NEWS: Guitar Center King Of The Blues Photo Extravaganza

So you’ve read Pauline France’s review of the Guitar Center King of the Blues contest, and her interview with Joe Bonamassa. Now check out all the great photos provided by Natalie Serhan! There were far too many photos to pick and choose, so here they all are. Enjoy!

1-3: Pete Anderson; 4-9 Joe Bonamassa; 10 Pre-show picture. Left to right: Kirby Kelley, Graham Whitford, Joshua Gooch, Dan Peters, Roosevelt Collier; 11 L-R: Graham Whitford, Kirby Kelley, Dan Peters, Pete Anderson, Joshua Gooch, Roosevelt Collier; 12 Dan Peters; 13 Graham Whitford; 14 Jimmy Vivino, Tyler Dow Bryant, Joe Bonamassa, Hubert Sumlin; 15 Guitars; 16 Marquee; 17 Hubert Sumlin; 18 Joshua Gooch; 19 Joshua; 20; Pauline & Graham; 21 Pauline & Joshua; 22 Pauline & Roosevelt; 23 Pauline & Kirby; 24 Roosevelt; 25 Pauline & Kirby (after Kirby’s win – I love how happy Kirby looks!)


INTERVIEW: Joe Bonamassa

While Pauline France was covering the Guitar Center King Of The Blues contest for I Heart Guitar (read her article here) she made arrangements to interview special guest Joe Bonamassa. Unfortunately schedules didn’t permit an in-person interview but Joe was kind enough to do a short interview by email. Thanks Pauline and Joe!

How did you create your own style to a point where people started to recognize “Hey, that’s Joe Bonamassa”?

I didn’t realize people are /were saying that. I am a product of my influences nothing earth shattering or original going on here. In my opinion

What did you think about the King of the Blues contestants? Do you see any new trends/stylistic threads developing in the world of blues guitar playing?

I saw a bunch of kids with a lot more drive and determination than I have playing blues oriented stuff. Its a fantastic sign for the future. They were all good. Very proud of them.

Tell us about your upcoming projects, gigs, etc.

New Studio CD titled “Black Rock” slated for March 2010. On tour now in Europe with special stops in Greece and Israel. There will be plenty of Touring for 2010 in the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan!

What has been one of your biggest achievements as a performer?

Playing a sold out show at the Royal Albert Hall in London and performing one song with Eric Clapton on stage!
Check out the DVD- Live from the Royal Albert Hall!

What else would you be doing if it weren’t music?

“FBI or CSI for sure. David Caruso has nothing on me. I’m being serious by the way. Law enforcement”

Now it’s time for something different. I will say one or two words and you will tell me the first thing that comes to mind.

1- Guitar -s acrifice
2- Music – joy
3- Life – compromise
4- Fans – too good to me
5- Record labels – antiquated


REVIEW: Guitar Center King of The Blues Grand Final

By Pauline France
Photos by Natalie Serhan

Hollywood, CA – Complete musical ecstasy – that’s the best way to describe what I experienced at the Guitar Center King of The Blues final competition. Not only was I completely immersed in a sublime ambience of electrifying blues, I was also surrounded by incredibly talented blues guitar virtuosos. Jealous? Don’t be. Here’s the scoop.

The sold-out event took place at the House of Blues in Hollywood, CA this past November 12. The venue was jam-packed with blues enthusiasts eager to be part of what I would consider to be one of the best blues events of all times.

From over four thousand hopeful blues guitarists and nearly four months of uncertainty and competition, it was all nailed down to the top five blues players in the country.

The event began shortly after 8:00 p.m. and was hosted by the masterful blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd. That in itself was enough to knock my socks off.


The opening act for the event was the Grammy Award winning producer and guitarist Pete Anderson (photo above), whose band also happened to back the five finalists during their presentation. Anderson’s gilt-edged performance was perfect for setting the mood for the rest of the night.

After Anderson came the contestants (photo above: Left to right – Kirby Kelley, Graham Whitford, Joshua Gooch, Dan Peters, Roosevelt Collier). Each contestant had five minutes total to perform on both an electric and acoustic guitar to ensure that they are capable of masterfully delivering the blues in different styles.

The first contestant to take the stage was Joshua Gooch from San Diego, CA. This naturally gifted musical prodigy made the crowd go dynamite. His playing made me personally experience some sort of magical, bluesy trance that left me dumbfounded.

