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Band Bios for Waukesha Rotary BluesFest 2024

Friday, August 9, 2024

Ally Venable

Texas blues/rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, Ally Venable has made her fiery presence known around the world since the release of her debut album at 16. Now, with her fifth solo effort “Real Gone!” released on Ruf Records in March of 2023, Venable has come of age. At 24, Venable is already an important artist in the roots music world. Her name has grown in stature with each new album and high-energy gig. She’s an absolutely ripping guitar player with style and tone for days, a commanding singer, and a songwriter with the power to make blues music that speaks to contemporary fans.


The new record, produced by Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi), features guest appearances by Joe Bonamassa and living legend Buddy Guy. Venable is that rare musician who can take her old-school influences like Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan and create music that brings their spirits to today’s listeners where they live. Together with Isaac Pulido (drums), EJ Bedford (bass), she gives audiences an entertaining show packed with musical muscle and relatable songs about living, growing, and evolving.


When asked where her songs emerge from, Ally replied “I try to write about what goes on in my life, or try to write about something I know others can relate to. We all go through things and it’s okay to have feelings about something going on in your life.” The first single from Real Gone! is “Texas Louisiana,” which is a crackling duet with the one-and-only Buddy Guy. Ally and Buddy are an absolute dream team together, intertwining their guitars and voices into one without either losing any identity or impact. The title track “Real Gone” is a straight-up, body-moving rocker that will also be a single. Venable shouts down the microphone like a star while her guitar snarls and sings. On the soulful ballad “Next Time I See You,” Ally downshifts her vocals and shows every dynamic degree of her impressive range. Her guitar work here is equally lyrical and emotive, displaying a gift for phrasing that few players ever attain. The grinding slow jam “Blues Is My Best Friend” lays out the ups and downs of the guitar lifestyle in no uncertain terms and features some of Venable’s most intense playing and singing on the entire set.


Ally’s deep, cliche-free authenticity is the common thread running through every song on Real Gone!. She speaks her mind without hesitation or apology, turning each track into an honest statement of purpose. In 2022, Guitar World Magazine named Ally one of the Top 15 “Young Guns” Making the Gibson Les Paul Cool Again and she also received the Road Warrior Award from the Independent Blues Music Awards. She performed as a featured artist on the Experience Hendrix Show in Austin, TX and appeared alongside Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Zack Wilde, Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa, and other luminaries. With 2019’sTexas Honey and 2021’s Heart of Fire, Venable found herself topping the Billboard charts. Early releases No Glass Shoes (2016) and Puppet Show (2018), created her fan base, charted on radio, and won several East Texas Music Awards. Venable’s acclaimed performances on Ruf Records’ European Blues Caravan tour brought her international recognition. She has toured the U.S. with Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Canada with Colin James.


In 2024, Ally will be opening for Buddy Guy on his farewell tour, opening for Kenny Wayne Shepherd as well as the Allman Betts Family Revival tour. She will be rocking Europe again on the Blues Caravan Tour and doing her own headline shows domestically and abroad including a stop at the famed Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. Ally Venable has had a rapid rise to fame but gives off the vibe of someone who loves her life and is ok with it all.



Tinsley Ellis

According to Atlanta-based blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Tinsley Ellis, his new, first-ever solo acoustic album, Naked Truth, is both “a departure and an arrival.” Ellis has been recording and travelling the world for over four decades, delivering his feral, guitar-fueled, original electric blues-rock to ever-growing audiences at concert halls, festivals, and clubs. Naked Truth is steeped in the folk blues traditions of Muddy Waters, Skip James, Son House, Robert Johnson and even Leo Kottke. To the casual fan, this might seem to be a new direction, but for Ellis, it’s an extension of his music, as he taps into the raw essence of the blues. “This is a record I’ve always wanted to make, and one that my longtime fans have been asking for,” he says, noting he’s included an acoustic mini-set in his concert performances for years. In the last 12 months, Ellis has already performed over 100 solo shows, many as co-bills with his Alligator label-mate Marcia Ball. “I’m having so much fun playing these shows,” he says.


