By Harley Nefe
Due to the success of its first event and back by popular demand, the 18th annual New River Blues Gathering will present a part two event at the River House Inn on Sunday, Oct. 18 from 1-5 p.m.
In previous years, the event has been held as a festival; however, this year it is considered a gathering, as all aspects are following Governor Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 guidelines. There is a limited amount of tickets available for the exclusive outdoor event, as seating has a reduced capacity of 50 people to ensure safety. Attendants, who are also asked to bring masks, will be able to social distance over the spacious lawns and expansive meadow by the river of the venue.
When reflecting back on part one of the New River Blues Gathering held on Sept. 6, Rob Baskerville, who is a member of the musical group The King Bees and helped create and produce the New River Blues Festival, said the musicians set up on the porch, and there is a nice grassy area right in front of the stage with tables that are spaced out. People also put up some tents and hung out in that area across the road and into the field going down to the river.
Demand for the first event exceeded the available capacity, which prompted the presentation of the second event.
“That was such a success that a lot of our fans were unable to attend, so this second New Rivers Blues Gathering is the opportunity for the folks who were unable to obtain tickets at the first event to get to see world-class blues in the High Country,” Baskerville said.
Tickets to the first New Rivers Blues Gathering sold out quickly; therefore, Baskerville said the key to this one is to get in touch with River House Inn and purchase tickets as soon as possible, as they will not be able to be purchased at the gate.
Tickets are available for purchase over the phone only by calling 336-982-2109.
The cost for tickets is $50, which includes the Blues Plate Special, River House’s jambalaya. Beverages will also be available for purchase; therefore, guests are asked not to bring coolers.
When speaking of the venue of the River House Inn, which is located at 1896 Old Field Creek Road in Grassy Creek, which is in Ashe County near West Jefferson, Baskerville said it’s a beautiful setting for a blues gathering with its sparkling river and mountain meadow.
In addition, for accommodations, the River House Inn is a bed and breakfast with rooms.
“We’ve got a great venue and are bringing the world-class blues to the High Country, so we’re excited,” Baskerville said.
Seating will be provided, but attendants can all bring their own blankets or lawn chairs if they want.
The event is scheduled to take place during peak leaf season in the High Country, and the gates will open at 12:30 p.m., with the music beginning at 1 p.m.
The artists roster for 2020 include Mac Arnold, Donald Ceasar and The King Bees. Taken from the event webpage, here are the artists’ bios:
When the piano player in your very first band is none other than James Brown, you know that amazing things in music lie ahead. That’s how it was for Mac Arnold. In 1965, Mac moved to Chicago and was soon given the stellar position of bass player in The Muddy Waters Band, the band that shaped the bedrock foundation of classic Windy City blues. Regular guests of the band included Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, and Mike Bloomfield. Mac and the band often provided the backing for all the biggest blues legends. In the ’70s, Mac moved to Los Angeles and produced Soul Train with his friend Don Cornelius. He even played bass on the Sanford & Son television show between gigs with Otis Redding and B.B. King. A highlight of Mac’s performances these days is when he returns to the fundamentals of his music and plays his homemade gas can guitar. This show is one to fully satiate the appetite of real-deal blues fans who want the very best, authentic fare.
Here comes our blues fans’ best-loved Zydeco train! Ceasar is a New River Blues Festival favorite & dear friend! Donald Ceasar is an artist of exceptional versatility, performing on drums, harmonica, and keyboards while singing lead vocals and laying down high-spirited dance steps. Ceasar hales from the bayous of Louisiana, in the heart of Creole and Cajun country where his grandfather, Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin, and other family members were pioneers and founding fathers of Cajun Zydeco music. Ceasar has been entertaining audiences since childhood with his Cajun family band and opening for and sharing the stage with legendary artists such as Rocking Sidney, Fats Domino, Dr. John, The Nevilles, B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, and James Brown. Ceasar delivers a sizzling musical-gumbo full of the succulent flavors of Louisiana.
The King Bees
The King Bees, Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville and Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni call Ashe County home, but travel the world with their blues and American roots music. This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the band and also the 18th year of New River Blues Festival, which they created and produced.
In the mid-1980s, Baskerville and Zamagni began traveling the deep-South looking for and mentoring under blues artists of historical, cultural, and musical significance. Many blues greats took them under their wing and nurtured and guided The King Bees toward the sound of authenticity. With Baskerville on guitar and keys and Zamagni on vocals, bass, and as song smith, The King Bees honed their art with many blues masters. By 1990, they had been touring and recording with some of the most culturally important of blues artists. In the early 1990s, they were signed to a European label and began touring internationally.
The King Bees have performed on festival stages in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and London as well as taking their show across numerous countries. Their love of American roots music has taken them from Mississippi jukes joints to several performances at Lincoln Center. They collaborated with Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame member Bo Diddley and were featured on The B.B. King Birthday Tour. Baskerville and Zamagni are also recognized as blues historians, represent and book blues artists of note, and produce blues festivals across the South. Veteran drummer extraordinaire, Jim “Jimmy Groove” Gillon will be laying down the big blues beat.