If you go
› What: An Evening with Tinsley Ellis
› Where: Songbirds Guitar Museum, 35 Station St.
› When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13
› Admission: $20
› For more information: 423-531-2473
Tinsley Ellis is marking two notable events this year: the 30th anniversary of his first album on the Alligator label, "Georgia Blue," in 1988, and his return to that label for the release of his 19th record this month, "Winning Hand."
Over three decades, the Georgia blues artist has performed in all 50 states, Canada, Europe, Australia and South America, earning legions of fans with his guitar virtuosity and passionate vocals. He won Rock/Blues Album Of The Year with "Tough Love" in 2015 from Blues Blast Magazine and has made many "Best Of" lists within Downbeat and others.
Now he's on the road again in support of "Winning Hand," and his tour includes a stop at Songbirds Guitar Museum on Saturday night, Jan. 13.
"Tinsley Ellis is a legendary artist who loves the blues and loves performing," describes Mike Dougher, talent buyer for Songbirds.
"When we first opened Songbirds, Tinsley was one of the first people I thought of to perform on our stage. It didn't work out last year, but now that he has a new CD out, 'Winning Hand,' it's actually worked out better. Tinsley's show is exactly what the Songbirds stage was built for. My guess is this will be one of the best shows we'll present all year."
Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. He and a friend were listening to records one night when his friend's older brother said if they liked blues, they should be listening to B.B. King. As luck would have it, King was in town, and the upcoming Saturday afternoon show was just for teenagers.
Ellis and his friend sat in the front row. When King broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat and handed the broken string to Ellis. After the show, King came out and talked with fans, mesmerizing Ellis with his warmth and kindness. Ellis' fate was sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. And he still has that guitar string.
"I first became aware of Tinsley Ellis when he performed at Michelangelo's here in town in the early '90s," Dougher recalls. "Dr. Russell Linnemann, the blues doctor, was responsible for bringing 99 percent of the blues to Chattanooga and created Blues Monday at Michelangelo's and later at The Sandbar. Tinsley was a mainstay at The Sandbar for eight years performing to sell-out crowds. His infectious Clapton-like riffs one minute and a single note cutting through the atmosphere the next kept all eyes on the stage."
Ellis said in a news release that from the time he was a teenager watching B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf and Billy Preston to today, he's taken what he's learned from those masters and incorporated it into his concerts.
"From B.B. King, I learned about performing with dynamics. From James Brown, I learned about putting on a seamless, exciting concert. From The Allmans, I learned how to excite fans with extended instrumental jamming," Ellis says.
Fans of Ellis can experience that combination Saturday night at Songbirds.
"It's going to be epic. I can just feel it," Dougher says.