On Naked Truth (his 21st album), Ellis swaps his blistering, guitar-fueled full band workouts for equally passionate, soul-searching acoustic folk blues. His famed guitar chops and musical creativity are on full display throughout the album’s 12 songs, including nine newly written originals. Naked Truth was produced by Ellis, with the foot-stomping cover of Son House’s Death Letter Blues produced by Atlanta roots musician Eddie 9V. The album was recorded live in the studio using Ellis’ beloved 1969 Martin D-35 (a gift from his father) and his 1937 National Steel O Series guitars. Whether intricately fingerpicking the Martin or playing hair-raising slide on the National Steel, Ellis delivers each song with unvarnished intimacy.


The opener, Ellis’ original Devil In The Room, comes from an expression Ellis’ close friend, the late Col. Bruce Hampton, would tell his musicians just before a show was about to begin (“We’re here to put the devil in the room,” he’d say). From the original, Skip James-inspired Windowpane to the Delta-styled Tallahassee Blues, to the humorous Grown Ass Man, Ellis goes deep, singing and playing the blues’ honest truths. The inclusion of four introspective instrumentals (including a transcendent cover of Leo Kottke’s A Soldier’s Grave On The Prairie, a song he’s been playing live for almost 50 years) adds even more depth and substance to an album overflowing with riches. Each song carries the weight, experience and hard-earned wisdom Ellis learned over four decades on the road, infusing Naked Truth with an emotional authenticity that is palpable from start to finish.


Tinsley Ellis has been immersed in music his whole life. Born in Atlanta 1957 and raised in southern Florida, he acquired his first guitar at age seven, inspired by seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. He took to guitar instantly, developing and sharpening his skills as he grew up. Like many kids his age, Ellis discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. One afternoon after high school in 1972, he and a friend were listening to Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield’s Super Session record when his friend’s older brother told them that, if they liked Super Session, they should go see B.B. King, who was in town that week. Tinsley saw that show from the very front row. As fate would have it, King broke a guitar string while playing, and after changing it without missing a beat, he handed the broken string to young Tinsley. And yes, Tinsley still has that string.


Less than three years later, Ellis, already an accomplished teenaged musician, left Florida and moved to Atlanta. He soon joined a hard-driving local blues band, the Alley Cats. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After cutting four Heartfixers albums (three for the Landslide label), Ellis was ready to step out on his own.


Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit the unprepared public by surprise in 1988, as press and radio brought his music to more people than ever before. His next four releases—1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning, and 1997’s Fire It Up—further grew his reputation as well as his audience. (His song A Quitter Never Wins, a highlight of Storm Warning, was recorded by Jonny Lang, selling almost two million copies.) Features and reviews ran in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and in many other national and regional publications. And he backed it all up performing hundreds of nights per year. Rolling Stone declared, “Feral blues guitar…non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge…his eloquence dazzles…he achieves pyrotechnics that rival Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.”


In the early 2000s, Ellis released albums on Capricorn Records and on Telarc, returning to Alligator in 2005 with Live–Highwayman, which captured the fifth-gear energy of his roof-raising live show. He followed it with two more incendiary studio albums, 2007’s Moment Of Truth and 2009’s Speak No Evil. He self-released four successful albums on his own Heartfixer label before coming back home to Alligator in 2018. That year, he released the fan favorite Winning Hand, followed by 2020’s Ice Cream In Hell just before the pandemic sidelined all touring. With 2022’s Devil May Care, Ellis embarked on another relentless, coast-to-coast tour, further cementing his reputation as one of the most prolific and exciting blues rockers on the scene.


Tinsley Ellis has brought his music to fans live in person to all 50 United States, as well as in Canada, across Europe, Australia and South America. He’s earned the love and respect of many of his fellow musicians, having shared stages with Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, The Allman Brothers, Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, and more. Over the years, legends including Otis Rush, James Cotton, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Buffett, Son Seals, Koko Taylor and Albert Collins invited Ellis to join them on stage. Mega-star guitarist Joe Bonamassa calls Ellis “a national treasure.”


