2015 Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash
Blues story teller Keb’ Mo’ to headline
The L.A. native is an award-winning musician
(August 2015) – Blues performer Keb’Mo’ tells a unique story through his music. Over the past two decades he has garnered a reputation as a modern master of American roots music through live and studio performances worldwide.
Friday, Aug 21
• 5 p.m.: Gates open
• 6 p.m.: Lionel Young Band
• 7 p.m.: Backyard BBQ Blast (Judging begins in the
• 8 p.m.: Walter “Wolfman” Washington
• 9:30 p.m.: Backyard BBQ Blast amateur cooking (winners announced on stage)
• 10 p.m.: Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirls
Saturday, Aug. 22
• 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)
• 11 a.m.: Gates open
• 11:30 a.m.: Da Mudcats
• 1:30 p.m.: Boscoe France
• 3 p.m.: “Good to the Bone” rib-eating contest in front of stage.
• 3:30 p.m.: Tee Dee Young
• 5:30 p.m.: Mark Hummel Combo with Little Charlie
• 7:30 p.m.: Southern Hospitality
• 9:30 p.m.: Keb’ Mo’
Admission Wristbands: Two-day pass $20 through Aug. 21 and available at the gate or the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St., Madison.
Children ages 12 & under Free. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. No pets, coolers, skateboards, bikes, rollerblades, umbrellas, canopies, food, beverages, video or audio recording devices.
Saturday only: $20.
On Sale at the
Ribberfest T-Shirts = $15
Ribberfest Pins = $5
Ribberfest Chairs = $10
His latest highly acclaimed album, “BLUESAmericana,” accomplished a career first for Keb’Mo’. It scored him three Grammy nominations and the honor of being awarded the Blues Music Association’s Best Contemporary Blues Album of 2015. This was the 11th time he has won a Blues Music Award.
Keb’Mo’ is scheduled to perform at 9:30 p.m. p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, as the Blues Bash headliner act at Madison Ribberfest. His appearance is a highly anticipated one among blues fans.
“Keb’Mo’ has been around for a while,” said Dave Butler, one of the musical organizers for the Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash. “We’ve had him on our list since the beginning. He’s a relatively big name. He is a great storyteller and has a tremendous voice.”
Butler added, “We’ve really got something for everybody. It just keeps getting better every year.”
Ribberfest is a combination of things, he said: good food, a phenomenal location, and “everybody has fun; they’re not out of control. We get a lot of positive comments about the lineup.”
Keb’Mo’ fits perfectly into the 2015 lineup. From an early age, his parents instilled in Keb’Mo’ a great appreciation for blues and gospel music. He embarked upon his musical career by playing steel drums and upright bass in a calypso band. A native of Los Angeles, the 1970s and 1980s saw him playing in a variety of blues and backup bands.
Keb’ Mo’, 61, first started recording with Jefferson Airplane violinist Papa John Creach in the early ’70s through an R&B group. Creach hired him when he was only 21, and he went on to appear on four of Creach’s albums.
He then became a staff writer for A&M Records and arranged demos for Almo-Irving music. In 1980, Keb’Mo’ released his debut, “Rainmaker,” on Chocolate City Records. It wasn’t until 1994 that he released his self-titled debut album, “Keb’Mo’,” which featured two Robert Johnson covers, “Come On In My Kitchen” and “Kind Hearted Woman Blues.”
In the 2003 Martin Scorsese miniseries dedicated to the history of the blues, appropriately titled “The Blues,” Keb’Mo’ stated that he had been greatly influenced by Johnson. Two years before releasing his self-titled album, Keb’Mo’ was the runner-up for best New Blues Artist at The Long Beach Blues Festival when he was spotted by Steve LaVere, owner of publishing for the entire Robert Johnson song catalogue.
Keb’Mo’ even portrayed Johnson in the 1998 documentary film, “Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl?”
Photo by Chuck Arlund
Keb' Mo' will be the Saturday headliner at Ribberfest.
