4th Annual Bradenton Cigar Box Fest

4th Annual Bradenton Cigar Box Fest

4th Annual Bradenton Cigar Box Fest

4th Annual Bradenton Cigar Box Fest

A spectacular weather day greeted fans for the 4th edition of Bradenton’s Cigar box Guitar Festival. The fest is becoming a “must attend” annual event. Noticeable was the large increase in attendance throughout the four venues hosting the event in Bradenton’s Village of The Arts.

Vendor booths selling Cigar box guitars and merchandise experienced a busy sales day, and many of the fans attended the fest with their newly purchased cigar box guitars.

This review will focus on acts at the largest venue of the four, Birdrock Taco Shack. In addition to David Shiplett’s “Shack,” other shows were at Cottonmouth southern Soul Kitchen, Chef Gaetono’s Ortygia, and The Dude and Mary’s.

While some of the acts were not strictly blues, all played numerous blues or blues-themed songs. This was clear from the opening act, Applebutter Express. A fan favorite, this band is known for their wonderful vocal harmonies. The large crowd in attendance for the 1 PM start time witnessed superb musicianship and a wide range of musical styles. Fronted by Kyle Biss and his non-stop Ukulele playing, Shannon Biss contributes vocals, Jason Baker also sings and plays a mean fiddle; and Zach Rodgers who normally plays upright bass but today sported a Cigarbox bass guitar.

The enthusiastic crowd thoroughly enjoyed the show which contained originals such as “Riley”,“Start a Fire”, and some originals which contain edgier and quirky but thoughtful lyrics. Their range was apparent when they played a bluegrass version of Alice Cooper’s “No More Mister Nice Guy.” Also performed was “Eleanor Rigby.” No wonder this band has played at fests like Wanee.

Next up, local musician Trevor Bystrom brought his Project to the stage. Much like Apple butter Express, Trevor has a large local fan base. “Stone Crab” Steve Arvey, being a part of the project, helped to increase the crowd size. This helped to ensure a close to capacity crowd at Birdrock. The Project {James Hershey, drums; Dominic Santini, bass) joined Trevor and his collection of cigar box guitars and one funky homemade guitar that was made from a goat skin covering and fishing line for the strings.

Trevor has a reggae vibe to his music, which when mixed with blues standards is quite unique and interesting. Trevor’s Anna Maria Island roots infuse his music  and the band delivered some deep cut blues, including from Reverend Gary Davis. Steve joined in for some standard blues issued from his 6-string cigar box guitar.

As expected, the vibe of the festival took a dramatic turn as arriving on the stage was Stumpy Joe (Joe Sweckard) and his ever-present companion, Farney. For those unfamiliar with the Cigarbox community, Farney is Stumpy’s single string bass. From the bottom up, the bass sits on a washtub, has a canoe paddle for the fretboard, and the string is industrial strength weed whacker string. If any instrument best describes what the cigar box community is about, it’s Farney. Stumpy Joe has built an entire sub-culture from his creation.

But do not kid yourself; Stumpy Joe is a fine musician, and frankly, could have a career as a stand-up comic if he chose to do so. Roadside stories appear throughout the act; many are side-splittingly funny, edgy and for adult-only consumption.

Taking the stage with Stumpy was Devin Williams on resonator guitar, with James Hershey on drums. This was my first-time seeing Devin, and  what a player he is. Devin’s finger-picking style classically fits his style of music. Steeped in the blues, Devin performed an excellent version of Keb Mo’s “Am I Wrong.”

Billed as a Pro-Jam, it was not surprising to see Steve Arvey back on stage. With Miguel on harmonica, the group cranked out a serious set of blues based Cigarbox music. Most moving was Steve’s version of “Amazing Grace,” which he dedicated to fellow Chicago blues artist and friend Kraig Kenning.

Closing the show was RB Stone and his unique trans-genre music. Joining RB, it was so good to see Pedro Arevalo (mostly) on bass, with Brent Winner on drums. The former Dickey Betts Band bassist did not disappoint as Pedro and RB played off each other during the opening part of the set, and more so when Trevor Bystrom and Stumpy Joe joined for a jam.