Now, with Naked Truth, Ellis will bring his music directly to his fans. “Two guitars and a car,” he says of the simplicity of his North American touring situation. “When folks come to see me, I’ll have the guitars I used on the record with me, so what fans hear on the album is what they’ll get live. It’s not easy. Now I’m the whole band and there’s nowhere to hide. It’s scary every single time I go up on stage alone. But nothing could be more honest.”


Naked Truth is a revelation. Stripped of the electric fervor that defined his previous works, Ellis’ acoustic music carries a rawness that speaks directly from his soul. The songs unveil another side of Tinsley Ellis, but one that is totally recognizable to his fans. His gruff, full-throated vocals intertwine seamlessly with the bare, acoustic arrangements, creating an album that is both timeless and immediate. No Depression says, “Ellis shines. When the tempo slows, the intensity doesn’t waver.” Blues Music Magazine states, “Tinsley Ellis is a powerful and commanding presence. His music is impossible not to enjoy.”

Dave Steffen Band

Anyone who has heard the Dave Steffen Band play live understands that their music is more than just notes. With ten albums and literally thousands of live appearances under his belt, Dave Steffen has made music a way of life. Since Dave received his first recording contract at the tender age of fifteen, he has devoted his life to playing, recording and living his music.


Born and raised in Wisconsin, Dave began playing guitar as a young boy, showing unusual talent even at a very early age. By the time he left high school, his band The Love Society, was signed to Scepter Records. Within five years, he had also released recordings with RCA and Mercury Records. His talent as a songwriter and singer, in addition to his prowess as a guitar player, earned Steffen and his band special recognition in Billboard and Cashbox magazines and the Gavin Report.


Dave went on to play as a founding member of Sunblind Lion, recording and playing numerous venues in Wisconsin and surrounding states. Following the run of Sunblind Lion, he formed the Dave Steffen Band which continued to receive acclaim in clubs throughout the upper Midwest, including Chicago, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.


In 1986, the Dave Steffen Band headed west to the bright lights of San Francisco to experience the Bay-area music scene. During an adventurous nine-year stay, Dave worked with a variety of national musicians, opening for groups like Huey Lewis and the News, Santana, Ronnie Montrose, Robin Trower, and Journey. Guitar virtuosos like Carlos Santana and Neil Schon noticed in Dave a special giftedness as a guitarist and on various occasions would come to his performances to jam with him in intimate club settings. During this time, Dave continued to write and record his own music, releasing three albums.


In 1995 Dave returned to Wisconsin, back to his roots. Determined to find the hottest young players he could find, he hooked up with Craig Neuser on bass and vocals and the newest addition to the band, drummer Spencer Panosh. Several of the band's songs were used on the popular daytime soap, The Young and the Restless. The show's producer enjoyed their music so much, that he requested they appear on an upcoming show which aired February 24th and 25th, 2000. They appeared on the show as themselves.


Today, Dave Steffen performs with his band, as a duo and as a solo act and also performs with The Stringbenders. Dave’s trio, simply called The Dave Steffen Band, packs a live punch which gets the crowd on its feet every time. He connects with an audience not only because he is good, but also because he is a genuine performer!

Ohlschmidt, Panosh & Cohen

Ohlschmidt, Panosh & Cohen are a fresh new Wisconsin blues trio featuring Jim Ohlschmidt, Craig Panosh and Steve Cohen.  Jim Ohlschmidt is an accomplished guitarist/singer/songwriter who is well known in the Sheboygan area and beyond.  Steve Cohen based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a performing musician on harmonica, guitar and vocals, and also a music educator.  Well known for his work with Leroy Airmaster, Steve has been sponsored by Hohner Inc., the world's largest maker of harmonicas, since 1986.  Craig Panosh is a fine, sensitve drummer who has worked over the years with a number of popular area blues bands.  A convergence of circumstance led these well-established musicians to play together as a trio (without a bass player, kind of non-traditional) and they found a kind of chemistry that you don't get every day.  Adding interesting tunes and arrangements have led to a true enjoyment of the music they are creating together.  Jim and Steve worked as a duo for the last few years, while Jim also worked in a duo with Craig Panosh, so the culmination of their talents in the new trio Ohlschmidt, Panosh & Cohen was inevitable!


