By Leilani Roberts Ott
When Ed Williams started playing music as a band it was with his “little buddies” doing steps to some disco tunes in the 1970s in Chicago.
“Then the blues got a hold of me,” he said.
At age 58, his band of himself, James “Pookie” Young, bass; Mike Garrett, guitar; and Kelly Littleton, drummer; is known as Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials. The band is one of the headliners at the Dusk ’Til Dawn Blues Festival from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. today, Saturday and Sunday at The Down Home Blues Club in Rentiesville. Cost is $15 for adults and free for children. Lil’ Ed’s performance is at 9 p.m. Saturday.
The 23rd annual event brings people from all walks of life together at the club with about 200 musicians in 30 bands performing on three stages indoors and outdoors. There’s plenty of food vendors, and you might want to bring a lawn chair or blanket. There’s a Kid’s Village to keep young children entertained with drums, puppets, mask making and music; and a gospel show on Sunday. The bands range from locals like Harley Hamm and Bronko at 7 p.m. today and C.W. Morgan at 9:45 p.m. Sunday to international acts.
The late D.C. Minner and his wife, Selby, started the festival at the little juke joint on his grandmother’s homeplace in Rentiesville. D.C. Minner, a talented guitarist and vocalist, was inducted into five musical halls of fame. Selby Minner and Friends of Rentiesville Blues have kept the festival going.
Minner said last year’s Saturday night show had a record attendance with about 1,500 people. Besides Lil’ Ed, other headliners this year include Andrew “Jr. Boy” Bones of Texas; Tee Dee Young of Kentucky; Bonnie McCoy of Tennessee; Watermelon Slim of California; Filmore Slim of California; Jimmy “Preacher” Ellis of Texas; Berry Harris of Oklahoma and Kansas; Prince Albert and the Royal Knights of Louisiana; and Scott Ellison, Miss Blues and Leon Rollerson, all of Tulsa.
“A lot of these bands are going all over the world,” Minner said. “Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials will be bringing their seriously inspired and wildly fun Chicago blues to Rentiesville. Lil’ Ed is the party man.”
He started playing music at 12. His music is always changing, he said.
“I’m getting into some gospel,” he said. “Blues is blues and soul is soul. I was doing more traditional blues.”
Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials released six albums between 1989 and 2008 on the Alligator Records label.
“On Aug. 5, ‘Living Blues’ magazine announced the winners of the 2013 ‘Living Blues’ Critics’ and Readers’ Awards,” said Chris Levick, director of tour publicity for Alligator Records. “Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials won both the Critics’ and the Readers’ Awards for Best Live Performer. They also won in 2011 and 2012.”
Lil’ Ed and the band are playing festivals across America as well as touring in Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan. He’s even made a few appearances on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” Minner said.
Lil’ Ed said he just got his plaques in the mail from his recent blues awards. He gives credit to his faith in God.
“He’s the one that keeps me going,” he said. “I love my wife first and love music. I love being around the people.”
He doesn’t have a favorite song or a crowd favorite in the lineup.
“I sing all my songs as special,” he said. “They tell a story of my life. Hopefully, I’ll sing about something that touches them. I’m very happy to come there and play and have some fun with them. I love my fans.
“Let’s get together and let’s boogie woogie.”
If you go
If you go
WHAT: Dusk ’Til Dawn Blues Festival.
WHEN: 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. today, Saturday and Sunday.
WHERE: Down Home Blues Club in Rentiesville.
ADMISSION: $15, adults; and free, children.