Creativity resulted when Stumpy told a story, that, well, in the spirit of keeping it clean, all that I can say is that I can never listen to Prince’s “Purple Rain” the same way ever again. Capitalizing on the story, RB and Stumpy created an on-the-fly song titled “The High Beams Boogie.” So ended a most memorable and enjoyable Bradenton Cigar Box Festival.

Scott Morris, former Treasurer, Suncoast Blues Society

(photos by Scott Morris) 


10th Anniversary Camping With the Blues October 20-22, 2023

10th Anniversary Camping With the Blues October 20-22, 2023

10th Anniversary Camping With the Blues October 20-22, 2023

10th Anniversary Camping With the Blues
October 20-22, 2023

The venue is now the Florida Sand Music Ranch managed by the Will McLean Foundation.  It was previously the Sertoma Youth Ranch, and its emphasis on music is now even stronger.

Day 1 Friday –

  1. Soulful Femme hit the stage at 5:20pm. Lead singer Stevee Wellons announced she has been working with SBS favorite Kevin Burt and that her new CD contains a duo with her and Kevin. She and guitarist Cheryl Rinovato traveled from Pennsylvania. Great vocals – big sound. Very soulful.
  2. Street Preacher. Very ethnically diverse group. They competed at the IBC last year but were too busy this year, a good thing. They rocked the stage.
  3. Sister Lucille hit the stage at 8pm. Sister puts it all out there, from her head down to her red shoes – even had a song about her shoes. Sister started her career doing country at an early age and played Grand Ole Opry at age 19. They received a Blues Blast Award in 2020. Ended their set with a killer rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Out On The Killing Floor.”
  4. Ray Fuller closed the night with his Texas style country blues that had everyone up rockin’ and dancing.

Day 2 Saturday –

  1. Dockta D and the Powers That Be hit the stage at 12:20pm. Dockta plays that harp and directs his band like a great showman. Always enjoyable. And what a great surprise when “Magic Dick” , famous harp player from the J Geils Band, joined them on stage. Big bonus!
  2. Alex Lopez was next doing what Alex does best – steady rockin’ blues with a purpose.
  3. Billy the Kid & the Regulators. Billy came with a great band. Billy gained fame being the guy that led the jams at Bruce Wheeler’s great Heritage Music Blues Festival in Wheeling, W.V. Good to see Billy. Gets down and dances with the crowd.
  4. David Julia came on at 4:20pm. Appropriate. It’s great to see how David has progressed since we (SBS) sent him to the IBC when he was 18 years old. Covered a favorite Damon Fowler song. Great set – great young man.
  5. Shaw Davis & the Black Ties. There is no doubt about Shaw’s ability to rock a stage.
  6. Joey Gilmore. Joey was like a breath of fresh air. Everyone was starving for some real Blues. Joey delivered. Rich golden voice supreme. Joey, among others, was very appreciative of our crowd that really knows when something is real. Joey got cheered like no one else.
  7. Slim and the Perkolators! While introducing the band Slim ends by saying, “and I’m Slim and I play a child’s toy.” Their music and Slim’s antics on stage have a childlike innocence. It all works and the fun they have on stage draws the crowd in.

Day 3 Sunday –

  1. Kurt Allen. This great band traveled from Kansas City to show their skills. Soulful, driving blues. Good bass lines – good vocals. Hope to see more of these guys in Florida.
  2. Eric Demmer. There was a lot of buzz about this band before their arrival. Rumors had it that Eric had just signed with Mike Zito’s Gulf Coast Records. They traveled from Houston and they did not disappoint. Hugo, their very demonstrative lead guitar, was very entertaining. Eric sings and plays a mean saxophone. Their bass player, “Double D,” is a Florida native and will help get this band back to Florida soon to perform. It’s in the works – stay tuned. Very entertaining!
  3. Frank Bang. Local favorite Frank gained notoriety while working at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. Always a favorite.
  4. The Jimmys. Wisconsin band making their much anticipated return to Florida after playing the Bradenton Blues Fest 2 years ago and the SBS 25th Anniversary Party at Skipper’s last year. Great lyrics are often humorous. These guys have fun on stage and it transmits to the crowd. Very talented musicians.

