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) 


Review: Johnny Sansone at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen – Bradenton

Review: Johnny Sansone at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen – Bradenton

Review: Johnny Sansone at the Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen – Bradenton

Review: Johnny Sansone

Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen, Bradenton

On January 15, 2022, Suncoast Blues Society and Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen brought New Orleans blues artist Johnny Sansone to Bradenton’s Village of the Arts.

Performing under a full moon on a comfortable evening, Johnny performed solo in the courtyard at Cottonmouth. As much a storyteller as musician, Johnny treated a sold-out crowd to songs from his vast collection of tunes, many that impart Johnny’s unique perspective on life’s twists and turns.

The show started with Johnny’s version of Ted Hawkins’ “Sweet Baby” from the recording Crescent City Moon, and Johnny continued with guitar and harmonica as he performed “You Got Me” from Poor Man’s Paradise.

Given the pirate heritage here in Tampa Bay it’s appropriate that Johnny performed the “Sinking Ship”, a song that provides the truthful wisdom that “you don’t have to walk the plank on a sinking ship”.

Johnny’s legendary storytelling was prominent in the preamble to “The Night the Factory Burnt Down.’  The song contains thoughtful writing where the misfortune of a fire at a famous New Orleans pie factory coincides with fire being extinguished in a relationship. This song weaves together comments about the pie factory fire and the relationship and contains the marvelous line “all good intentions have been put to rest.”  A wonderful song and on this evening performed in the most enjoyable fashion.

The recording Watermelon Patch contributed “Civilized City” to this show. The song is typical of the way Johnny can craft cynical lyrics about society into a solid blues song.

Johnny brought out the accordion to perform his song “Poor Man’s Paradise,” from the Anders Osborne produced recording of the same name. This song speaks about some of the post hurricane Katrina challenges experienced by the citizens of New Orleans.

Sticking with the accordion Johnny spoke about his days with the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars (VOTWA) and presented a wonderfully funny story of how Johnny woke up an asleep Dr. John. As Johnny tells: “we thought Mac’s mike was not working but there was no sound because he was asleep.” Then “Jumpin’ Johnny” performed “Crescent City Moon” from the recording of the same name, and shortly thereafter wrapped up the first set.

Playing songs from Poor Man’s Paradise, Johnny started the second set with “Happiness, Love & Lies” and “44”. The storytelling became more pronounced in this set as Johnny first described his life touring the world as, in his words, “an international blues hobo.

And then told a funny story on how his song “Johnny Sandsong” came about from a misunderstanding over his name and how Sansone turned into Sadsong. Wonderfully creative.

“You Know Who” was followed by a highlight of the night for me, the lovely ballad “The Bridge” from Watermelon Patch. Many of Johnny’s songs bring back memories and images of times spent in New Orleans. This song does that well.

Johnny performed the equally lovely “In My Dream” from Once it Gets Started.

Winding up the show, Johnny presented a story about fellow VOTWA performer Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the time someone tried to buy Monk’s house and land. And the cultural destruction that can happen in the name of “progress.” Johnny then concluded the set with “Lady on The Levee” and thanked the audience who responded with a standing ovation.

Appreciating the response, Johnny returned to the stage for an encore. Setting aside guitar and accordion, Johnny brought out a chromatic harmonica and sang “The Lord is Waiting, and the Devil is Too.” The audience joined in with clapping and singing to the song that won Johnny the 2012 Blues Music Award for Song of The Year. A wonderful way to complete a memorable night of music at David Shiplett’s Cottonmouth southern soul Kitchen.

Scott Morris

Treasurer, Suncoast Blues Society

 (Photo’s courtesy of Jim Hartzell)

Splish, Splash It’s the Beach Bash

Splish, Splash It’s the Beach Bash

Splish, Splash It’s the Beach Bash

That’s right—we have scheduled our annual Beach Bash on Sunday August 29th from 2—6 PM.  We will be celebrating at our usual haunt, the Lions Club Beach House located at 9300 W Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island.  Dooner’s band—Big D and the Dirty Deal will provide the opening entertainment followed by a jam session until 6 PM.

We won’t be doing our normal open buffet spread but we will be cooking “Blues Dogs” and offering chips. You are welcome to bring your own picnic baskets.

This is the first event the Suncoast Blues Society has planned in over a year. And we are optimistic that we can make this a safe event where we can get back to what we do best, celebrate the music with friends.


Memphis Rub Band Review

Memphis Rub Band Review

Memphis Rub Band Review


The Memphis Rub Band


The Memphis Rub Band is a fun way to spend a night listening and dancing to a wide range of blues-based musical genres. Suncoast Blues Society presents a review of two recent shows, at Blue Rooster and Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse, both in Sarasota.

Long-time local club goer’s have likely had the pleasure of attending a Memphis Rub Band (MRB) show. With many new residents in the area Suncoast Blues Society believes the time is right to share highlights from recent shows.

The band consists of bassist Scott Matzke, guitarist “Hurricane” Gary Drouin, keyboardist Dan Ryan, and its newest member drummer David Wells. The band was formed in 2016 by Gary and Scott to perform blues, rock ‘n roll, and a healthy mix of funk, and rhythm and blues.

