The Temecula Blues Festival takes over Old Town Temecula on Saturday, April 21, bringing lots of great music, food and fun to the heart of Southern California’s Wine Country. The event features headliner Tad Robinson, one of the top soul and blues singers around with nominations for eight Blues Music Awards. Tad is having a busy year, with gigs ranging from the Rock and Roll Hall of fame to the Chicago Blues Fest, the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, the Dresden (Germany) Jazz Festival and Groove Now Basel in Basel, Switzerland. His latest album, Day Into Night has received rave reviews. Also playing are local and regional blues favorites the Shari Puorto Band, the Chris Fast Band, Bill Magee Blues Band, JD Priest Band, Tim Cash Band, the Honey Lickers and Stoney B. Blues.
The man behind the Temecula Blues Festival is Andrew Doty. Andy is not only a blues fan who has traveled around the world to visit blues clubs, but he is the owner of the Old Town Blues Club in Temecula. Andy talked with the LA Beat about the upcoming festival, the bands he’s chosen for the event, his passion for blues music and his love of Temecula and the wonderful region that it is in.
Q: Temecula is a great area for wine and beer tasting. Is it time now for a signature Blues Festival?
A: It is, in fact it’s kind of interesting that you say that because what’s happening is that Temecula has become a musical Mecca, the wineries figured out a few years ago that it wasn’t just about wine tasting. The goal was actually to keep their customers there, so they realized that entertainment itself was vital to keeping their customers within the vineyards. Not only are they offering wine tasting but they are also offering entertainment; and musicians are flocking to the region and getting work at the wineries. Not to mention that local casinos were also hiring entertainment!
Entertainment is flocking here from San Diego, L.A. and Orange County; and myself being a blues lover, I just saw there was a little bit of a void in that there wasn’t any sort of a blues club for sixty miles or so. The demographics here just support that genre pretty much, the demographics here are probably 40-65, 70 years old, folks who come from metro areas back East and in the Midwest and have no source for the blues.I’m providing that source through my venue, the Old Town Blues Club.
Q: What’s the Old Town Blues Club?
A: It was actually a dream of mine around twelve years ago with a concept, a name and everything. I wanted to acronym it as OTBC, I’m a big believer that whatever you brand it should be what it is. Old Town, it’s in Old Town Temecula; and BC, it’s a blues club. There’s no question—we are what we do. My self personally, when I travel, whether in the US or throughout the world, I always look for blues and jazz clubs. I found this little place in the heart of the Latin Quarter in Paris called Caveau de la Huchette, it’s been there since the 1940’s. When all the Americans liberated Paris, the Allies that liberated Paris, all the American soldiers brought their jazz and blues records to this club. It’s in the oldest part of Paris, with cobblestone streets. It’s the epitome of everything you’ve seen in the movies,; near the St. Germain District. It’s where Hemingway and others used to hang out. The building itself is 400 years old and the bar is downstairs in a cave, so the walls of the cave are the original limestone walls. It’s the coolest, hippest place I’ve ever been in my life.
Well, ever since, this little club in the Latin Quarter has been one of the most famous blues clubs in the world—all the greats have played there; and they still do to this day. So that has been the inspiration for the ambience of this little club and i’ve had a lot of fun with it. I didn’t realize there was so much talent in the Southern California area to support my venue. Also, I wasn’t aware originally of the amount of support from the fan base; and so I think I’m really on to something here. I’m having a lot of fun doing it, by the way!
The blues club is really about creating a vibe. There’s something about the blues; and once you experience it live you get it; if you don’t ever experience it live you don’t tend to get it. I’m thinking of exposing blues to a couple of generations of Americans who really haven’t been exposed to it. I find that young people—they love music, but they haven’t been exposed to blues, especially in this region. I’ve seen it firsthand; I’ve seen these twenty and thirty-somethings sitting in my club for the first time and listening to their first blues band live and they’re just elated. It’s a new musical experience.
Q: The headliner, Tad Robinson, is an impressive singer. What does he bring to the First Annual Temecula Blues Festival?
A: I started listening to Tad almost thirty years ago now. I was on a business trip in Indianapolis. There’s a famous blues club in downtown Indianapolis called the Slippery Noodle.I found the Slippery Noodle—it was a weeknight—went in there and Tad’s band was on stage. I was so impressed that I bought a CD on the spot. Well, that was thirty years ago and I still play that CD; and when I was stetting up the Festival, I said to myself that I definitely want someone who is a national player, someone who we could afford in the budget; and I remembered Tad, so looked up his facebook and sure enough, I got a hold of him. He’s still playing the slippery Noodle every Thursday night, he’s the house band, for thirty years he’s still playing there. He’s done great things since then, he’s been nominated for several Blues Awards.
What I like about Tad’s sound is that I believe in this festival I’ve got a good mixture of styles. Within the blues there’s a mix of styles, from Chicago blues to pre-war blues to delta blues and more. With Tad, he brings his smooth tones and his lyrics and his keyboards and so forth. Tad brings a national recognition to it, he brings a very smooth, cool, almost jazzy flair to it, he’s got a big-band sound. And I’m going to be someone that brings a new sound to the West Coast. Tad hasn’t been playing the West Coast so folks here aren’t familiar with Tad. So we started with Tad as the headliner and thought we’d bring in some good regional bands and then we’ve also brought in some local talent to fill out the lineup.
Q: So what about the regional and local talent playing at the Temecula Blues Festival?