Lafayette Reid


2023 Beach Bash…

2023 Beach Bash…

2023 Beach Bash…

2023 Beach Bash…

It’s that time of year again so dig out your swimsuit, sunglasses, and sun hat because your Suncoast Blues Society will be celebrating YOU, our loyal members, with our Annual Beach Bash on Sunday, August 27th from 1- 6:00 pm at the St Petersburg Lions Club Beach House.

Al Razz and the Rocking Blues Review will kick things off at 2pm, followed by our annual jam session. 

Bring your favorite dish to share. We will have some beverages available or BYOB if you prefer.  We are looking for donations of beer and wine – if you have a connection, please reach out to them or send us the info and we will gladly contact them.

You can renew your membership and receive 3 free CD’s – may as well bring a friend to join also.  We will be drawing the name of one lucky Blues fan that day for a guitar signed by many of your favorite Blues artists.

Looking forward to seeing everyone and definitely bring your dancin’ shoes!

P.S.  This is an Adults only event.







Davy Knowles Review Cottonmouth, July 1, 2023

Davy Knowles Review Cottonmouth, July 1, 2023

Davy Knowles Review Cottonmouth, July 1, 2023

Davy Knowles Review
Cottonmouth, July 1, 2023

Sometimes, it all comes together, and such as the case at Cottonmouth southern Soul Kitchen when Davy Knowles and his band came to town. And gave those in attendance a night to remember. This was one of the best shows I’ve seen!

Touring with Tod Bowles on bass, and Mark Hansen on drums, the band hit the stage at 8PM and performed a non-stop 2-hour set that left the audience standing and asking for more.

But before we get to the review of Davy’s show, Steve Arvey opened for Davy, and in typical Steve fashion, had the audience entertained with his wit, songs, and guitar playing. First starting with a cigar box guitar instrumental, Steve switched to his signature acoustic guitar for most of the one-hour set.  Deftly using a stomp-box, Steve performed classic blues, and brought Deacon Gibson to the stage for harmonica playing. Steve entertained the audience, and solicited many laughs, with tales from his storied blues career. Make no mistake about it, while Steve is an entertainer, he is a serious musician with significant skills. These skills will be revisited later, as Steve ends his set playing a red Stratocaster that will be a central part of the show later in the evening.


Playing from many of his recordings, Davy and the band took the stage and set a high-energy tone with Ain’t Much of Nothin’ from his 2016 recording “Three Miles From Avalon”. Davy’s blistering guitar work was spot on and engaged the audience from the downbeat. Next up was Riverbed, first heard during Davy’s days with Back Door Slam. Completing a frenetic first three songs the band launched into Catch The Moon from 2015’s “The Outsider”. If any newcomers to a Davy Knowles show did not know his guitar talents, they understood after the first three songs.

The band, and the audience, needed to catch their breath, and next up was Devil and the Deep Blue Sea from the latest release, “What Happens Next”. To be sure, this song shows a different side of the band and is a well-crafted entertaining piece of music. Equally, entertaining if not downright spectacular was the bands treatment of Cream’s Outside Women Blues. This song featured a tight jam with the band complete with some amazing technical guitar work by Davy.


Changing guitars, Davy brought out the slide and demonstrated his significant skills with the slide while performing Ain’t No Grave, once again from “The Outsider”. Hell To Pay, from “What Happens Next” was a particular highlight, with Davy using dynamics to build and release emotions from the audience. Masterful.


Steve Arvey was brought to the stage and traded licks with Davy on Garbage Man, and following this song Steve took the vocal lead on a nice version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business.  The band then surprised with a smoking version of the funky classic Fire On the Bayou, with Davy providing some of the hottest licks of the evening. But this surprise paled to what came next. For the first time in the evening, Davy showed his equally entertaining side of a storyteller. As expressed in my last article about Davy, he has a gift for storytelling and this art is part of the charm of a Davy Knowles performance.

Davy picked up Steve’s red Stratocaster, and proceeded to say that he just could not resist this opportunity.  And then explained that when he started playing guitar he wanted to be like Mark Knopfler. And there it was: the band launched their version of the Dire Straits classic Sultans of Swing. As someone who has attended many shows at Cottonmouth, the ovation at the end of this song was among the loudest and most sustained I’ve witnessed in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts. The song was a tour de force from start to finish.