He not only displayed tremendous skill and technique, he effectively transmitted his emotions through his playing, making the audience explode. I felt as though he almost lit up the House of Blues with musical fireworks. Brilliant.

Joshua Gooch set the standards high for the rest of the contestants, but the second participant, Roosevelt Collier from Kissimmee, FL, had no difficulty matching up.

Roosevelt opted for a lap steel guitar and masterfully demonstrated his soulful blues chops in a way that felt just right. His enthusiasm reflected in his stage presence and overall performance. It was delightful and unique.

The third contestant was Graham Whitford from New York City. This 18-year-old talent undoubtedly displayed an impressive ability to execute the blues, but throughout his performance I experienced mixed feelings. His entrance was grand and he managed to stir up the audience, but towards the end it seemed to decline. He ended his acoustic performance with a weak strum that left me hanging. Overall it was a good performance but a weak ending.

After Graham came Kirby Kelley from North Dallas, Texas. Kirby Kelley is without question an innovative blues player.

In a time and age where practically everything has been done, Kirby made a stunning impression delivering different elements that sounded great as a whole. His phrasing was divine and his performance felt as though you were hearing a story that you didn’t want to end.

For his acoustic act, Kirby began his performance with a nice, calm entry that eventually led to a fun almost blue-grassy, upbeat tune. He chose to sing along as he finger picked the strings in a successful attempt to please the crowd and the judges.

The fifth and last performer was Dan Peters from Morton Grove, IL. Dan was truly a skillful entertainer and blues master.

His alluring performance and stage presence was very well-received by the crowd and judges. He swung his guitar over his back and displayed his strong rock influence in both his acoustic and electric acts.

The panel of judges was comprised by well-renowned players such as Steve Lukather of Toto; blues icon Hubert Sumlin of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters; Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine Brad Tolinski; blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd; Dweezil Zappa, Elliot Easton of The Cars; producer and Grammy Award winner Pete Anderson, and Jimmy Vivino of the Tonight Show Band.

The criteria used to evaluate each player were originality, authenticity, style, technique, stage presence and overall performance. The judges did not have an easy task.

After the contestants did their part and the judges did their work, the audience was treated by a grand performance by the amazing blues-rock guitar master and singer-song writer, Joe Bonamassa (photo above). To say that he is a master is an understatement; he is a powerhouse.

Joe’s sweet voice and incomparable musical style brought a huge amount of energy to the audience that kept the night going.

The crowd kept nodding their heads as they thoroughly enjoyed Bonamassa’s transcendent music. Seeing Joe perform live is almost like having an out-of body experience – seriously.

After playing with his band, Joe shared the stage with players such as Steve Lukather, Eliot Easton, Tyler Dow Bryant and Glen Hughes. Each performer brought something unique to stage that created an electrifying blues ambient.

To end the performance, Jimmy Vivino, Tyler Dow Bryant, Hubert Sumlin and Joe Bonamassa engaged in a call-and response jam that excited the audience as their music intertwined in a way that created musical euphoria. It was superb.

By this time, everyone was eager to know who the winner of the competition was. The audience soared with emotions as Joe Bonamassa was getting ready to reveal who the lucky winner was.

The person crowned with the 2009 King of The Blues title was the outstanding Kirby Kelley from North Dallas, Texas.

Kirby Kelley was gleefully rejoicing along with his family when he heard the news. He received $25,000, a Boss GT-10 Guitar Multi Effects Pedal, a feature in Guitar World magazine, a Gibson ’59 Les Paul reissue guitar, a Marshall Vintage Modern 50 watt half stack, worldwide distribution of his music in iTunes, a $2,500 Levi’s® shopping spree, and endorsement deals from Marshall Amplification, Gibson, Ernie Ball, and VOX Amplification

In an interview with Kirby Kelley prior to the competition (photo above), I asked him to describe his journey ever since the competition began. He said, “Oh, surprisingly emotional. It’s been incredible. There have been incredible players and guitar center has been wonderful. It’s much more fun to do this with guitar center than it is to walk into guitar center at Christmas time.”

