Bluesdays lineup at Squaw Valley could be best-ever

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
A 2019 Grammy nominee for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Danielle Nicole debuts at Bluesdays.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Squaw Valley’s summertime lineup offers somethings familiar, somethings new, some all-time greats and all of it blues.

The 11th season of the free Tuesday shows in The Village at Squaw Valley includes the return of Coco Montoya, Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings, Chris Cain, Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers, the Dennis Jones Band, Mark Hummel and local heroes The Blues Monsters.

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Coco Montoya

The new include 2019 Grammy nominee Danielle Nicole, Mississippi teen shredder Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, saxophonist Vanessa Collier, Popa Chubby, Sugar Ray Rayford and rockers Honey Island Swamp Band.

Montoya is thrilled to get the call again.

“That’s great,” he said.” It always seems to be well attended. It’s really, really wonderful. I wasn’t sure, — I’m very grateful to come three years in a row.”

Roy Rogers said The Village set-up envelops the bandstand.

“I like that it’s not really a formal stage. People are right in front of you, very close. And it’s really a wide open vantage point. People can pick and choose where they want to listen from and where they want to view it. With the shops and buildings, it reminds you of Italy when you play a piazza.”

  • Bluesdays
    6 -8:30 p.m. Tuesdays
    The Village at Squaw Valley
    June 11 — The Blues Monsters
    June 18 — Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings
    June 25 — Vanessa Collier
    July 2 —  Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue featuring Rusty Zinn
    July 9 — Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
    July 16 — Danielle Nicole
    July 23 — Coco Montoya
    July 30 — Chris Cain
    Aug. 6 — Sugar Ray Rayford
    Aug. 13  — Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers
    Aug. 20 — Dennis Jones Band
    Aug. 27 — Honey Island Swamp Band
    Sept. 3 — Popa Chubby

    Clare Foster / Tahoe Onstage
    June 11 — The Blues Monsters

    The Blues Monsters open the weekly Bluesdays summertime series for the sixth consecutive year. The only local band on the lineup, The Blues Monsters formed 28 years ago.

    “It’s a premier gig,” guitarist-singer Chuck Dunn told Tahoe Onstage. “There’s a lot of bands that would love to be able play it. We definitely feel very honored that they ask us to do it and so we always try and pull out all the stops and bring in the best we can.”

    The rockin’ blues quartet — Dunn, Tom Barnes, Barry Slayton and Michael Overhauser — will add the three-member Groove Foundry horn section – Jen Campbell, Brian “Nak” Nakagawa and Todd Mather – for a nonstop set from 6 to 8:30 p.m. South Shore keyboardist Terry “The Secret Weapon” Ogg also will join the jam.

    Tahoe Onstage
    June 18 — Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings

    “I am here to settle all rumors: The Newports are not making a comeback,” Roy Rogers declared.

    Instead, it will be slide guitar master Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings — bassist Steve Ehrmann and drummer Kevin Hayes — who will appear onstage in The Village at Squaw Valley.

    But when in the mid-1960s he was just a middle-schooler from Vallejo, California, Rogers played guitar and sang for a band called The Newports, which included older high school students with driver’s licenses. The event was the Truckee High School Senior Prom.

    “I was a little rock and roller,” Rogers told Tahoe Onstage. “We wore gold jackets and I was playing Little Richard and Chuck Berry riffs. I wasn’t playing with a slide yet.”

    He has since released numerous albums with Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings and during years-long collaborations with Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and Ray Manzarek. He won a Grammy Award for his production work with John Lee Hooker.

    June 25 — Vanessa Collier

    The first of two rising young blues stars in this season’s lineup, saxophonist, singer-songwriter Vanessa Collier has been nominated for five Blues Music Awards, including two this year, Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year and Best Instrument, Horn.

    She earned dual degrees at Berklee College of Music in 2013, which she hit the road touring with Joe Louis Walker. She has played on two Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruises.

    The Bluesdays appearance will be her first in this area. 

    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    July 2 — Mark Hummel – Golden State Lone Star Revue ft. Rusty Zinn

    The streak continues. Harmonica star Mark Hummel will return to Bluesdays for the eighth-straight year.

    For Hummel, the trip to Squaw Valley from his Castro Valley home is like a jaunt to the store. He’s logged nearly 2 million miles in his tour van since his career began in the early 1970s.

    Blues purists appreciate Hummel’s straight-ahead blues style. He’s presented Harmonica Blues Blowouts with all star players for decades, has released dozens of albums and in 2012 published a book, “Big Road Blues: 12 Bars On I-80.”

    Charlie Musselwhite and Tommy Castro, he said, are perhaps the only other bluesmen who have put in as many miles on the road as himself.

    The Golden State /Lone Star Revue is comprised of musicians from California and Texas.

    July 9 — Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

    He’s called a blues prodigy, a teenager who already has recorded with Eric Gales and Buddy Guy. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, 19, and is from the epicenter of Delta blues, Clarksdale, Mississippi.

    The shredding Stratocaster guitarist says his greatest influence is Muddy Waters. He has shared the stage with Waters’ guitarist Bob Margolin, as well as Samantha Fish.

    His debut album, “Kingfish,” will be released on May 17, and he has a single, “Fresh Out,” which features Buddy Guy.