The audience was unrelenting with their applause and the band provided an encore of Wake Me Up When The Nightmare is Over. Sort of ironic because this evening of music provided joy and sweet dreams for the attendees, who witnessed a special night of music in Bradenton. This band, if they should so choose, is ready to take the next step to larger venues. They are that good.


  • Scott Morris
  • Photo’s by Jim Hartzell



Davy Knowles & Steve Arvey  Back Together in Bradenton

Davy Knowles & Steve Arvey Back Together in Bradenton

Davy Knowles & Steve Arvey Back Together in Bradenton

Davy Knowles & Steve Arvey Back Together in Bradenton

The blues music community is one large family. You meet someone once, and you are acquaintances for life. Such is the case when a young(er) Steve Arvey took his talents to The Isle of Man for a 2001 blues festival.

Though the isle is a mere 30-miles long, the unique festival attracts a wide range of talent across multiple venues and stages. Past performers include Ana Popovic, Watermelon Slim, Guy Davis, Christine Collister, John Hammond, and of course, local heroes Back Door Slam – which featured the emerging talents of Davy Knowles.

Manx Blues Club on the isle has featured Catfish Keith, a pre-Monster Gentleman Jon Cleary, Louisiana Red, and St. Petersburg resident Roy Bookbinder. They take their blues seriously on the Isle of Man.

Steve described his 2001 visit:

I was booked on the Isle of man blues Festival, 2001. Gibson guitars had me doing acoustic guitar workshops and talking about blues around the world. At  the workshop, a 13-year-old young man by the name of Davy came. You can see him sitting there with his guitar.

I recall showing him how to play “Canned Heat” by Tommy Johnson. Davy followed me to my gigs, asking questions. And wanting to learn more about blues music. We stayed in touch on the Internet for a while after that and he became a great guitar player and musician.”

Davy Knowles, 13 years old, at Acoustic Workshop

Hosted by Steve Arvey Isle of Man 2001

During the trip, Steve received a guided tour of Davy’s Shabby Road Studios in the village of Port St Mary. Davy’s father, Tony, took Steve behind the scenes and onto the grounds where Davy grew up. Steve captured the visit and lovely views of Isle of Man’s countryside in this video. Much to Steve’s surprise this plaque hung on a wall in the studio

Fates collided in 2008. Far from the Isle of Man in Steve’s hometown of Chicago. Steve made a guest appearance with Davy and Back Door Slam at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Those who know Steve will not be surprised that he captured part of the appearance in a video.


Now, 13-years later Davy Knowles will reunite with Steve Arvey. Steve will open for Davy at Bradenton’s Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen on July 1, 2023. Come on out and see why reviewer Martine Ehrenclou perfectly described Davy and his latest release, What Happens Next, as

“A revered guitarist, and acclaimed vocalist, songwriter, Chicago-based Davy Knowles released his new album, What Happens Next. The 12-song set features roots guitarist, singer, songwriter Davy Knowles’ take on vintage soul, folk, rock, and blues. With poetic songwriting, soulful, emotive vocals, and brawny guitar riffs, What Happens Next features Knowles’ understated guitar playing with an emphasis on quality and meaningful songwriting. Davy Knowles is truly a multi-faceted artist.”

For a glimpse into the understated genius of Davy Knowles, enjoy the video for “Hell To Pay” from What Happens Next.


There are a few times in my life where I recall exactly where I was when I first heard a song. My career put me into many rental cars and for a time BB King’s Bluesville was free in the car. While driving between Boston and Worcester, MA I was on the Mass Turnpike, near where the supermarket is on the overpass – and there it was:

“I got your letter today, said you’re gone for good”

“I would get you back, if only I could”

My introduction to Davy Knowles began this day through Back Door Slam’s “Come Home” – intro bass riff hooked me, and before the first chorus was over the volume was up significantly. This raucous song from the Isle of Man trio had me hooked.

