Winter Park: Back in time with blues, swing and early rock n roll
August 8, 2008
The Winter Park/Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce rounds out its High-Note Thursdays family-oriented concert series next week with a free performance by the Delta Sonics.It is great to be a part of a series that brings great music and offers us all a chance to enjoy our friends and neighbors, said chamber Executive Director Catherine Ross, who also said an average of 200 people have been coming out to the free music events on Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer. Our small-town friendliness really shines at these events.Formerly known as The Homewreckers, the Delta Sonics have been showcasing solid musicianship and energetic live performances in Colorado for more than 15 years and have established themselves as one of the great blues acts of the region. Their repertoire includes Chicago blues, West Coast swing, New Orleans R&B and early rock n roll.Members are Al Chesis on harmonica and vocals, Erik Boa on guitar and vocals, John Butler on bass and vocals, and Willie Panker on drums. Drawing inspiration from blues music and many of the artists that have come before them, theyve opened for nationally known blues artists such as Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Taj Mahal, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, The Radiators, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. More recently theyve opened for Charlie Musselwhite and Tommy Castro and backed Big Bill Morganfield, Bo Diddley, and Pinetop Perkins.Chesis, who was just up in Grand County a month ago during the Blues from the Top festival, says he is probably more of a bluesician than a musician. He started playing the mouth harp at the feisty age of 16, and although his parents didnt appreciate it while he was growing up, fans consider him one of the best of his time.He played in the Mojo-Matics for five years, opening shows for Albert Collins, Elvin Bishop, and he has shared the stage with Canned Heat, Tommy Castro, and Homesick James. Most recently he has been touring regionally with Pinetop Perkins, Steady Rollin Bob Margolin, and Willie Big Eyes Smith. Favorite songs include any blues song by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, or Sonny Boy Williamson, or any other blues songs that move me.Boa calls Pittsburgh, Penn., his home, where he spent a majority of his formative years. He joined forces with Chesis and The Delta Sonics in 2005 and now lives in Boulder. He moved to Denver in the early 1980s, bouncing around in a number of local groups before starting his own band called Boa and the Constrictors. The band became a perennial favorite at the Aspen Jazz Festival and at The Nice Jazz Festival in Nice, France and had two CDs to their credit.Butler began his musical career in the Midwest four decades ago, beginning as a drummer at age eight and switching to bass by age 13. After a move to Colorado in the early 1970s, he became known as Big Al of national touring oldies act Big Al & the Hi-Fis. He has also played in several of Colorados top blues bands, including for Chicago Skinny and Blues Tonic.Panker grew up in Chicago, Ill. He began to play the drums at age 10 and by the time he was 14 he was playing professionally. While studying under Muddy Waters and Little Walters drummer Fred Below, he developed a strong interest in jazz and blues. Below sent him to Roy Knapp, world-renowned percussion and music theory instructor, and Panker became involved in the blues scene playing shows with acts like James Cotton, Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers. He moved to New Orleans in the 1980s and became a sought-after sideman, playing percussion for Earl King, Allen Toussaint and Snooks Eaglin; and eventually formed his own group, called The Iguanas.The Sonics are excited to perform at Winter Parks new outdoor amphitheater next Thursday. We always have a great time playing in Grand County, Chesis said. Individuals and families are encouraged to bring along a picnic and check out the new venue for the free show.