If there's one thing Li’l Ed Williams has done throughout his 25-year career, it has been to prove how lively and how much fun the blues can be.
Li’l Ed wants to make sure everyone knows the blues are not about being sad or depressed, and he's a living example of how to chase those feelings away with music.
And if there's one thing Li’l Ed Williams has done throughout his 25-year career, it has been to prove how lively and how much fun the blues can be. His ebullience and uninhibited charm led to one of his most famous gigs, back in 2006, when he appeared on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien" to give the gangly host a lesson in playing blues on slide guitar.
Li’l Ed’s talent and personality make it certain he'll be raising a ruckus when he performs at Sunday’s North River Blues Festival at the Marshfield Fair. (Music runs from noon to 7:30 p.m., and admission to the fair allows access to the music fest. Expect Li'l Ed sometime after 4 p.m., just before Charlie Musselwhite's concluding set.)
“I've always seemed to have a talent for showing people who don’t realize that the blues is fun,” Li'l Ed said.
“I remember telling my buddies I was going out to play some blues, and they'd be asking me if I had to be crying and sad all day,” he said. “That's one reason blues isn't widely popular now. Youngsters today think you have to be in a bad situation to have the blues.”
The diminutive Chicago native got his start at playing slide guitar naturally, following in the footsteps of his uncle, the legendary Chicago bluesman J.B. Hutto. That's also where Li'l Ed, now 54, developed his singular stage presence, in which his more rocking tunes might be accompanied by duck-walking, sliding, flipping on his back, and leaps and bounds into the audience.
It's impossible to see a Li'l Ed show, with his veteran band The Blues Imperials, and not be captivated by his vitality, not to mention his musical virtuosity on his instrument.
How Li'l Ed's music went from Chicago clubs to international renown is a story Hollywood would love. Recruited to play a couple of tunes for an Alligator Records' compilation of young talent, Li'l Ed and his band awed the record company execs so much with their playing the group ended up recording 30 songs in one three-hour session. That became the basis for his 1986 debut album, “Roughhousin’,” and it was an immediate success.
The Blues Imperials – Pookie Jones on bass, Mike Garrett on guitar, and Kelly Littleton on drums – have been together for years.
“It's not an easy job, being a bandleader, and I've learned some things the hard way,” said Li'l Ed. “But if you treat everybody right, and with respect, they will stick with you.”
The Marshfield stop will be the third in an all-festival weekend for Li'l Ed, as the band plays in Quebec tonight, and Vermont on Saturday. Other acts on Sunday's bill include Martha's Vineyard blues-rocker Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Dorchester's Racky Thomas Band, and Quincy's Sam Gentile and Basic Black.
News reports this summer have told of various attempts by security and police to crack down on parking lot partying before concerts, particularly under-age drinking. So it was a bit curious to spot a banner for Jason Aldean's recent concert at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton advising fans “parking lots open at noon for tailgating.” Not to mention the parking lot fees were $10, while parking in the same lots for a Brockton Rox game is $3. If fans want to be gouged for parking, they can always go to Boston.
Now that summer is (finally!) here, don't miss the chance to take one of the Boston Harbor music cruises. Almost every weekend night at 8, boats are leaving from Long Wharf and Rowe's Wharf with cool bands. Tonight, see Enter the Haggis (Celtic rock) at Long Wharf or Playin' Dead (Grateful Dead tribute) at Rowe's Wharf.
On Saturday, BeatleJuice (Beatles tribute) is at Long Wharf and Electric Six and Les Sans Culottes (rock) embark from Rowe's Wharf.
Jay N. Miller covers music on the South Shore and in the Boston area. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Attn: Music Scene in the subject line.