His second album was released in 1996, “Just Like You.” It featured 12 songs packed full of Delta rhythms. This album won Keb’Mo’ his first Grammy Award and featured guest appearances from Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.
Two years later, Keb’Mo’ was involved in the multi-artist project, “Begegnungen (Encounter)” by German rock superstar Peter Maffay. Together they performed 30 concerts in the arena tour that were documented on a live album, “Bergenungen Live,” and released in 1999.
Keb’Mo’s “Slow Down” album, released in 1998, earned him a second Grammy Award. The album begins with a song titled “Muddy Water,” a tribute to legendary American blues musician Muddy Waters.
The early 1990s saw him appear on stage in several versions of the musical, “Spunk,” as Guitar Man. The play was written by Zora Neale Hurston, a popular African American playwright from the Harlem Renaissance. The character of Guitar Man is the foundation for his current stage persona.
In 2000, Keb’Mo’ released his fourth album, The Door. He also released Big Wide Grin, a children’s album, that same year. It featured many songs from his own childhood.
Four years later he earned his third Grammy Award for Keep It Simple. He released his sixth studio album, Peace…Back by Popular Demand, followed by Suitcase in 2006 and The Reflection in 2011.
Over the years Keb’Mo’ has successfully tried his hand at acting several times. In 1997 he appeared on the TV series Touched by an Angel portraying Isaac, the Angel of Music, in the episode “Inherit the Wind” and again in 1999 in “Then Sings My Soul.” He appeared again in 2001 in an episode called “Shallow Water” and performed his song “God Trying to Get Your Attention” from his “Slow Down” album.
Apart from his musical career, Keb’Mo’ is active in the No Nukes group, a group which is against the expansion of nuclear power. The group recorded a music video of a newer version of the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth” in 2007.
His latest album, “BLUESAmericana,” marks the 20th anniversary of his debut Keb’Mo’. He said he played most of the guitars, many of them acoustic, on the album because, “I didn’t want other musicians to influence the direction of the songs.” He also played bass, keyboards and additional instruments. “I wanted everything on the album to be as pure a statement from me as possible.”
Keb’ Mo’ owns a variety of acoustic, resonator and electric guitars. His favorite track on his latest album is “I’m Gonna Be Your Man,” which starts out with acoustic guitar.
In 1984, he actually thought his career was over. He had worked hard to get record and publishing deals and establish himself as a studio musician, but his career just wasn’t going in the direction he thought it should.
“I was convinced my career was over, and that if I was lucky I’d be able to play blues gigs for $40 or $50 a night – if I was lucky,” he has been quoted as saying of that time in his life. He then stumbled upon a gig in a blues combo with saxist Monk Higgins and guitarist Charles “Charlie Tuna” Dennis, who currently plays rhythm six-string behind B.B. King.
“Until then I thought there was just two kinds of blues – fast and slow. Charlie taught me that there are all kinds of blues”: Delta blues, Texas blues, Chicago blues, soul-blues…I started opening my mind and learning how deep the blues was.”
It was at that time that he made a name change and became known as Keb’Mo’, a moniker coined by his original drummer, Quentin Dennard. He had previously used his birth name, Kevin Moore.
Keb’Mo’s songs have been recorded by the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Cocker and Robert Palmer. He has collaborated with a long list of artists that includes Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Cassandra Wilson, Amy Grant, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and Little Milton.
“Even if you don’t know him, you know his songs,” said Butler. Keb’Mo’ is also the sound behind the theme song for the sit-com Mike & Molly.
Rick Burris, a member of the Blues Bash committee, said of Keb’Mo’, “A lot of people have heard of him in the business. I ran into him in the 1990s in Memphis when he was unknown to a lot of people by name.”
“I never set out to be a ‘blues guy’,” he has stated. “But the blues is very powerful and fuels what I do. The blues puts the ‘realness’ in it for me.”
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