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2018 Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash

Ronnie Baker Brooks
takes it back to the basics

He returns to Madison Aug. 18
to headline the Blues Bash



Blues Bash Weekend Schedule

Friday, Aug. 17
(Festival Gates Open
at 5 p.m.)

• 6 p.m.: Junk Box (Bill Lancton & Jimmy Davis of Madison, Ind.)
7 p.m.: Backyard BBQ Blast Judging begins in the Brown Gym
• 8 p.m.: Dawn Tyler Watson
• 9:30 p.m.: Backyard BBQ Blast amateur cooking winners announced on stage
• 10 p.m.: Walter Trout

Saturday, Aug. 18
• 9-11 a.m.: Kidz “Q” amateur cooking competition and judging
•11 a.m.: KCBS’ first cooking entries turned in for judging at the Brown Gym
Festival Gates Open at 11 a.m.
• 11:30 a.m.: Jordan Wilson Coalition
• 1:30 p.m.: King Bee & the Stingers
(3 p.m.: “Good to the Bone” rib-eating contest in front of stage)
• 3:30 p.m.: John Primer & the Real Deal Blues Band
• 5:30 p.m.: John Nemeth & the Lovelight Orchestra
• 7:30 p.m.: Eric Gales
• 9:30 p.m.: Ronnie Baker Brooks
(Schedule subject to change.)

Admission Wristbands:
• Two-day pass $30 through Aug. 15 and available online or at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St., Madison, and at various local merchants.
• Friday at gate = $35 (good for both days)
• Saturday at gate = $35.
• Children ages 12 & under are free.
Bring lawn chairs or blankets. No pets, coolers, skateboards, bikes, rollerblades, umbrellas, canopies, food, beverages, video or audio recording devices.

On Sale at the
Souvenir Tent:

Ribberfest T-Shirts = $15; Ribberfest Pins = $5; Ribberfest Chairs = $10

(August 2018) – Chicago bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks first appeared on stage at age 9, playing alongside his father, Lonnie “Guitar Jr.” Brooks.  Since then he has built a career that has earned him the title of “Blues Royalty.”
Brooks will bring his royalty and performance to Madison, Ind., when he serves as the Saturday night headliner at the Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash. He was the headliner there in 2011. Brooks is scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m. to close out the festival.
Born Rodney Dion Baker in Chicago in 1967, this singer-songwriter and guitarist icon started playing guitar at age 6. At age 19 he joined his father, who by then had influenced some of the most well-known bluesmen in history, including Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter and Junior Wells.
Father and son toured together for 12 years, staging Ronnie out front with the likes of Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor. In 1998, when he was 32 years old, his father told him it was time to go solo.
Having earned a reputation as a respected club performer in the Chicago area, Baker had a band that he’d been touring on the side with since 1992. He recorded three solo albums for Watchdog Records.
His debut album, “Golddigger,” was an immediate head turner, catapulting him to success in 1998. The album was produced by Janet Jackson and Brooks was nominated for a Blues Music Award in 2000 for Best New Artist.
produced by Jellybean Johnson.
In the 12 years since “The Torch” was released, Brooks has remained busy, touring North America and Europe and having been featured on the records of other prominent bluesmen.
Blues Bash committee member Dave Butler said of Brooks’ performance, “It’s so exciting that when Ribbertfest is over every year, according to social media, people want him back. He puts on an incredible show; he’s such a consummate performer.”
Butler said Brooks has learned his craft “from the best.” Since Brooks closes out the Blues Bash on Saturday night, the Blues Bash committee members knew they had to find someone who could follow Eric Gales and keep up the tempo of the event, said Butler.
Brooks resides in Dolton, IIl., where he is a regular at Artis’ Lounge on Chicago’s South Side. In 2017 Brooks released his first album in a decade, “Times Have Changed.” It is an eclectic mix of Chicago soul, hot guitar licks and old-school Memphis R&B.

Photo courtesy of
Paul Natkin

Ronnie Baker Brooks grew up in Chicago, where he learned to play the guitar at
age 6.

There are several original hits on “Times Have Changed.” He has always considered the songwriting process to be sacred. For him, the most enjoyable part of it is “the creative side. Coming up with a song people can relate to, and you relate to, it just snowballs. It’s almost like therapy for me.”
Butler said this year’s overall lineup “is a really good lineup. They are all solid blues bands. It’s quality stuff.”
Some of the performers, such as Jordan Wilson, are rooted in blues and rock and everything in between. “I’ve been following him for a long time, long time,” said Butler. “He just gets better and better.”
All members of Wilson’s band are local. The band kicks off Saturday’s lineup, beginning at 11:30 a.m. “The musicians are as good as you would find anywhere,” Butler said.
Eric Gales is a “relatively young guy from a musical family. He plays high-energy, and will venture out and play Hendricks. You can tell he was influenced by Hendricks when you hear him play.”
Butler has been a part of the Blues Bash committee since it began in 2002. “We have a really good show. A number of people in the audience may not have seen or heard of some of the performers, but I think they will realize they really like it.”
King Bee and the Stingers are “seasoned blues guys. They’re a solid band. Several people have approached us before to say, ‘You should hear these guys.’ ”
Butler said John Primer is “a living legend. He’s played with everybody. He’s been nominated three times for Grammys. He’s the real thing.”
John Nemeth, who will be accompanied by the Love Light Orchestra, “is a great singer. He’s blues and soul. He’s got a really good band.”