Trick Bag with Kenny J.

Trick Bag with Kenny J. (formerly Kenny Sunshine & The Shadows) is a Milwaukee-Area Blues and Blues Rock Band.  This group of seasoned musicians has joined forces to bring their take on blues and blues-rock to local venues including regular shows at Mamie’s in Milwaukee and their annual appearances at the Charcoal Grill Roadhouse at the Wisconsin State Fair.


ROCKONSIN 2024 Finalist - The Lightways

Waukesha Rotary BluesFest is proud to present a finalist band from the 2024 ROCKONSIN youth garage band competition at the festival once again this summer in support of youth musicians.  The Lightways, one of the finalist bands in this year's ROCKONSIN competition are a four piece rock band comprised of members from Germantown, Sussex, Brookfield and Menomonee Falls.

Saturday, August 10, 2024


If you care to know how a rowdy 1950’s Chicago juke joint sounded, GA-20 are here to help.  They keep things simple and fierce...scything, growling riffs, driving grooves, blistering boogies and defiant vocals.


The Guardian (UK) says “100% Blues....A pure marvel and delight.”  Rolling Stone magazine describes them as “A loose, raw, high-energy approach to the blues...guaranteed to get anyone with a pulse onto the dance floor.  Riotously happy house rockers...they deliver sweaty, raucous grooves all night long.  Living Blues says “GA-20 clearly is on to something big.  It’s a movement, a new traditional blues revival.  The dynamic, throwback blues trio are disciples of the place where traditional blues, country and rock‘n’roll intersect.


“We make records that we would want to listen to” says guitarist MattStubbs. “It’s our take on the song-based traditional electric blues we love.” Stubbs and guitarist/vocalist Pat Faherty and drummer Tim Carman have beenat the forefront of this traditional blues revival since they first formed in 2018.  It’s no wonder they skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Blues Charts.  “Since we started the band we’ve focused on the story, the melody, and on creating a mood.  Playing live as much as we do, we’re finding more and more that people are discovering how cool it all is.  Traditional country, soul and funk music have all had these massive recent revivals, but traditional blues so far has not.”


With their new Colemine album, Crackdown, and an intensive tour schedule, that’s all about to change.  On Crackdown, GA-20’s third full-length release, the band creates an unvarnished, ramshackle blues that is at once traditional and refreshingly modern.  Expanding on their previous releases (2019’s Lonely Soul and 2021’s Try It...You Might Like It! GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor), GA-20 finds inspiration on the edges of the genre, where early electric blues first converged with country and rock‘n’roll.  The album’s nine original songs include the loping Louisiana-flavored Dry Run, the dirty and bare-bones Easy On The Eyes and the melodic garage tinge of Fairweather Friend.  With tight, propulsive performances and a brevity and punk energy reminiscent of TheRamones, Crackdown is rowdy and fun, filled with instantly memorable and well-crafted songs.

The Dig 3

Whiskey vocals, masterful harmonica, and keen original songs stay tethered to grooves only possible when the rhythm section is one person.  Walking the tightrope between urgency and ease, The Dig 3 creates roots music with power and subtlety, perfected by decades of house-parties and honkytonks.  Their 2023 self-released album “Damn The Rent” has been consistently riding the top ten of the blues charts since its release.


