Carolyn Wonderland makes first Bluesdays appearance in five years

Larry Sabo for Tahoe Onstage
Carolyn Wonderland at the January 2014 benefit for Blake Beeman in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room.

Carolyn Wonderland will appear at Tuesday at Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays for the first time since 2010, and it will be her first time back to the Tahoe area since the Jan. 15, 2014, benefit for Blake Beeman.

Wonderland grew up in Houston, where she lived across the street from Johnny Winter’s drummer and as a teenager sneaked into a bar and jammed with Townes Van Zandt. But she also credits Beeman, a friend from California, as a mentor.

A longtime musician and sound engineer, Beeman helped make the Crystal Bay Casino into a renowned music venue, a place where Wonderland has played many times.

Blake Beeman
Blake Beeman

“I love Blake, so really, any place he says, I’ll go,” Wonderland said in a 2011 interview.

Three years later, Wonderland traveled from her Austin, Texas, home to share the stage with Beeman, who died a few months later of stomach cancer at the age of 54.

While Wonderland in Tahoe will always be linked with Beeman, in Texas, the fiery redhead is associated with Janis Joplin.

“I think every girl from Texas who sings is gonna have that,” Wonderland said. “Honestly, my whole life people have asked me to do her songs.”

Wonderland finally acquiesced a few years ago and began to play Joplin’s “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do.”

Live, she’s also apt to play a few other covers, such as Rick Derringer’s “Still Alive And Well,” Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” usually something by Los Lobos and “At The Crossroads,” written by Texas Tornado’s founder Doug Sham, who at a High Sierra Music Festival in the mid-1990s convinced Wonderland to move from Houston to Austin.

“I was just so afraid if I paid rent there, (Austin) wouldn’t be as cool,” Wonderland said. “But he was right. It’s the land of free guitar lessons, a great place to live. … A lot of cities where you’d have this many musicians, you would find it to be a far more competitive scene. Not so here. Everybody’s in everybody’s band, and if they’re not playing their own shows, they are at each other shows cheering each other on. It’s an unusual little bubble we live in.”

In April, Wonderland released “Live Texas Trio,” which includes performances from Antone’s in Austin, Kessler Theatre in Dallas and Last Concert Café in Houston.

Wonderland is an accomplished rock-style guitarist. She also plays trumpet, accordion, piano, mandolin, lap steel, and she whistles.

Wonderland plays in a trio with keyboardist Cole El-Saleh and drummer Kevin Lance. This is the trio’s final show on a West Coast tour.

The Bluesdays show is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Village at Squaw Valley. The weekly series concludes Sept. 8 with the Delta Wires.

Larry Sabo for Tahoe Onstage

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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