I also asked him what skills he thought he had that would make him stand out from the other competitors. He said, “Oh, I don’t know. I just love what I do and hope that somebody else out there does, too. I don’t know if I stand out more than anybody does. Somebody has got to win tonight and I think everybody is great and that everybody has their own thing. “

When I interviewed him after the competition, I asked Kirby what he thought made him win. He was ecstatic and said “God and a lot of years of bad gigs (chuckles).”

I asked him how he thought that winning this competition would impact his career, and he said “Oh, I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even want to think that far in advance. Tonight is going to be fun. Tomorrow I’m just going to go home, mow my lawn and do some painting.”

I also asked him what he would do with all the prizes he received and he said “I am going to play with them and turn in all that money to my wife before I end up in the same predicament (chuckles).”

Along with all the sponsors, Guitar Center put together a spectacular event that left an indelible impression in me and in all of those who attended. It is my hope that they will continue with this competition in the years to come.





NEWS: Beck, Guy, Di Meola, Green, Bonamassa for Bluesfest

The first round of artists to be announced for the 2010 Byron Bay Bluesfest has been released, and while it’s getting further and further away from what I would call blues, there sure are some kickass guitar players on the bill.

The press release is below, but how about I single out these names for ya:

Jeff Beck
Joe Bonamassa
Buddy Guy
Al Di Meola
Peter Green

Not bad, huh?

Colossal first announcement for Bluesfest 21st Celebration Event

The next Bluesfest era begins now in Tyagarah!

October 28th 2009 – The first round of artists to perform at the 21st Anniversary Bluesfest has today been announced! Australia’s most awarded and internationally renowned festival officially begins a new era (and with any luck another excellent 21 years) with the purchase and move to its permanent new home for the 2010 event – the Tyagarah Tea Tree farm just off the Pacific Highway, 10 minutes north of Byron Bay.

Bluesfest 2010 takes place over Easter from Thursday April 1 through to Monday April 5, 2010. The first artist announcement includes a massive array of the best local and international blues, roots, folk, soul, and world artists – with an emphasis on some of the best guitar players of all time.

The first Bluesfest announcement for 2010 includes:

Crowded House, Buddy Guy, Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, Gipsy Kings, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club®, Jeff Beck, Lyle Lovett, RocKwiz, Jimmy Barnes Plays the Rhythm & the Blues, Jessica Mauboy, The Swell Season, Newton Faulkner, Dr John & the Lower 911, Bèla Fleck’s African Project Featuring Oumou Sangarè & band, Blue King Brown, Al Di Meola World Sinfonia, Gogol Bordello, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Green & friends, The Flatlanders, Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Renee Geyer, Colin Hay Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lil Band o’ Gold, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, AND Robert Gordon & the Gang They Couldn’t Hang – featuring Chris Spedding (Roxy Music), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), and Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats).

Crowded House plays Bluesfest for first time ever!
The Bluesfest team is extremely honoured to present Crowded House for the first time ever as the first announcement headliner, following knock out performances over the years from both Neil Finn and Tim Finn. One of our region’s GREATEST bands, Crowded House is responsible for unforgettable songs such as ‘Weather With You’, ‘Four Seasons In One Day’, and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ to name but a few. Get set for a dynamic musical journey that will draw from the band’s acclaimed 2007 album, another new album due in early 2010, and their exceptionally deep catalogue of fantastic songs.

Festival director Peter Noble said, “We are so energised about the amazing artists in this first announcement – it’s easily our best ever first announcement just looking at the depth across the entire list. We promised a touch of classic rock and a guitar lover’s focus for this festival – and to see how that’s played out, you just have to look at axe shredding maestros like Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Peter Green (original Fleetwood Mac founder and hero of BB King, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page!), the Gipsy Kings who are the world’s best flamenco players, Bèla Fleck (stunning banjo virtuoso), and Joe Bonamassa a young blues guitarist who’s recently sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall.

“There’s also tonnes of local and global roots friendly artists too many to mention, Roger Hodgson the incredible singer and songwriter of all those timeless Supertramp hits, Jessica Mauboy who is such an outstanding and genuine artist verified by her recent four awards at the Deadlys and her record seven ARIA award nominations! There’s also Oumou Sangarè who joins Bèla Fleck’s new project and is one the greatest African singers you will ever hear.

“And all this is just the beginning – our second announcement is just around the corner and a stunner too! In fact, we know we have the best Bluesfest bill ever this year, which is a very satisfying way to celebrate our 21st birthday and move to our new home.

