Winter Park hosts Blues from the Top festival this weekend |

Winter Park hosts Blues from the Top festival this weekend

Rebecca Kohl / Sky Hi-NewsWinter Park, CO Colorado

Peter Hartford closes the seams on the roof a tent being set up on Thursday morning in Hideaway Park in Winter Park for this weekend's Blues From the Top festival. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

Combining great talent and years of experience will take you far and get you there quickly, including to this weekend’s 10th Blues from the Top Festival in Winter Park.The Royal Southern Brotherhood band was formed in May of last year, their newly released CD debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Blues Chart, and they are busy touring across the United States and internationally.The band will close out the festival when they take the stage at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Hideaway Park.”We never intended to put a band together, we got together to write some songs,” said Mike Zito. Zito plays guitar and sings vocals for the Royal Southern Brotherhood. Known for his song writing, he has been performing the blues since he was 19 years old. In 2009, Zito and Cyril Neville won the Blues Music Award for Song of the Year for “Pearl River,” the title track to Zito’s 2009 CD.Playing their blues-rock style, the rest of the band is comprised of Devon Allman – son of Greg Allman – on lead guitar and vocals. He possesses a strong personality that shines through when he plays. “When he plays you know it is him,” said Zito. Cyril Neville is known as the godfather of the group. Neville is a percussionist who was a fourth of the famous Neville Brothers formed in 1977. According to his website, “He has guested on various other artist’s recordings over the years, including albums by Edie Brickell, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson,” among others. Neville’s experience has earned him the honor of the go-to man of the band when they need creative advice. He also keeps the band laughing. “He is calm, fun and he has memorized every Richard Pryor album word for word,” said Zito. Yonrico Scott is known as “the bus driver on stage” keeping the beat on drums.”He sets the pace, the perfect guy to follow,” said Zito. Scott began playing drums professionally when he was 7 years old. According to his website, “… the notable artists he has recorded/or performed with include Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., Chuck Berry, Anita Baker, The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman, John Denver, The Supremes …” and just like his beat, the list goes on.”Laid back, very sweet. The perfect personality of a bass player,” is how Zito describes bass player Charlie Wooten. Wooten is the founder of Zydefunk. This southern group plays a mixed genre of music that includes R&B, funky jazz and reggae.Zito helped to form the Royal Southern Brotherhood, along with Neville and Allman, while they were writing songs together after a manager encouraged them to collaborate. The group played a few gigs and decided, “We should start a band and make some music,” Zito said. They gelled so well they decided to “put together a rhythm section and try it out.””The music has been a by-product of a really good connection. It worked so well and we liked each other so much. If it would have been a hard time, we wouldn’t have done it. It has been easy and it has been fun,” he added.When it came time to write the music for their CD together – titled “Royal Southern Brotherhood” – they all pitched in. When it debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Blues Chart they were thrilled and hit the road. “It is very competitive out there. It takes a long time to come around. The fact that it came that quick is a huge pay-off,” Zito said. “This started out as a project. Next year we will all do a solo project or continue to play with our own bands. And we will still do shows as The Royal Southern Brotherhood. It is a good all around mix of opportunity,” said Zito.When it comes to the Blues on the Top Music Festival and being the last band to play, Zito’s advice for the crowd is, “Save some for the end, ’cause once this band gets going …”