Nov. 6, 2013. The American 1950s are alive and well and living in England. The Rhythm Riot Festival in Sussex is a paean to the music, dance, cars and clothing of that boisterous era.
Over three days from Nov. 15-18, this festival will be a trip back in time extolling “the vintage lifestyle” of the U.S.A., but only a few acts are authentically American. Todd’s King Bees with Georgia’s Beverly “Guitar” Watkins will be headline performers on Friday, Nov. 15, bringing their Southern roots music to an audience hungry for the real thing.
The King Bees’ founders, Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville and Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni formed the band in Boone in 1986. They traveled over the deep south seeking out and being mentored by their heroes of the blues. Before long, they were recording and touring with luminaries such as Chicago Bob Nelson, Jerry McCain and Bo Diddley. They signed to the Dutch label, Tramp Records, in the mid-1990s and numerous European tours followed.
They have performed several times at New York City’s Lincoln Center and took part in B.B. King’s 80th Birthday Tour. Since 2003, they have produced New River Blues Festival, the High Country’s only event spotlighting the historically and culturally iconic figures of Southern blues. Baskerville has been named a Blue Ridge National Heritage Artist in honor of his many musical accomplishments and significant cultural contributions.
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins began her musical career in high school in Atlanta as a student of the legendary jazz musician Clark Terry. In 1959, although just an eleventh grader, she ascended to the guitar chair in the swinging band led by Victor Record’s recording star, Piano Red (William Perrymen). The band, known as Dr. Feelgood and The Interns, toured extensively and had several hits. Beverly Watkins for decades performed with the cream of Atlanta’s rich musical world and the 1990s launched her solo career in earnest. Watkins has been featured on festival stages here and abroad, and received critical praise for her recordings. She is the recipient of the Georgia Music Legend Award.
“The King Bees” have been working with Beverly for several years now,” said bassist/vocalist/song writer “Queen Bee” Zamagni, “and we are constantly amazed at her energy. She sings, dances, blows harmonica and is a virtuoso on guitar. Not bad for 74 years old! And she is also a cancer survivor, so Beverly is truly a role model in many ways!”
“When we take the stage together, there is a whole lot of blues-woman power going on with Bever;ly and Queen Bee,” said guitarist Baskerville. “European audiences especially appreciate American roots music delivered by women who are more than vocalists but are also accomplished instrumentalists and can hold their own on an international stage.”
For one weekend, the lush English countryside near the picturesque village of Rye will reverberate with the quintessential elements that made the 1950s a decade to remember. Those who gather for The Rhythm Riot will savor a feast of bona fide American roots music, cooked up southern style when Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and The King Bees take the stage.