“Now at Tyagarah, we’ve got even more room to grow the vision, and give our patrons the REAL festival experience. What we stand for is keeping the counter-culture alive – and the very real notion that music can help heal the world – we’re bringing in artists from Cuba, Mali and even Gypsies all together to support this vision. Longer term, my intention is that Bluesfest will outlive me, and remain a beacon of light that continues presenting the highest quality music on the planet,” concluded Peter Noble.

More room for camping in the Heart of Bluesfest!
Bluesfest 2009 was held at Belongil Fields and accommodated 1,800 campers. Bluesfest 2010 looks forward to welcoming patrons on its own land – and will accommodate approximately 6,500 campers! The very spacious and natural environment is right next to the festival grounds and will include a general store, showers and toilets.

The festival itself will feature more space, more music, more stalls, and more areas to chill out, but is all about keeping in the Bluesfest tradition, which is about creating an environmentally sound, peaceful, relaxed and happy home for everyone. Regular shuttle buses will be included to and from the festival into Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and surrounding towns.

More awards for Bluesfest
And the Bluesfest awards keep on coming. September 2009 saw Bluesfest recognised as an international winner in The Greener Festival awards. This was for an impressive three years in a row, more than any other Australian festival – and a tribute to the event’s ongoing and long-term commitment to environmental sustainability.

Bluesfest was also the first music festival to be nominated for a prestigious Australian Events Award. Bluesfest was nominated for the Best Cultural or Arts Event alongside the Sydney Festival 2009 and Adelaide Fringe 2009. The award eventually went to the 16th Biennale of Sydney. Bluesfest was also recently nominated as the Best Overseas Festival in the UK Festival Awards!
Unlike any other Australian event, Bluesfest has twice had the honour of being nominated as Best International Music Festival by US concert bible “Pollstar” in 2005 and 2006 alongside world renowned events such as Britain’s Glastonbury and Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. And closer to home, Bluesfest has twice won the prestigious Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Festival in Australia, also in 2005 and 2006.

Tickets can be purchased by: Phoning the Bluesfest office on 02 6685 8310 
or visiting the website at

NEWS: Guitar Center’s 2009 King Of The Blues competition

Received this email today. I’m thinking of creating a ‘why oh why do I live in Australia’ tag for blog posts like this.

CLICK HERE for Guitar Center’s website.

Guitar Center’s King Of The Blues: The Search For The Nation’s Greatest Undiscovered Blues Guitar Player is Back!

World’s Largest Guitar Competition Offers Grand Prize Worth Over $35,000, Including $25,000 Cash, Gear and Product Endorsements

July 1, 2009 – Westlake Village, CA – Guitar Center is pleased to announce the return of King of the Blues, the nationwide search for the next great undiscovered blues guitar player. With sign-ups launching July 1, Guitar Center’s King of the Blues will feature competitions in over 200 Guitar Center locations across the country, culminating with the Grand Finals in Los Angeles this November. In addition to showcasing the top five finalists, the King of the Blues Grand Finals will also feature performances by renowned blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who has been awarded “Best Blues Guitarist” by Guitar Player Magazine for the past three years, and Grammy Award winner Pete Anderson.

King of the Blues is part of Guitar Center’s ongoing mission to provide emerging artists and musicians with career-altering opportunities and vehicles to achieve success. Other Guitar Center programs include Drum-Off and On-Stage. Now in its 21st year, Guitar Center’s Drum-Off has been a launching pad for numerous professional drummers, including Cora “CC” Dunham (Prince), Eric Moore II (Suicidal Tendencies), Tony Royster Jr. (Jay Z) and Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta). In 2008 Guitar Center also added On-Stage, a search for America’s next great rock band, with close to 8,000 bands vying for an opening slot on Mötley Crüe’s 30+ city North American arena tour. The winning band, The Last Vegas, not only toured with Mötley Crüe, but was also awarded a record deal with Eleven Seven Music and a management contract with Tenth Street Entertainment (Mötley’s management company).

Introduced in 2006, Guitar Center’s King of the Blues is designed to offer similar life-changing opportunities for unsigned guitarists. More than just a competition to find the most technically skilled players, King of the Blues is designed to seek out the most passionate, innovative and authentic undiscovered guitar players and give them a shot at stardom. Some of today’s most iconic and groundbreaking artists, including BB King, John Mayer, The Black Crowes and Kenny Wayne Shepherd have participated at past King of the Blues events, and the winner of Guitar Center’s 2007 King of the Blues, Aaron Loesch, was invited to perform at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival in front of over 25,000 attendees.

