blues in The World – Bill Durst

I’m Alright (Good Good Lovin’) – Bill Durst Band

Burton Cummings……..

Ahhhhh……at long last!!!! Chris photographed Burton Cummings in the late 70’s and became friends with the singer/songwriter. He recorded many of Burton’s performances on film (yes film) at various venues around Southwestern Ontario, some with the comedy duo MacLean and MacLean. The Knob Hill (remember the Knobby), York University, the El Mocambo, Kitchener (not sure of the venue) and MLG. Now, London Bluesfest was finally going give me my chance. Arranging to see Burton perform, sort of up close and personal, (not nearly as close as Chris though) has been my goal for the past two years. Chris was a huge admirer of Burton and the two became drinking buddies for a while. A favourite haunt was Bemmies (officially known as Bemelmans) on Bloor St. in Toronto. I’m not sure when the last time was Chris saw Burton but by the time Chris and I got together they had lost touch. I am left with many, many envelopes of memories that are slowly coming to life.

Burton and his band (aka The Carpet Frogs) strolled on stage to thunderous applause, shouts and screams. Having met and photographed The Frogs several times, it was fabulous to finally see them perform with Burton. What a show! The park was jammed with young and not-so-young alike. You could feel the electricity in the air. Burton and the band did not disappoint, performing the history of The Guess Who and much of Burton’s solo catalogue, with the crowd joining in on just about every chorus. It was a joy to hear these songs live and sheer bliss to photograph.

Burton Cummings and Jeff Jones

I have so many favourites I just got lost in the music. The “voice” hasn’t changed with the years….distinctive, clear and strong as it ever was. Bits and pieces of our history, the crowd was taken back in time on a joyride of songs that I’m sure brought many memories to the fore. Close your eyes and it’s like you can hear the music pouring out through the radio, note-for-note. The band and Burton move smoothly from one tune to the next, bringing to life selections of our past I never thought I’d hear live. ….and to that guy who kept yelling “BC, BC, BC….” through every song, right in my ear…..shut up and listen, you’re not 17 anymore. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of room to move.

L-R – Michael Zweig, Nick Sinopoli, Jeff Jones

Sean Fitzsimons

Tim Bovaconti

It’s been an unbelievable summer, listening to so much amazing talent out there. I have been privileged to be a part of much of it and I thank each and every one of you for your patience, thoughtfulness, kindness but most of all for your music. And to each and every singer/songwriter/musician…..DON’T EVER STOP!

No Time – The Guess Who

No Sugar Tonight/ New Mother Nature – The Guess Who

Bus Rider – The Guess Who

Fine State of Affairs – Burton Cummings

My Own Way To Rock – Burton Cummings


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



AllMusic, Scott Holt

Bill Durst’s website

The Walleye


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

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 – Tom Petty, Burton Cummings, Scott Holt and Bill Durst…..”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Wonderful column, Pat!

  2. Mark Owen Landis Says:

    I saw Burton Cummings in Milwaukee this past week, and yes, his voice is remarkable for a man his age!!! He performed by himself, with his Yamaha keyboards, for one hour and a half, non stop, and it was a memorable, excellent performance!!! He has a good sense of humor, I really like him, I wish he would tour forever, but he mentioned he probably will do this a few more years. He likes the casino gigs, I’ve learned more things by listening to him!!! He must of really practiced the piano a lot when he was young, what an outstanding career, even when he was that young, to earn all those golds records!!! Burton Cummings is truly an amazing rock n roll icon, where not that many have survived all those years!!!

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