2013 LOUIE BLUIE FESTIVAL PERFORMERS
This festival seeks to highlight the great variety of music in East Tennessee – something Howard Armstrong not only appreciated, but embraced. He could often be heard singing German drinking songs in a bar right alongside jazz songs or old-time string music. We hope you will hear both music you know and love at this year’s festival and perhaps music that you’ve never heard before!
A verstile performer, Rhonda Hicks Rucker plays blues harmonica, piano, banjo and adds vocal harmonies. Raised in Louisville, KY, she studied piano from the age of four, adding voice lessons, organ, and guitar. After earning a medical degree at UK, and practicing internal medicine for five years in Maryville, TN where she met Sparky, she left that career and began playing on stage with him (1989).
James “Sparky” Rucker grew up in Knoxville and began playing guitar at age eleven. He is descended from a long line of preachers and law enforcement officers and his sense of justice stems from both traditions. Involved with the civil rights movement since the 1950s, his support for others knows no color boundaries (he worked to win recognition and benefits for white Southern Appalachian coal miners in the 1970s). A graduate of UT, he taught school before becoming a full time folksinger. His expert blues and bottleneck style of guitar playing makes him a popular entertainer.
View YouTube clips of Sparky and Rhonda Rucker
Carpetbag Theatre is a professional, multigenerational ensemble company dedicated to the production of new works. Their mission is to give artistic voice to the issues and dreams of people who have been silenced by racism, classism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and other forms of oppression. CBT serves communities by returning their stories to them with honesty, dignity, and concern for the aesthetic of that particular community, helping culturally specific communities to re-define how they organize. The company works in partnership with other community artists, activists, cultural workers, storytellers, leaders and people who are simply concerned, creating original works through collaboration in a style based in storytelling and song.
Carpetbag Theatre will be returning for their fifth year of the Louie Bluie Festival. As they have in past, Carpetbag Theatre will be performing their play “Between a Ballad and a Blues”. The play chronicles the life and work of African-American-Appalachian renaissance man Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, one of the most famous string-band musicians in the history of American music. The play highlights Mr. Armstrong’s lengthy musical career spanning seven decades. From his start, playing a homemade fiddle with his siblings in the 1920’s; through touring the globe with fellow musicians, Carl Martin and Ted Bogan; to his death in 2003, Mr. Armstrong shared string band music with the world, planting the seeds for other American music forms including Country and Blues. This performance takes place at 3:30 p.m.
In addition to "Between a Ballad and a Blues", Carpetbag Theatre will be performing musical selections beginning at 1:10 p.m. This set will feature songs from CBT's new work "Speed Killed My Cousin" and long-time traditions. "Speed Killed My Cousin" is the story of an African-American female soldier returning from Iraq and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).
View YouTube clips of The Carpetbag Theatre
Led by married songwriters Sean McCollough and Steph Gunnoe, Knoxville-based band The LoneTones have turned a corner from straight-up folky to progressive indie-folks-rock with its brand new CD, Modern Victims. In contemporary (and quirky) arrangements, the latest batch of songs address prescient issues with heart and soul: mountain-top removal coal mining in “Stirring Up the Dust”; the pain of losing a friend in “Top Hat”; parenting in “Unprepared.”
View YouTube clips of The Lone Tones
Jerron “Blind Boy’ Paxton doesn’t play the country blues like a man in his early 20s, so it’s a bit of a time warp to hear his warm elastic drawl and witness his facility on guitar, banjo, fiddle, piano and harmonica. Legally blind from age 16, Paxton’s persona is already wrapped in some legends; when he was 15, he reportedly expressed distain for any music made after 1934. Paxton’s family hails from Los Angeles, but he currently resides in the Queens neighborhood of New York City, where he’s found a strong support network of fellow players and fans. In December 2012, he appeared on the cover of the issue of Living Blues under the headline “The Next Generation of the Acoustic Blues.’
View YouTube clips of Jerron “Blind Boy’ Paxton
Jazz pianist Donald Brown is one of East Tennessee’s somewhat hidden treasures. Many folks in these parts know him as a longtime University of Tennessee professor, or maybe as that guy who frequently plays at the Bella Luna Italian restaurant on Market Square. But outside of Knoxville, Donald Brown is known for his remarkable gifts of improvisation, creative interpretations and lyrical compositions. Born in Memphis, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers for a stint in 1981, and ever since, he’s collaborated with the best.
View YouTube clips of Donald Brown
Like his father, Ralphe Armstrong is an astonishing musical powerhouse. Simply one of the finest bassists in the United States, Ralphe began performing with his father, Howard, by age 5. By age 13 he played with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; by 16 he affiliated with Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa (which continued for many years). The original bassist in the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John MacLaughlin, he still plays with Aretha Franklin and James Carter.