With “the Blues” being the foundation for nearly all of today’s popular music, the search for the nation’s greatest undiscovered blues guitarist is expected to unearth a goldmine of unsigned talent, some of whom are destined to become tomorrow’s legends. “The Blues defines today’s music—from Robert Johnson to Jack White and B.B. King to John Mayer,” notes Dustin Hinz, Manager of Event Marketing and Promotions for Guitar Center. “By tapping into this rich and deep musical art form, our goal is to find true original talent—not clones of great guitarists, but rather great guitarists in their own right who deserve a place alongside the legends.”

Guitar Center’s King of the Blues champion will win an impressive package of prizes, including $25,000 cash, a featured spot in a Guitar Center ad campaign, along with a Gibson ’59 Les Paul reissue guitar, a $2,500 Levis shopping spree, a Marshall Vintage Modern 50 watt half stack, a Boss GT-10 Guitar Multi Effects Pedal, a feature in Guitar World magazine, worldwide distribution of their music in iTunes and more, plus endorsement deals from Ernie Ball, Marshall Amplification, VOX Amplification and Gibson. Additional regional, district and local prize packages will also be awarded, thanks to the generous support of Gibson, Levi’s, Ernie Ball, Marshall, Boss, VOX, Guitar World and TuneCore, all of whom are proud supporters of Guitar Center’s King of the Blues

How It Works:
Sign-ups for the preliminary rounds of the King of the Blues competition begin July 1, and run on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, with a maximum of 30 registrants per store. Contestants must sign up with a Guitar Center associate at their local store — no phone or online sign-ups are available.

Each contestant will perform live to 1 of 25 original backing tracks, developed by Grammy Award winning producer, Pete Anderson. All backing tracks are available for free download at Contestants may bring and use any 6, 7, or 12 string acoustic or electric guitar, lap steel or pedal steel guitar, plus any audio pedal effects that can be set-up in a 5 minute time limit, all of which will be plugged into a selection of amplifiers provided by Guitar Center.

Local competitions start August 20 in all 214 Guitar Center locations nationwide. One winner from each store will be chosen to move up to district competitions (24 locations), followed by regionally hosted semi-finals (6 locations) and culminating in the final King of the Blues Grand Finals competition in Los Angeles in November, where the grand finalists will perform in front of a live audience and a panel of celebrity judges, sharing the stage with Joe Bonamassa, who was named Best Blues Guitarist by Guitar Player Magazine’s readership in their annual Reader’s Choice Awards for 2008, and whose incendiary playing has resulted in numerous albums in Billboard’s Top 10 blues chart..

Store Prelims: August 20th, August 27th, September 3rd
Store finals: September 10th
District finals: September 30th
Regional finals: October 21st
Grand Finals: November 2009

NEWS: Joe Bonamassa signature amp

Cool! Joe Bonamassa and Carol-Ann Amplifiers have teamed up to offer a new signature amp, and while the first 10 will be used and signed by Joe, they will also be availabe in a non-signed version.

Here’s the press release. And kudos go to Premier Guitar for the heads-up.

North Andover, MA (March 11, 2009) — Blues-rock guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa has teamed up with Carol-Ann Amplifiers on the new JB-100 signature amp. The JB-100 is a 100-watt 6L6-based amp with two channels and a tube FX loop.

Limited to only ten amps over the next 12 months, each JB-100 will be played by Joe at an actual gig. After each show Joe will sign a certificate of authenticity listing where he used the amp and when. Logistics permitting, the actual end user buyer is welcome to see Joe at the show playing through the amp and have him present it to them at the end of the night.

The JB-100 series will also be available in a 100-watt EL34 version, though they will not be signed by Joe. All Carol-Ann dealers can order the JB-100 signature head and the first one is currently at Make’n Music in Chicago. The next amp will be heading out to Eddie’s Guitars in the near future.

For more information, and a list of dealers, visit

CLICK HERE to buy the Gibson Custom Joe Bonamassa Glossy Les Paul Goldtop Electric Guitar for $3,865 from Musician’s Friend.