The Dig 3 is a new, exciting, & entertaining Chicago-based blues/roots all-star trio consisting of the supremely soulful vocalist /guitarist Andrew Duncanson of Kilborn Alley Blues Band fame, harp master & teacher Ronnie Shellist, and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt, who has been the not-so-secret weapon behind Nick Moss, Corey Dennison, and much more!  The Dig 3 truly play deep blues with a feeling and know how to really “dig” into a steady groove!  It’s so refreshing to hear a group of young talented good friends playing killer old school blues with unique originality, taste, subtlety, and emotion, and all while having an absolute blast doing it.  This is some of the most lowdown, raw, wild, and dirty blues I've heard in a long time…think Big John Wrencher's Chicago Blues classic, Maxwell Street Blues from ’69!"


Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. & The Legendary Ils Sont Partis Band

Carrying on his Father’s legacy and band, Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. now leads the band in his legendary father’s footsteps.  He finds himself now the front man to the legendary “Ils Sont Partis Band”.  Traveling the world nationally and internationally by his father's side, Sir Reg, as his father would call him, began by playing the rubboard with the band at the age of 17.  Seeing the great talent in his son, Buckwheat insisted he open some of his headlining shows while touring, placing him on the Hammond B-3 organ, and strapping on his famous custom monogrammed accordion to belt out a rousing opening song for the show.


As part of his father's legendary band, Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. has shared the stage with some of the greats like Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Albert Collins, Dwight Yoakam, David Hidalgo and Los Lobos, Buddy Guy and many, many more.  He has performed for two inaugural balls honoring two United States presidents and is a two-time Grammy Award Winner, Emmy Award Winner, and five-time Grammy nominee.


Born June 21, 1970, in Lafayette, Louisiana to Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural and Patricia Coleman Dural, he grew up surrounded by music his entire life.  Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. enjoyed listening to his father play many instruments and learned himself as his father did, by just hearing the tune.  Growing up just doors away from the king of Zydeco music, Clifton Chenier only made his goal to become a great musician himself all the more exciting.  The years of traveling as an apprentice to his great father developed his skills as a musician, songwriter, producer, humanitarian, and all-around showman.


After the loss of his legendary father to cancer in 2016, Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. proudly carries on the legacy left to him and continues his father's dream and achievements with the original legendary “Ils Sont Partis Band”, to bring the love of Zydeco and Blues music to the country, the world, the universe.


Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. & The Legendary Ils Sont Partis Band were honored at the 2024 Grammy Awards as Winner of the Grammy Award for “Best Regional Roots Music Album” for their recent release “New Beginnings”.


Sweet Sheiks

Bringing a little bit of the Big Easy to the Brew City, Sweet Sheiks is a toe-tapping five-some inspired by the popular music of the teens, twenties, and thirties. Led by the vintage haunting vocals of Jen Lauren which evoke a bygone era of diva songbirds, her stylings become all the more intriguing when she picks up her musical saw. The group’s lineup includes guitar, violin, tuba, banjo, mandolin and more all contributing to their unique sound. They bring a modern flair to early jazz, blues, and Americana classics. Sweet Sheiks’ acoustic stylings are compelling, diverting, and are best summed up in two words, “refreshingly vintage.”


Maple Road Blues Band

Formed in 2007 and rooted in Southeast Wisconsin, Maple Road Blues Band delivers a unique high energy blend of blues and rock.  The band features singer/songwriter/guitarist, Jenny Abbott-Goodell. Drawn to the mysticism surrounding deep delta blues and the authentic power of blues-rock, Jenny finds herself constantly inspired and needing to be no more than an arms-length from her guitar.  Jenny always possessed a high level of originality and creativity which she expressed through writing.  Songwriting then came naturally to her when she started playing acoustic guitar just out of college.  Her songwriting efforts are now reflected in both of Maple Road's album releases, which collectively include 18 of her original tunes.  The band includes Rory Grouse on guitar, Daryl “Russ” Wheeler on bass and Max Jones on percussion.


Los Guys

Based in Waukesha and well known throughout the Waukesha County area, Los Guys is a four piece blues rock band celebrating 20 years together playing recognizable music from the 70's thru today.

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