A: It’s so wonderful to be in the spot that I’m in because I do have a blues club venue in Temecula; and if you think about where Temecula sits and draw a circumference, within a two-hour drive from Temecula there’s twenty million Southern California residents. Temecula has become a weekend destination for many. It’s a little micro entertainment and hospitality hub, it’s a mini Las Vegas. We’ve got casinos, we’ve got wineries, we’ve got music; and what the bands are finding out is that from San Diego to Los Angeles to Orange County and even the Inland Empire, there’s so much talent out there; and to my advantage, there aren’t really that many venues supporting the blues. So the bands are eager to play when they find there’s a good blues club—they’re coming out of the woodwork!
I am blessed. There’s so much talent out there that my phone rings every day, my Facebook gets lit up> I’m now getting contacts and bands from across the country looking to play here while they’re on tour on the West Coast. The calendar is fantastic, I’m so impressed with it. My only concern is that many of the artists are older and that I’m hoping that through my club and through the Festival that there will be resurgence and interest of blues players and that some of the young people will get involved and start playing blues. I do see a little bit but I hope to see more of it.
We’re blessed, we have the Chris Fast Band, we have Stoney B. Blues, we have Bill McGee, we have Shari Puorto, we have J.D Priest, we have Tim Cash we have the Honey Lickers, I could go on and on and on! I’m blessed to be in the position that I’m in. Basically, I’ve got my calendar booked through the summer with blues bands.
Q: So what do some of these bands bring to the Festival?
A: Shari brings—she’s awesome, she really knows—as much as she’s a fantastic musician, she’s also a really fantastic entertainer. She knows how to get the crowd involved, she knows how to ‘speak to the camera’, she has a great band, she has powerful lungs. She’s pint-sized but she packs a punch! She brings a lot of great energy to the stage.
The Chris Fast Band, I’ll tell you, there’s five guys in the band, one is sixty-five years old. In fact, the drummer, Al, was the drummer for the Everly Brothers.These five guys make it just look so simple. They do Chicago-style blues and they’re so smooth at what they do, they pretty much have everyone dancing in their seats. We’re excited, we’ve got a great lineup this year and I can’t wait for the event to happen.
Q: Is the Festival a good way to keep the blues alive?
A: It is; and I can’t help but think that it is. Temecula is ripe right now, people are looking for a reason to come to Temecula. Eight or nine years ago, people couldn’t even pronounce Temecula, it was Tem-A-Koola. Now and I can travel to other parts of the world and they know about Temecula, it’s on the map! The Wine and Balloon Festival happens every summer. It’s sad, we used to have an International Film Festival every year for 20-something years but that has gone to the wayside. We have the Temecula Rod Run event which as a thirty thousand person attended car festival. It’s just a great, wonderful place to do this event. We’re doing this right in the heart of Old Town. I truly see myself as an advocate, not just for blues but for music in general. I’m reinvigorating blues by exposing people to blues that have never seen it for the first time, but also bringing it to people who have missed out on it, so I think for blues, I really do.
Q: It sounds like you’ve got some great food vendors too……
A: I didn’t look at these just lightly. First of all, the event is in Old Town and I’m a believer in supporting the community, so I tried to find restaurants and companies in Old Town so we could support the Old Town community. Most of the providers are from Old Town, so we’re looking at number one, quality food. You’ve still got to earn it, just because you’re in Old Town doesn’t mean that you don’t have to create the value that we’re looking for. We’re creating a vendor village, so the vendor village will be food, drink and also merchandise.Everything has to go hand-in-hand with the blues experience. Of course, looking at the food vendors, we’ve got barbeque. That’s a no-brainer, blue and barbeque!- We’ve got Bad to The Bone BBQ, Rosati’s Italian Pizza, Rockin’ Jenny’s Italian sub sandwiches, Mexican food, we’ve got sandwiches and we’ve got vegan stuff for those who aren’t meat eater; so I’m looking forward to it.
Then on the merchandise side, we’ve got Blues Beat Music. All the do is sell vintage blues recordings, CD’s, albums and tapes. It’s a little kiosk of blues music. We’ve got Ugly Hands from Las Vegas who does apparel that is blues and jazz design oriented. Even with the merchandising, we want everything to be in the blues vein as much as possible.
Q: What about the location?
A: It’s in the Plaza in Old Town Temecula. You stand up on the stairs of City Hall, which will be in fact the stage and you’re looking across the hills at de Luz. De Luz in Spanish means the light, or heaven; and it’s just beautiful scenery. It’s a beautiful setting, they did a wonderful job on the architecture with a big grassy plaza and a fountain. You’re steps into Old Town, so when it’s over, the party’s just starting at 10pm! You can just go right into Old Town and right into my blues club
to continue the party.
Q: Andy, what’s your message to Southern California blues fans?
A: We’re doing this for you, we really are. If you’re a true music lover and you haven’t experienced the blues, this is a great way to do it. There’s eight great artists on a beautiful sunny afternoon (hopefully) in Southern California; and it’s all about supporting the community. If you’re regional here, if you’re in the Temecula Valley, these things don’t come by easily and they’re expensive, so without your support they can’t happen. These are artists that don’t make a lot of money typically and we need to support them. It’s going to be a wonderful event in a great location in a great town, so what more can you ask for!
Q: Thanks, Andy, we’ll see you at the Temecula Blues Festival!
Temecula Blues Festival
Saturday, April 21, 2018
12pm-10pm (doors open at 10am
Civic Center Plaza, Old Town Temecula
41000 Main Street
Temecula, CA 92590
Temecula Blues Festival Website
Temecula Blues Festival Facebook Page
Tickets, $38 at EventBrite
Visit Temecula Valley Website