Photo provided

Eric Gales is scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, just before headliner Ronnie Baker Brooks.

All of the members of his orchestra are from Memphis. They sound like “the old Big Band Blues stuff,” said Butler.
In all 16 years since the Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash has been held, there has only been one rainout – in 2016. “Ribberfest is a conglomeration of a lot of stuff. Blues is what glues it all together; it’s an integral part of Ribberfest.”
The current festival “speaks to the original conception we had for it,” he said. Butler’s friend, the late Jeff Garrett, was one of the original organizers. Butler became involved because he approached the city about having a blues festival even before Ribberfest was conceptualized.
Butler said that when Louisville stopped having the American Music Festival, he thought something was needed to replace it, and Madison’s riverfront was the perfect location. Rocky Harrell, who eventually became co-chairman, wanted to have some sort of rock festival in the area. “It just developed from there,” Butler said.
Harrell said that he, Butler and committee member Rick Burress “would meet in Carrollton and attend Blues to the Point. We thought we could do it at Madison.” Once the idea started to develop, “the barbecue was added and it went on from there.”
Harrell said that people began raving about this year’s lineup once it was revealed. “A lot of local guitar players can’t wait to see Walter Trout and Eric Gales.” The lineup is “as good as any we’ve ever had.”
The festival takes place every year in part due to the many volunteers who become involved. “Everyone looks at it as their baby, and they work hard behind the scenes to make it happen,” Butler said.

Photo provided

John Nemeth & the Lovelight Orchestra are scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Blues Bash.

No festival can be successful without volunteers, said Harrell. “There have been as many as 25 to 30 volunteers at meetings.”
During one of the festival’s best years, nearly 14,000 people attended, Harrell said. People come from Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, just to name a few places. There is a big following “between here and Louisville, in the Cincinnati area and in the Indianapolis area.”
All of these people come for a compilation of reasons, he said. “The show is well run. We’ve got an awesome volunteer group, it’s in a beautiful location, the price is right and the weather is always good.” Combine that with food and great bands and you’ve got something that is hard to beat, he added.
Harrell said the Blues Bash has become almost “like a cult. People like to follow the blues.”
Perhaps Ronnie Baker Brooks said it best: “With music, it all comes from the heart. It comes from the heart and from the soul. In blues, it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, it definitely relates.”
The 16 songs on the album were tracked out in two weeks. Brooks has been quoted as saying, “My dad always said to keep writing, even if you don’t think the song sounds great or you can’t finish it. Write. Continue to write. The more you write, the better you get.”
Three years later, his second album on Watchdog Records, “Take Me Witcha,” was equally well received. The Boston Herald called 2006’s “The Torch” “ferocious and unrelenting… the year’s best blues album.” The album included contributions from Lonnie Brooks, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, Willie Kent and Al Kapone, and was
produced by Jellybean Johnson.
In the 12 years since “The Torch” was released, Brooks has remained busy, touring North America and Europe and having been featured on the records of other prominent bluesmen.
Blues Bash committee member Dave Butler said of Brooks’ performance, “It’s so exciting that when Ribbertfest is over every year, according to social media, people want him back. He puts on an incredible show; he’s such a consummate performer.”
Butler said Brooks has learned his craft “from the best.” Since Brooks closes out the Blues Bash on Saturday night, the Blues Bash committee members knew they had to find someone who could follow Eric Gales and keep up the tempo of the event, said Butler.

Photo courtesy of
Marilyn Stringer

John Primer is scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Blues Bash.

