Winter Park / Live Music: ‘Blackdog’ has its day |

Winter Park / Live Music: ‘Blackdog’ has its day

by Cyndi Palmer
Sky-Hi Daily News

Every dog has his day and Saturday is the day for Blackdog, as well as those in the Winter Park area who appreciate live music and free concerts.

Shows give audiences a mixture of musical elements – funk and rock from the late ’80s and early ’90s led through the decades by the band’s horn section.

Performances are high energy and usually feature soulful lyrics by Ryan Smith and John “Black Dog” Ridnell, who plays lead guitar. For Saturday’s show, Ridnell will be joined by Todd May on drums and Kirwan Brown on bass as a trio playing a wide variety of musical styles. They also sometimes tour with “P-Nut” Daniels on midi-sax.

“We write and play as many styles as possible,” Ridnell said. “The rock ‘n’ roll and blues are always there, of course, and we have a lot of original tunes as well. But depending on the gig, we might even throw in our versions of Miles Davis or Duke Ellington – whatever gets you moving.”

The band name comes from Ridnell’s nickname, “a long story” whose shorter version relates to the earlier days of “teenage excess.” Just one year short of being able to legally drive, Ridnell was already fronting garage bands and playing what he calls Bronx River Delta blues, rock ‘n’ roll and pieces by musicians like Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Ridnell and longtime friend Matt Baxter formed a band called the Crucial Jive, which evolved into The Jive that kept house parties and teen dances rocking. Ridnell also had the opportunity to learn a few tricks from jazz guitarist Link Chamberlain, which sharpened Ridnell’s skills and turned his head to what a spectacular player he could be with a little practice.

It just so happened Chuck Berry walked in as the band played a spot along its first cross-country tour. Ridnell talked Berry into playing a couple numbers on guitar and not only tore the house up, but Ridnell’s guitar as well.

“If anybody else did that I’d choke them. But I treasure those scratches,” he said.

On that tour, the band was working its way to Colorado, and when they reached its final venues in the Rocky Mountains, Ridnell said he knew he had come home.

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