In many ways this band may be the perfect vehicle to introduce your friends who claim they do not like the blues, to the blues. There is something for everyone in the set list, most of the songs have blues roots and are performed where appropriate with a blues feel.

Vocals are mostly performed by Scott, and David adds vocal variety to the mix by singing from the backline. The MBR spin is throughout the set list and the show includes original songs from the 2018 release Taste.

From the deep blue’s catalog, the band performs a nice version of Magic Sam’s “Just a Little Bit”. Switching to soul/R&B, MRB set included Otis Reading’s hit “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”, and the Rufus Thomas hit “Walking the Dog”.

The shows included MRB band originals “Packing Heat” and the song “Red Tide Blues” which received airplay on local stations. David Wells sings the J. Geil’s Band song “So Sharp” and at Stottlemyer’s kicked in with The Band’s “The Weight”.

I enjoyed songs from two personal favorites. The band pays homage to Coco Montoya with “Back in a Cadillac”. And multiple songs from Delbert McClinton. Both are unusual choices for a band that plays blues-based covers and it shows the depth of their musical knowledge and the talent to properly honor these artists.

Depending on the whim of the band one may hear Delbert’s “Giving it up for your Love”, and “Shaky Ground”, which while a Temptation’s song is now so much a part of Delbert’s shows that he “owns” it. Delbert’s classic “Old Weakness (Coming on Strong)” is a particular specialty of the band.

Also performed was the soulful Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions song “People Get Ready”. The Master of the Telecaster, Albert Collins, is featured with his “Love Me Like You Say” and most will recognize MRB’s version of The Rolling Stones funky hit “Miss You”. Dan took the lead on the Booker T. & the MG’s hit “Green Onions”.

Word is the band is working on a new recording. Scheduled shows for Memphis Rub Band include:

  • March 6: Englewoods on Dearborn, Englewood 7pm
  • March 13: Clancy’s Irish Sprots Pub & Grill, Bradenton 6pm
  • March 20: Snook Haven Riverside Eatery, Venice, 1pm
Jose Ramirez & Anson Funderburgh On Tour

Jose Ramirez & Anson Funderburgh On Tour

Jose Ramirez & Anson Funderburgh On Tour

(The following appeared in a recent edition of Suncoast Blues News. If you are not a subscriber and wish to keep up-to-date on blues happenings on the Suncoast, click this link and join the fun!)

Back by popular demand, Jose Ramirez and Anson Funderburgh are on tour and have a few dates in our area.

1/23: Blue Rooster, Sarasota

1/27: Englewood’s On Dearborn, Englewood

1/30: The Palladium, St Petersburgh

About Jose Ramirez

30 years old, At Jose Ramirez is Costa Rica’s premier Blues artist and has played with some of the biggest names in the Blues industry. These artists include Anson Funderburgh, Mark Hummel, Bryan Lee, Shawn Holt and Albert Castiglia. Jose experienced the American Blues scene for a couple of years and played some of the best Blues clubs in the country including Buddy Guy’s Legends and Rosa’s in Chicago, and The Bradfordville Blues Club in Florida. He also played some of the biggest Blues festivals in the U.S. such as the Washington D.C. Blues Festival and the Bonita Springs Blues Festival in Florida. The Jose Ramirez Band finished second at the 2020 International Blues Challenge.

About Anson Funderburgh

There’s a yin and a yang to Anson Funderburgh. His electric guitar burns with Texas fire that Guitar Player Magazine compared to Otis Rush and Magic Sam. But his guitar can also soothe as the subtle support for Delta blues vocalists who have included Sam Myers, Nick Nixon, and Alabama Mike. Anson has that Austin strut, but his Delta creds are highlighted by being the only artist to have played all 31 of Arkansas’ King Biscuit Blues Festivals.


Blues in the Library is back

Blues in the Library is back

Blues in the Library is back

Suncoast Blues Society
Community Outreach Program


Blues in the Library is back! As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive-in gathering concept has new life.

We are collaborating with Pasco County Library Association for an outdoor Blues in The Lot concert at the Hudson Library branch (8012 Library Rd, Hudson) on Friday, December 4th.

This FREE event will feature solo/duo performer Shaun Hopper and the Sarasota Slim Band.

Mark your calendar now as attendance will be limited, and reservations will be required. More info to follow next week….

Suncoast Blues Society (SBS) has also reached out to Hillsborough, Manatee, and Sarasota County Library Systems suggesting they consider implementing an outdoor Blues on The Lawn performance.

Sarasota County Library System was the first to accept our offer. So far, we have two outdoor performances scheduled at the Fruitville branch (100 Apex Road, Sarasota):

  • November 17th from 2pm – 3:30pm featuring Steve Arvey
  • December 8th from 2pm – 3:30pm featuring Brian Leneschmidt

To kick start these events, SBS will be underwriting a total of 10 events. Keep watching our website at Suncoastblues.org and your Suncoast Blues News for additional information on forthcoming shows featuring Suncoast Blues Society member musicians.