Brooks resides in Dolton, IIl., where he is a regular at Artis’ Lounge on Chicago’s South Side. In 2017 Brooks released his first album in a decade, “Times Have Changed.” It is an eclectic mix of Chicago soul, hot guitar licks and old-school Memphis R&B.
There are several original hits on “Times Have Changed.” He has always considered the songwriting process to be sacred. For him, the most enjoyable part of it is “the creative side. Coming up with a song people can relate to, and you relate to, it just snowballs. It’s almost like therapy for me.”
Butler said this year’s overall lineup “is a really good lineup. They are all solid blues bands. It’s quality stuff.”
Some of the performers, such as Jordan Wilson, are rooted in blues and rock and everything in between. “I’ve been following him for a long time, long time,” said Butler. “He just gets better and better.”
All members of Wilson’s band are local. The band kicks off Saturday’s lineup, beginning at 11:30 a.m. “The musicians are as good as you would find anywhere,” Butler said.
Eric Gales is a “relatively young guy from a musical family. He plays high-energy, and will venture out and play Hendricks. You can tell he was influenced by Hendricks when you hear him play.”
Butler has been a part of the Blues Bash committee since it began in 2002. “We have a really good show. A number of people in the audience may not have seen or heard of some of the performers, but I think they will realize they really like it.”
King Bee and the Stingers are “seasoned blues guys. They’re a solid band. Several people have approached us before to say, ‘You should hear these guys.’ ”
Butler said John Primer is “a living legend. He’s played with everybody. He’s been nominated three times for Grammys. He’s the real thing.”
John Nemeth, who will be accompanied by the Love Light Orchestra, “is a great singer. He’s blues and soul. He’s got a really good band.”
All of the members of his orchestra are from Memphis. They sound like “the old Big Band Blues stuff,” said Butler.
In all 16 years since the Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash has been held, there has only been one rainout – in 2016. “Ribberfest is a conglomeration of a lot of stuff. Blues is what glues it all together; it’s an integral part of Ribberfest.”
The current festival “speaks to the original conception we had for it,” he said. Butler’s friend, the late Jeff Garrett, was one of the original organizers. Butler became involved because he approached the city about having a blues festival even before Ribberfest was conceptualized.
Butler said that when Louisville stopped having the American Music Festival, he thought something was needed to replace it, and Madison’s riverfront was the perfect location. Rocky Harrell, who eventually became co-chairman, wanted to have some sort of rock festival in the area. “It just developed from there,” Butler said.
Harrell said that he, Butler and committee member Rick Burress “would meet in Carrollton and attend Blues to the Point. We thought we could do it at Madison.” Once the idea started to develop, “the barbecue was added and it went on from there.”
Harrell said that people began raving about this year’s lineup once it was revealed. “A lot of local guitar players can’t wait to see Walter Trout and Eric Gales.” The lineup is “as good as any we’ve ever had.”
John Primer has undisputedly helped build the sound and style of Chicago blues as we know it today. The echoes of tradition bellowing from the birthplaces he played such as Maxwell Street, Theresa’s, Checker-board and Rosa’s Lounges, pulse from every chord in his fingers today. Primer is a Chicago blues living legend.
Primer’s father died tragically in Mississippi when he was young. When his mother found work in Chicago, John soon followed, bringing the sounds and spirit of Mississippi with him in 1963. He then fell for the music of both the city’s west and south sides. Fronting his first band, The Maintainers, he was asked to join and eventually lead the house band at the world famous Theresa’s Lounge in 1974.
Over the next seven years, Primer would play with such blues originators as Sammy Lawhorn, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Smokey Smothers, Lonnie Brooks and many others shaping the foundations of the Chicago blues to come.
In 1979, the great songwriter Willie Dixon persuaded him to join his band the Chicago Blues All Stars. Primer traveled the United States, Mexico and Europe trying on hats as a rhythm guitarist, lead slide player and powerful singer. Muddy Waters heard Primer play, and six months later Waters recruited him not only as his guitar player and bandleader but also as an opening act. Primer stayed loyal to Waters until his death in 1983.
After Water’s death, Primer signed on with the legendary Magic Slim. For the next 14 years, he toured with Magic Slim & the Teardrops as bandleader and guitarist, culminating with the Teardrops being voted repeatedly the No. 1 blues band in the world. In 1995, Primer ventured out on his own as a veteran bluesman and released his solo major label debut, “The Real Deal.” Since that time he’s released or been recorded on more than a dozen albums and toured extensively all over the world. A master storyteller and songwriter, his catalog of songs is endless. Some of the awards attached to him include two Grammy nominations and two Living Legend honors as well as a Blues Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Artist from the National Blues Foundation and many more.
Over his amazing career, Primer has recorded with, opened for or played with a who’s who of other great bands and artists including The Rolling Stones, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam,  Derek Trucks, Gary Clark Jr., Koko Taylor, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, James Brown and B.B. King.
King Bee & the Stingers are from nearby Bloomington, Ind., and are the winners of the 2017 South Central Indiana Blues Society Boogie to Beale. They also were 2016 and 2017 Peoples Choice Award winners. In addition, they won the 2008 Indiana Crossroads Blues Society Blues Challenge.
The band was the Indiana representative at the 25th annual 2009 International Blues Challenge. And they are a 10-time headliner of the annual McCormick’s Creek BBQ & Blues Festival.
King Bee and the Stingers features vocalist Sarah Menefee and background vocals playing  harp and guitar is the band’s founder, St. Louis bluesman Mark “King Bee” Menefee, who formed the band in 2006. DK “Guitar Wonderboy” Buchanan playes guitar, Ken Meadows plays bass and Eric Gaylord is on drums.
• The Jordan Wilson Coalition is a funky foursome from Carrollton, Ky., that has been bringing good vibes to the Kentuckiana region for nearly three years. The group plays an eclectic lineup of classics from rock to classic rock, blues, funk and soul.

Wilson now resides in Cincinnati but often plays gigs at the Off Broadway Tap Room in Madison.

Back to August 2018 Ribberfest Articles.

 

 

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