Barry Pugh hopes this is the year the cat gets out of the bag for one of Delaware's best-kept secrets: the Roadhouse Blues Festival in Magnolia on Saturday.
Barry Pugh hopes this is the year the cat gets out of the bag for one of Delaware’s best-kept secrets: the Roadhouse Blues Festival.
Central Delaware Blues Society president Pugh is bringing Victor Wainwright and the Wildroots, one of the hottest names in blues, to headline the third annual fest at Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course in Magnolia on Saturday.
Pugh and his team moved the date from September to July to attract more people and they’ve placed greater emphasis on promoting it. Their goal is to draw 700 revelers, more than double the attendance at the last two festivals.
“We’ve had 300–plus people in the last two years with hardly any advertising,” said Pugh. “[This year] we’ve been working with Kent County Tourism.”
Six veteran acts in the Roadhouse Blues Festival are playing in the following order: Barrelhouse, Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark Band, Deb Callahan Band, Ron Spencer Band and the Betty Fox Band.
Wainwright, the headliner, made out like a bandit at the 2016 Blues Music Awards, the blues community’s premier awards ceremony.
He was crowned BB King Entertainer of the Year and won Best Band of the Year, two of the greatest accolades.
“I’m a big fan of his. He’s just one of the very best of the blues musicians out there,” Pugh said. “He’s just a fantastic talent with a lot of credentials coming into this little town of Magnolia.”
The energetic Memphis bluesman is “humbled” to be the Roadhouse headliner, one of about 25 festivals he’ll anchor this summer, he said.
“It’s amazing to me because a festival allows us to play to families,” said Wainwright, a masterfully whimsical pianist. “You get to play for these young people and it’s important to us because this is how we continue the tradition of blues music.”
Another big name on the bill is Betty Fox, a rising soulful singer from Florida. Her band advanced to the finals of the Memphis International Blues Challenge in 2015.
“She’s a great blues singer and she’s another one that puts in a lot of energy into her performance,” Pugh said.
Regional bluesman Ron Spencer has been honing his skills for more than 20 years.
“Ron Spencer is a pretty well-known blues musician from the New York City and New York state area,” Pugh said. “In my opinion, if you can make it as an artist in New York City, you’re doing pretty darn good.”
Maryland’s Swamp Dog won a Central Delaware Blues Society competition last year, earning him both a trip to the Memphis Blues Challenge and a Roadhouse slot.
Kicking off this year’s festival is Barrelhouse, a group that has opened twice for Wainwright and will do so a third time Saturday.
“We know the show he brings,” said frontman Charlie Rickner of Middletown. “Hell yeah, we look forward to seeing him.”
Rickner, a Jonathan’s Landing regular, compares opening Roadhouse to celebrating Christmas.
“Christmas Eve is the anticipation of playing,” he said. “Christmas morning is when you’re actually playing, opening the presents.
“Then Christmas dinner is you’re still enjoying Christmas day and now it’s about being with friends and family and enjoying the day. That’s the part when you’re enjoying the people and the music.”
IF YOU GO
WHEN Noon, Saturday
WHERE Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course, 1309 Ponderosa Drive, Magnolia
MORE INFO centraldelawareblues.com or call 697-8204