LOUIE BLUIE FESTIVAL PERFORMERS
The festival seeks to highlight the great variety of music in East Tennessee – something Howard Armstrong not only appreciated but fully 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! Visit the Schedule page to see which band plays when.
Louie Bluie Stage
Sparky and Rhonda Rucker
Folk musicians and storytellers Sparky and Rhonda Rucker return to Louie Bluie, continuing the tradition of combining music, tall tales and history into an enthralling performance for all ages. Their repertoire includes old-time blues, slave songs, Appalachian music, spirituals, ballads, work songs, Civil War music, railroad songs, and a few of their own original compositions. During their 40-plus years of performing, Sparky and Rhonda have appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR's On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition.
View YouTube clips of Sparky and Rhonda Rucker
Members of Knoxville's esteemed Carpetbag Theatre will perform a selection of Howard’s favorite songs and stories in a set that evokes Howard's legacy and the CBT's original play “Between a Ballad and a Blues”, which chronicles the life and work of the African-American-Appalachian renaissance man Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, one of the most famous string-band musicians in the history of American music.
View YouTube clips of The Carpetbag Theatre
Knoxville native John Myers is a soul music veteran. In the 1950s, he started The Five Pennies with his brothers Herbert and James plus his high school friends Benny Washington and Clifford Curry. The band released several singles on Savoy Records, including Curry’s song “Mr. Moon.” Later the band became The Four Pennies, and they recorded three of John’s songs with Brunswick Records. In 1970, Myers started a new band called Hearts of Stone and made “Stop the World, We Wanna Get On” for Motown. Now in his mid-70s and living back in Knoxville, Myers is still performing with a group of Knoxville players who back up his spirited sound.
View YouTube clips of The John Myers Band
Howard Armstrong Legacy Trio featuring Ralphe Armstrong
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
Made up of founding members of the Red Stick Ramblers and The Pine Leaf Boys, The Revelers are a Louisiana supergroup that combines Swamp-Pop, Cajun, Country, Blues and Zydeco into a powerful tonic of roots music that could only come from Southwest Louisiana. They play with a sense of empathy and depth that can only be fostered after years of making music together.
Each member is a high-demand performer, with combined credits including work with T-Bone Burnett, Natalie Merchant, Linda Ronstadt, Preston Frank, Walter Mouton, Mamadou Diabate, the Duhks, Cedric Watson, and Tim O’Brien—just to name a few. They get around on TV as well: You may have seen them in the 2011 season finale of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations or playing music in the third and fourth seasons of HBO’s Treme.
Watch YouTube clips of The Revelers:
Cory, Robin and Tina—The Beelers—are the new generation of gospel and country singers from Union County following in the musical footsteps of their parents Ray and Linda, grandmother Drusilla Beeler and her sister Clodell Hunley, mother of Con Hunley. The Beelers return to this year’s festival to perform songs from their brand new CD, Follow the Road, an uplifting and heartfelt country/bluegrass record that highlights the trio’s soaring sibling harmonies.
Watch YouTube clips of The Beelers
Kukuly & the Gypsy Fuego
Knoxville-based Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego get audiences dancing with Gypsy and American swing jazz with a French twist. The band’s repertoire and original material is naturally influenced by Kukuly's Hispanic roots; Latin standards like Argentine tangos and Brazilian bossa novas frequent their live sets. Playing everything from Django Reinhardt through Les Paul and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego play jazz that knows no border, epitomizing Howard Armstrong’s facility and passion for world music.
Watch Kukuly & the Gypsy Fuego on YouTube
If you've been to a really fun wedding reception, party or fireside jam in the past several years, chances are good that The Bearded provided the entertainment. Not all the band’s members always have beards, but they do always have a keen handle on old-time music and the kinds of fiddle tunes that make people dance. They also know how to throw in that perfect cover song at just the right moment.
Watch The Bearded on YouTube
Wade Hill & the Bluegrass Professionals
Banjo player Wade Hill is a nationally recognized bluegrass musician and a local legend. He began his career as a teenage marvel in the early 1970s, regularly appearing on Knoxville television show like Cas Walker’s “Farm and Home Show,” “Jim Clayton’s Startime,” “The Bonnie Lou and Buster Show,” and his own “The Saturday Morning Jamboree featuring Wade Hill.” As a sideman, he’s backed up such notables as Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Ernest Tubb, Vassar Clements, Red Sovine, Webb Pierce, Jimmy Arnold, Red Rector, Clyde and Marie Denny and Tex Logan.
Watch Wade Hill on YouTube
Doris & Betty Johnson
Veteran East Tennessee performers Doris and Betty (Muse) Johnson take listeners on a trip down memory lane. The two grew up with music all around them; Betty’s father Ozias “Zie” Muse and aunt Stella were both well-known area fiddlers. The couple helped form the bluegrass group Walnut Mountain Boys, a frequent performer on WLAF’s Tennessee Jamboree, and over the years they’ve played with the New River Boys, Dusty Valley Bluegrass, and Solid Faith gospel. For the past decade they have led One Way Flight Gospel, one of Campbell County’s favorite bluegrass gospel groups. Suzanne and Brett Chambers join them in the group.
The New River Boys
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.
Cumberland Trail Fiddler’s Showcase
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.
Betty Lou Hall
Betty Lou Hall commands a stage with high-energy, charm, and classic country clout. Born in LaFollette, and raised in Washington state, Betty Lou, as one of her favorite songs says, has been everywhere, man. As a lead singer and guitarist, Betty Lou fronted several road bands through the 1980s, touring up and down the west coast on the country music club circuit. Along with her late husband George, she formed the band Northwest Passage and eventually resettled in Ft. Meyers, Florida. There the group took a regular slot at the Lan Kai Island Resort, where they entertained six days a week for nearly six years. Betty Lou’s thousands of logged stage hours manifest a sure confidence and charisma in front of any crowd. East Tennessee eventually welcomed Betty Lou back in the 2000s, and she quickly took a top spot with the Silver Clouds band for the their weekly performances at the Nashville Connection in Harrogate, Tennessee. Making her first appearance at the Louie Bluie Festival, Betty Lou is joined by a band of friends and family.
Ashlie Denise and Outer Limits
Though still in her teens, Ashlie Denise is a seasoned and dynamic stage performer and country singer. Born and raised in East Tennessee, Ashlie launched her music career at the age of four, singing and delighting residents at a local nursing home. She quickly learned to play the guitar and within a few years garnered invitations to perform as a vocalist with several local bands. Country Tonight, one of Pigeon Forge’s most successful entertainment venues, soon chose ten-year-old Ashlie for a spot as featured youth entertainer. She has also competed and won various talent competition titles, including earning “Female Vocalist” and “Female Entertainer of the Year” at the North American Country Music Association competition. Ashlie eventually moved from Country Tonight and began performing at the Elvis Museum/TCB Theatre. She is also a frequent guest of the Ciderville Farm and Home Show, the WKVL radio show, and at Country Tyme in downtown LaFollette. In 2013, Ashlie started the Outer Limits band, a hard-driving country ensemble that also includes John Murray, Evan Rudd, and Mark Bills.
Watch Ashlie Denise & Outer Limits on YouTube