Fast forward a few years to 2018, and I’m on Joe Bonamassa’s cruise, and somewhere between Miami and Jamaica Davy Knowles reintroduced himself to me. There was Davy and a solo acoustic show that showed the true talents of this young musician.

Playing from his releases The Outsider and Three Miles From Babylon – Davy’s acoustic playing, singing, and his storytelling made for a highly entertaining evening.

Time and distance leave my memory sparse for all the songs  – I do recall “Oxford, MS” and “Tear Down The Walls.”  But the story I retell often is Davy’s description of life on the Isle of Man. Davy discussed what life was like and transitioned into telling tales of an annual motorcycle race on the island. With superb delivery Davy word painted images that set up perfectly what came next.

Among my favorite singer storytellers is Richard Thompson. And yes, Davy transitioned expertly from the Isle of Man motorcycle rally story into 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. Pure bliss. Luckily, a fellow cruiser captured the performance, and you can find the link below.

Later, Davy brought the Rory Gallagher “tribute band” Band of Friends to the Tampa Bay Blues Fest. Tribute band is a bit unfair – as this ensemble was a labor of love and featured ex-Rory Gallagher band mates Gerry McAvoy and Ted McKenna. The trio deliver a solid set of Rory tunes like Bad Penny, A Million Miles Away, Moonchild, and a neat version of Come Home. Sadly, we lost Ted McKenna shortly after this show.

On a subsequent Bonamassa cruise, I attended a Josh Smith show and noticed Davy paying close attention to Josh and his playing. Without question Josh is among a small group of elite guitar players who operate in the intersection of blues and jazz – including Robben Ford and Matt Schofield. Davy was going to school and his intent focus on what Josh was playing was noticeable. As Davy says on his website:

It’s your job to be the worst player in the room, and absorb like a sponge”

That is what makes Davy good – his willingness to learn, to stretch, to test musical boundaries. Improvising and imparting his unique style into his and songs from other artists. Best known is his treatment of CSN&Y’s Almost Cut My Hair. – As an aside intent viewers will note that Davy cut his hair between 2018 and 2021.


Tickets to Davy Knowles with Steve Arvey opening are available by contacting Cottonmouth Restaurant at 941-243-3735. The venue is in the vibrant community of Bradenton’s Village of the Arts at 1114 12th St West.

Interview Davy by Martine Ehrenclou

Forbes Magazine Interview

Come Home

1952 Vincent Black Lighting

Never Make Your Move Too Soon

Almost Cut My Hair

  • Written by Scott Morris






Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival

Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival

Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival

Youth Day at Tampa Bay Blues Festival
Sunday, April 16th, 2023

 The Tampa Bay Blues Festival (TBBF) is a 3-Day event held in beautiful
Vinoy Waterfront Park, St Petersburg, Florida  April 14-16, 2023.
Some of the world’s preeminent Blues Music artists will perform.

Blues is the foundation of American Music, from Gospel to Jazz, from
Rock-n-Roll to Hip Hop. Blues music is the springboard that launched it all.

Suncoast Blues Society and TBBF are committed to introducing youth to this historic form.
We are making a special offer to our next generation of Blues music lovers…

Youth up to age 18 and a chaperone can receive a
Free Complimentary Pass!!

  1. The TBBF promoter has also arranged for one of the performing artists to meet with our “young guests”.  He will announce it from the stage Sunday April 16th.
  2. To receive your Free Complimentary Pass for Sunday’s festival, everyone attending must supply their names to jamesrandolph@verizon.net by March 24th, 2023.
  3. Your Pass will be available at the ‘Will Call’ ticket booth under your names on Sunday, April 16th. School age youth and chaperone must present ID (school ID, drivers license, etc.) to claim “comp pass”. (No youth or adult info will be used for marketing or shared with any other organizations.)
  4. Neither TBBF nor SBS accepts any liability for youth and adults accepting this free offer (regular ticket price for this day is $50!) to attend Sunday’s festival event. Chaperones are responsible for youth behavior.
  5. If you have questions, you may contact Terri O’Brien at president@suncoastblues.org

Sunday’s lineup features:

JT Lauritsen & The Buckshot Hunters
Jimmy Carpenter
Vanessa Collier
Mr. Sipp
The Fabulous Thunderbirds