    The last time expectations were so high for a young African-American bluesman, it was Gary Davis Jr. Here’s an opportunity to be one of the first on the West Coast to see the Kingfish live.

    Kurt Johnson / Tahoe Onstage
    Brother, Danielle Nicole can

    July 16 — Danelle Nicole

    Schnebelen may never be a household name. It’s just too hard to pronounce, let alone spell. Danielle Nicole, however, is a name to remember.

    After her family band — Trampled Under Foot —  disbanded, Danielle Nicole Schnebelen dropped the last name and released an acclaimed solo album in 2015, “Wolf Den.” Danielle Nicole’s follow-up studio album, “Cry No More,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums last March and it later received a 2019 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

    See sings like Etta James but her bass playing is fantastic, as well. In 2014, Danielle Nicole won a Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and before going solo full time she played bass with the North Mississippi Allstars.

    Tahoe Onstage
    July 23 – Coco Montoya

    One of the most respected artists in blues, Coco Montoya will appear at Squaw Valley for the third-straight summer.

    Montoya is a graduate of the school of Albert.

    Montoya plays guitar like Albert King, left-handed and upside down, but his tone sounds like Albert Collins. Montoya played drums and toured with Collins for nearly five years before going broke leaving the music profession for a while. “I was quite upset,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave the party but I had to take care of things.”

    He returned to music as a guitar player with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. During breaks from that band, Montoya often would connect with Collins. “I’d come back, wash my clothes find out where Albert was and fly out there. I always had an amp on his bus. I played rhythm and would just hang out. Sometimes at the places I had just played.”

    July 30 — Chris Cain

    San Jose’s Cain has played Bluesdays more than any other artist.

    He attended a B.B. King concert when he was just 3 years old and it must have made quite an impression. You can hear King’s influence in everything he plays.

    “I think he should be known way more than he is now,” said fellow bluesman Dennis Jones. “He should be a household name just like Albert (King) and the rest of those guys. He’s magic, a true blues player.”

    Cain studied jazz, which he taught at San Jose City College, and was a professional player before turning 18. His recording career began in 1987. He also plays piano, bass, clarinet and saxophone.


    Aug. 6 — Sugaray Rayford

    This Sugaray is a musical  heavyweight.

    Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard performed in a ring and were welterweights who moved up weight classes to win world title belts. A big man at 6-foot-5, Sugaray Rayford appears on stages and in studios making hits with a soulful voice. He, too, changed categories, moving from gospel to R&B and now to the blues.

    Rayford played in a large R&B band for about five years, but he wanted to sing blues. After sitting in at an open mic in Temecula, blues doors opened wide. His band Aunt Kizzy’s Boys placed second at the International Blues Challenge. He has since received numerous BMA nominations as a solo artist, including two this year for Soul Blues Male Artist and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

    Tahoe Onstage
    Aug. 13 — Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers

    The Stratocaster star also played Bluesdays in 2013 and 2017. Thackery has a unique guitar sound and he plays in a fuzzy style similar to Dick Dale’s surf music. His voice is a growl and his sense of humor a bit off-the-wall.

    Thackery fronted a Washington, D.C. band, the Nighthawks, for 14 years. It made 20 records before splitting up in 1986, although there are reunion shows. The Drivers began in 1992. It’s hard to total all of Thackery’s albums, but it is at the least more than 40.

    “He’s a master guitarist,” says Tinsley Ellis, the esteemed blues rocker from Atlanta.

    Thackery lives in Belize, South America.

    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Aug. 20 – Dennis Jones Band

    Returning to Bluesdays for the third time in four years, the Los Angeles-based Dennis Jones Band is equally comfortable playing straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll and lowdown blues. The band’s fifth album, “Both Sides of the Tracks,” proves just that.

    “It’s blues and rock, back and forth,” Jones told Tahoe Onstage before 2017’s show. “I don’t think blues band are just one thing. In Europe, you hear a variety of music in one day on one radio station. Here everything has to be cookie cutter. You have to stay within the boundaries. You can’t go outside the lines too far or it’s not traditional. But I just do what I like to do and hope people get it. I think people are way more intelligent than the record labels give them credit for.”

  • Aug. 27 — Honey Island Swamp Band

    This band formed in San Francisco after its members were displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Blues Nazis beware, this band plays a blend of blues, soul, R&B and drips of Louisiana wetlands. It’s been described as Bayou Americana.

    On the 10 year anniversary of Katrina, the band released the album, “Demolition Day,” produced by Luther Dickinson.

    Sept. 3 – Popa Chubby

    He’s got chops, not a chopper, baby.

    A big man with a shaved head, goatee and tattoos, Popa Chubby looks like a biker, but he’s a bluesman. He describes himself as “The Stooges meets, Buddy Guy, Motorhead meets Muddy Waters and Jimmy Hendrix meets Robert Johnson.”

    “Since I’d grown up on Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin, when I started playing blues in New York clubs I understood that the blues should be dangerous, too.” He said in a press statement. “It wasn’t just from playing in punk bands. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were dangerous men. They’d cut or shoot you if they thought it was necessary, and Little Walter packed a gun and wouldn’t  hesitate to use it. That danger is a real part of the Blues and I keep it alive in my music.”

  • — Tim Parsons

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


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