MontBlues Ball: Elvin Bishop and pals convene in Tahoe

Tahoe Onstage

Bob Welsh, left, and Elvin Bishop return to Tahoe on Saturday along with Willy Jordan. Marcia Ball, too. Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings will open the MontBlues Ball.

Elvin Bishop seems like the happiest guy in the world. If he’s not, then he is fooling a lot of folks.

At the age of 75, Bishop is lookin’ good and playing great. He’s prepared to put the clear plastic over his year-round garden to create a “big-ass greenhouse,” practices learning Japanese by reading a daily newspaper each morning and has just released a second album with his newest project, Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio. The first album was nominated for a Grammy Award.

“They tell me they got three stages to life,” Bishop sings on a tune from is new record. “You’ve got your youth, then there’s middle age, and then, the last part, ‘lookin’ good.’ The piece is more of a story than a song. Bishop is reflective, saying he’s happy to still be around after all these years. But he did not set out to write a nostalgic piece.

“I don’t know how these things happened,” he told Tahoe Onstage. “I just kind of write a tune about whatever pops up in my mind and I sort of keep the ones that seem to work well.

“I’ve never been one to plan things out and say I’m going to do this or when I’m going to do that. Everything that happens is a total surprise to me so. That’s the way that it goes.”

Guitarist and keyboard player Bob Welsh and percussionist and singer Willy Jordan are Bishop’s partners in rhyme. The new album is “Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here,” the title track that is a response to the situation in Washington, D.C.

Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio will perform a on Saturday, headlining the first MontBlues Ball at the MontBleu Resort & Casino on the South Shore at Lake Tahoe. Boogie-woogie piano great Marcia Ball will be a special guest, performing with the trio. Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings will open the show.

Bishop explained his approach with his band.

“It’s not like those trios when a bass player and a real loud guitar that plays too many notes. We don’t have drums or bass. Wilyl just plays the cajon but he’s a helluva singer. He’s a soulful dude. Bob Welsh plays the hell out of the guitar and the piano.

“You’ve got to scheme a little bit to make it work with the trio. You’ve got to be going for it at all times. There is no place to hide in a trio. People are inevitably going to compare it to a full band, so you’ve got to keep it full but tasty at the same time. Give everybody some space to shine it. The main thing is to get guys who are real — real talent — and Willy and Bob fit that description.”

The Tahoe concert is a one-off show, meaning Bishop’s band is not on a tour. Sound check will be the time for Bishop and Ball to rehearse.

“We talked on the phone a little but we never came up with things specifically. We’ve jammed here and there all across the country at different times and it always works out good. We’ve got a good chemistry.”

Ball spoke about the show earlier this year. “Elvin likes to stay close to his garden in summertime,” she said. “He was looking for some adventure, I guess, so I was happy to help him make the plunge.”

On Oct. 25, Ball will be inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. Her band includes Mighty Mike Schermer, who left Bishop’s group to join Ball in Austin.

“Mike’s been wonderful and Elvin’s not even mad at me for snaking him out of his band,” she said.

Bishop confirmed there are no hard feelings about losing Schermer, who lives part time in Truckee.

“Why get mad?” Bishop said. “Mike’s a hell of a guitar player. He wanted to work more and Marcia works a lot. They sound really good together.”

Related story: Elvin Bishop talks about early days in Chicago.

  • Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio
    with special guest Marcia Ball
    Openers: Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings
    When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13; doors open at 7
    Where: MontBleu Theatre, Stateline, Nevada
    Tickets: $25, $35 and $45 (seated show)

About 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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