Behind the Scenes at the 9th Annual Simply Texas Blues Festival
SAN ANGELO, TX — The 9th Annual Simply Texas Blues Festival held here all day Saturday may be the model for making San Angelo a music capitol if local musician T. Gozney “Tom” Thornton has anything to do with it. The festival attracts more and more blues musicians from across the state each year, Thornton said. Thornton helped organize the music competition.
Above: A crowd of a couple thousand forms at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the 9th Annual Simply Blues Fest. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
Saturday from just about noon onward, band after band performed on stage for an appreciative crowd. The newspaper, that sponsored the event, claimed 15,000 were present. When we stopped by at around 6:30 p.m., the crowd was just being formed. A couple thousand were milling around. You could still find parking fairly close.
Behind the scenes, what the audience didn’t see, were three judges grading each performance. The winners advance to the International Blues Challenge, or IBC, in Memphis in January. The San Angelo Blues Society selects two winners from Saturday’s event: The best band, and the best solo/duo act. The best band is awarded $1,700 to cover traveling expenses to Memphis; the solo/duo act is awarded $750, Thornton said.
Above: A cook-off was held in conjunction with the Blues Festival. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
Many of the bands are formed in the months prior to the festival especially for the competition. Thornton won the competition in 2013 or so with a band he formed out of his popular Old Hat Band. They went to Memphis where 100 musicians from all around the world competed. They were sponsored by the San Angelo Blues Society, putting San Angelo on the blues map.
Judging this year were:
- Joe Forlini — He is the lead guitarist for Texas acts like Jerry Jeff Walker and Larry Joe Taylor. He also played lead guitar for Thornton for a number of years.
- Lois Lane — She was the agent for Austin blues legend, and Sealy Flats favorite, Jeff Strahan who died in 2014.
- Steve Schnipper — He is from the San Antonio Blues Society and judged the IBC for the past two years.
The event was free to the public. Approximately $50,000 was raised from sponsorships, some of that money goes towards sponsorships. The San Angelo Blues Society pays out about $13,000 in scholarships every year to aspiring local musicians to attend college, usually majoring in music, Thornton said. The rest of the money goes to the prizes for the top performers. The rest is put away for organizing the next year's event.
The winners for 2017 were:
- Best Band: The Botto Groove from Geronimo, Texas near San Marcos. Marcus Morales led the band.
- Best Solo/Duo act: Darren Morrison and Billy Dan Langley. Morrison is the son of former San Angelo Mayor Dwain Morrison. Darren is a well-known local musician who wrote the local cult classic song, “Blame it on Blaine’s.” Langley is the son of Leon Langley, the steel guitar player for the popular local dance band, Clearwater.
By making the festival into a contest, and investing in local musicians, the Blues Society is putting San Angelo on the map as a location for musicians to be discovered.