Ray Kamalay covers the rhythm on guitar. He is a long-time professional musician who has shared the stage with many great performers, including Mark O’Connor, Doc Watson, Jethro Burns, Steve Goodman, Joel Mabus and Holly Near. Ray began performing with Howard and Ralphe in 1988 when the three of them formed the Howard Armstrong Trio.
John Reynolds is an old-time music whiz in violin, mandolin, and trombone. Early on, as an ethnomusicology student at Kent State University, John was influenced by a number of traditional music masters including our own Howard Armstrong, whom John knew and performed with for decades; the Cleveland gypsy violinist Ernie King, with whom John was awarded an Ohio Arts Council apprenticeship, and Bluegrass master fiddler Ray Sponaugle.
View YouTube clips of Ralphe Armstrong:
- CHARLES DAVID STUART-RALPHE ARMSTRONG-BILL MEYER GROUP
- James Carter ( North Sea Jazz 2006 )
- Ray Kamalaywith Ralphe Armstrong “Ballad of the Landlord” from the album “We Won’t Move: Songs of the Tenants’ Movement”
- The Roots of Popular American Music
Jellico/LaFollette quartet Paperback Scarecrows find inspiration in the songs of old folkies like Loudon Wainwright III and Van Morrison as well as new folkies like Iron and Wine and The Lumineers. Dustin Lambdin, Shawn Siler and Betsey Donley Hill began playing music together for almost 10 years ago, years that include a high-school talent show, the addition of Steven Cobb, and many performances at festivals and events around the area.
The Tennessee Sheiks are Nancy Brennan Strange- vocals, Don Wood guitar, Barry ‘Po’ Hannah- guitar, Ken Wood- percussion, David Slack- bass, and Larry Hoffman- clarinet.
The Tennessee Sheiks is a band made up of several long time Knoxville musicians, who have graced many stages in numerous groups over the years. The Sheiks music is best described as acoustic swing: jazz standards played (and sung) a la the style of the great Gypsy guitarist Django Rinehardt, as well as original tunes and an occasional Appalachian ballad. This year, the Sheiks are joined by Barry "Po" Hannah on guitar and Larry Hoffman, clarinet player with the Tennessee Schmaltz Band.
View YouTube clips of The Tennessee Sheiks at the 2011 Louie Bluie Festival
Starting in the mid 1960s on LaFollette’s WLAF's Tennessee Jamboree, the New River Boys trio of Tommy Phillips, Pitney Seiber and Eugene McGhee literally ran onto the stage for each performance, took to the mics, leapt forward with mountain-made bluegrass music and never looked back. Over the years since, the band has seen many line-up changes—adding bassist Elmer Phillips in the ‘70s, and welcoming banjo journeyman Wade Hill—the band has stayed active due to Tommy Phillips’ drive to perform. In recent years, the band has been further invigorated by the addition of Tommy’s son Brian, an expert banjoist, guitarist, and vocalist, along with bass player Irv Bunch and multi-instrumentalist Jay Lloyd.
Launched in 1913 and lasting for over a quarter of a century, the LaFollette Old Fiddler’s Convention was perhaps the longest running and largest event of its kind in the Southeast. At its peak, the convention boasted dozens of fiddlers and string bands from Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Virginia, and Tennessee. Due to its popularity among locals, the event’s organizers were often forced to turn away many in the overflow crowd gathered at the old LaFollette High School auditorium. Though the annual event ended in 1940, East Tennessee continues to be home to several pre-WWII fiddle styles and offshoots. The Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail’s Music and History project has worked to document the variety of fiddle music in the region, and will showcase several master fiddlers and styles on stage at the Louie Bluie Music and Arts Festival.
Caryville’s Ashlie Denise is a talented singer and guitarist who began performing at age 4 for residents of a nursing home. At age 10 she performed at the Country Tonite theater in Pigeon Forge. As she prepares for college, Ashlie continues to perform with her band made up of lead guitarist John Murray and bassist Evan Rudd, both of Knoxville. They perform regularly in Pigeon Forge and at weddings, festivals and restaurants.
Cory, Robin and Tina—The Beelers—are the new generation of gospel and country singers from Union County that follows in the musical footsteps of their parents Ran and Linda, grandmother Drusilla Beeler and her sister Clodell Hunley, mother of Con Hunley. The band’s debut gospel CD, Common Ground, highlights the trio’s family soaring and heartfelt harmonies.
View YouTube clips of The Beelers
Since their beginning in 1972, the Gloryland Boys have remained one of Campbell County’s most beloved and dedicated Southern Gospel groups. Over the years the group has provided inspirational and expressive musical testimony at countless church services, religious events, and concerts. They have also recorded several LP records, and later cassettes, that display an eclectic country, quartet, and Texas-swing influenced style. No matter the venue or project, the Gloryland Boys provided singing and playing that demonstrated the deep talent in Campbell County’s gospel music community. Never “showmen,” the Boys total purpose was a spirit-filled musical experience. They will reunite once again this year at the Louie Bluie festival, in a follow up to last year’s rousing comeback performance.