“It’s a shame… this is a one-time only performance event that deserves to be seen” was the reaction of both the Bay Days Entertainment Committee and Mr. Robert “Bobby Blackhat” Walters, upon hearing of the cancellation of the 2015 Hampton Bay Days, and with it, the musical lineup that had been assembled for the annual three day festival.
The festival, an autumn fixture in South East Virginia for 32 years, had fallen victim to politics and economics. They were specifically lamenting the loss of the Festival’s musical finale, “Bobby Blackhat Presents The Blues Family of Hampton Roads,” a 2 hour assembly featuring some of the finest and highest profile blues musicians in the area, ranging in age and experience from a few remarkable years to venerable, respected and deeply immersed in a sound, history and culture that is the basis for much of the popular music we listen to every day–that darkly mysterious creature called “The Blues.”
image | Wendy Podmenik Darugar
Bobby Blackhat has been playing harmonica and singing the blues for over 40 years, garnering award after award and a devoted and respectful following locally and nationally. So it was only logical to turn to him to help organize and shepherd this idea–to continue a recent tradition of ending Bay Days with a one-of-a-kind performance that everyone would enjoy, something that festival attendees could only see once, and see it for free, outside, and large.
Lewis McGehee brought family and close friends to perform with him at his appearance in 2011 and in 2013 local/national artist Karl Werne called in some favors and treated listeners to his music performed with members of The Dave Matthews Band and Big Wide Grin. Crooner and entertainer Eddie Sal assembled a one-time New Orleans Jazz band of local mad-playing heavyweights in 2014 and had the crowd prancing Mardi Gras Style, and loving it.
So, why the Blues?
The blues in Hampton Roads has had a colorful and entertaining history, and is enjoying a renaissance of late, what with the efforts of the “senior” generation of performers who carry the torch and call here Home. The Norfolk “Walk of Fame” plaques honor seminal jazz and blues players and singers Pearl Bailey, Ruth Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Newsom, Keely Smith, Pat Curtis, and General Norman Johnson. Norfolk Blues singer Ms Jackie Scott has devoted her time and considerable national reputation to fostering the local Kids “Blues Camp” every summer, bringing in legendary artists to teach and perform, and the young talent emerging from that enterprise bodes well for the future of the Blues here.
”I’m always amazed by the depth of the blues scene in Hampton Roads,” said Paul Shugrue, host of the WHRV-FM weekly radio shows “A Shot of the Blues” and “Out of the Box.” “It keeps building upon itself with artists like Seth Stainback and Tom Euler picking up the baton and running with it. That’s what keeps the blues alive here.”
Which brings us to this concert: “Bobby Blackhat presents The Blues Family of Hampton Roads,” and its ultimate fate after Bay Days’ “off-year” was announced.
The combination of the cancellation of Bay Days, the desire to salvage at least some of the event’s musical plans, and The Bay Days Foundation’s ultimate long term goal of expanding its mission outside of a single municipality, prompted Bobby Walters and myself to approach the Chrysler Museum Theater as a venue to hold the “Blues Family” event as a concert, on the same day it would have been at Bay Days, Sunday, September 13. The musicians had the date still on hold, and the Museum agreed to present it, in part to introduce a broader community to the Theater and the Museum itself.
The Bay Days Foundation’s mission is to further awareness and educational efforts regarding the Chesapeake Bay and its role in the lives and health of the surrounding communities, and to support efforts in preserving its health and environmental condition. The Bay Days Board sees it’s expansion into the entire South East Virginia Community as furthered by holding such events outside of its traditional base in Hampton.
With a lineup at The Kaufman Theater that includes talented young up-and-comers SeaLevel Emerging Artist winner Tom Euler, former winner Logan Layman and her brother Cole, Zachary Salsberry, and Bobby’s own daughter Akeylah Walters, as well as a host of veteran bluesmen and women–William “Dirty Red”Garret, Brian Eubanks, Ron Fetner, Heather Pabalate, Paul Urban, Herbie Desseyn, Hamed Barbarji, Rich Ridolfino, Lathan “Pudgee”Hill, Brian Pinner, Tyler Bevington, Dennis Livreri, Michael Belmar, and of course-The Godfather himself, Bobby “Blackhat”Walters, this is, in the tradition of the Bay Days Finale Concert, a one time experience not to be missed.
For more on the show, click here. Attendees who already purchased tickets or wish to do so to reserve a VIP seat can offer their fee as a donation to BayDays and receive a charitable donation receipt for tax purposes as well. They may also ask for a full refund.