Blues to the Point

Carrollton’s Blues to the Point festival
reaches its 10th year

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (September 2004) – Blues performers have a story all their own to tell. It is a story of the American society and its cultural influences, and if listeners feel that story, then a performer has reached his goal.

Blues Cruisers

Photo provided

The Blues Cruisers will perform
in Carrollton in September.

“The blues is a feeling, and in blues music the right FEEL is more important than technical virtuosity,” said Dave Hunt, keyboard and guitar player for The Blues Cruisers. Hunt’s band will be the opening act for this year’s Blues to the Point, Two Rivers Festival on Sept. 10-11 at Carrollton’s Point Park.
“The setting is beautiful, and the pavilion is kind of like an old-time bandstand in the park. The atmosphere is very relaxed and laid-back,” said Hunt. Although this will be the first time The Blues Cruisers have actually played this festival, Hunt has participated before as a fan.
The Blues Cruisers will play the opening set both days, getting things started at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, and 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11. An impressive lineup of regional and national touring acts are scheduled to appear.
“We receive over 1,000 artist submissions each year, so finding good talent is not all that difficult,” said organizer Doug Ramsey.
This will be the 10th year for the Blues to the Point festival. Eleven years ago, a group of visionary blues fans met to discuss the idea of bringing the blues to Carrollton. The result was the establishment of the non-profit Carroll County Cultural Events, Inc..
“The citizens of this great community embraced our efforts with open arms, giving us the support we needed, and here we are 10 years later,” said Ramsey. “Their willingness to treat our guests as family is just one of the many assets that make this area truly unique.”
Hunt described The Blues Cruisers’ music as an eclectic retro mix. The band plays mostly Chicago blues, jump blues and Delta blues, with most of their material dating from the 1940s and 1950s. Members include Brick Marlin on harmonica, Bob Lee as lead vocalist, Doc Bergner on drums, Robert Hebble on upright acoustic bass, and Hunt on keyboard and guitar.
The band has played such local venues as Twice Told Performance Café in La Grange, Ky., and Zena’s in Louisville. They mostly perform in the Kentuckiana and Central Kentucky areas, producing “the most authentic blues sound they can,” said Hunt.
Ramsey said the Toledo, Ohio, area has some of the greatest blues fans in the country through their Black Swamp Blues Society, and he always tries to have a band from their region along with Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville. He also works very close with national talent agencies, such as Peidmont Talent and record labels like Alligator to secure national touring artists.
One successful blues band is Big Al & the Heavyweights, who will close out Friday night’s show by taking the stage at 10:30. Big Al & the Heavyweights will provide the momentum that will carry over into Saturday’s lineup, Ramsey said.
Together since 1992, audiences can expect to see “lots of fun, energy and nonstop Gumbo Groovin. A little something for everyone,” said “Big Al,” Al Lauro. Lauro grew up surrounded by the sounds of New Orleans music.
Lauro credits longevity as a highlight of the band’s career. They have been featured three times on Chef Emeril Lagasse’s “Emeril Live,” a Cajun and Creole cooking show on the Food Network.
Such national acts are a catalyst for the main goal of the festival organization, which is to bring tourists into the county. The blues festival is funded in part by the Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism Commission.
Corporate sponsors and countless volunteers ensure that the festival will go off without a hitch each year. Debbie Clifton is one of these volunteers and also a member of the group. She was introduced to blues music four years ago while employed by Ramsey at his local business. He would bring promos in and have her listen to them while she worked, she said.
“If you stop and really listen to blues music, it captures you,” said Clifton. With the river as a backdrop, Carrollton provides “one of the best venues around.” Groups of true, loyal blues followers come from as far away as Canada, Oregon and California for this festival, said Clifton.

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