TINSLEY ELLIS, Guitars & Vocals
OLIVER WELLS, Organ
RICKY KELLER, Bass, Keyboards & Percussion
WAYNE BURDETTE, Bass
YONRICO SCOTT, Drums & Percussion
TERRY SIMPSON, PAT BUCHANAN & JEROME OLDS, Background Vocals
GREG PICCOLO, Tenor Sax
DOUG JAMES, Baritone Sax
BOB ENOS, Trumpet
Produced by RICKY KELLER
Assistant Producer and Engineer: BRENDAN O'BRIEN
Assistant Engineer: EDD MILLER
MICHAEL ROTHSCHILD, Executive Producer
Recorded and Mixed at Soundscape Studios and Southern Living Studios, Atlanta, Georgia
Cover Photo and Design by PETER AMFT
Hand Lettering by EILEEN MULKERRIN
Special Thanks to RON CURRENS
When the respected British blues magazine, Juke Blues, recently named Tinsley Ellis one of America's greatest white blues guitarists (along with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter), it might have been a bit of a shock to admirers of more famous guitarists. But it was no surprise to the converts Ellis has won through his years of delivering pulsating performances on the Southeast club circuit. The high energy and confidence of Ellis' playing is a testament to a near-decade of touring, averaging over 200 shows a year. "Even when I'm not performing, I feel most at home with a guitar in my hands," Ellis says. Now, with his skills honed, he's hit his full stride with Georgia Blue, his solo debut for Alligator Records.
As a teenager growing up in south Florida, Ellis modeled his style after his idols- Freddie King, Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. While a college student in 1979, he joined The Alley Cats, a gritty blues unit that also included Preston Hubbard, now a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1981 Tinsley teamed with veteran blues singer and harmonica player Chicago Bob Nelson to form The Heartfixers, which became Atlanta's top-drawing blues band. They carved a hot trail through the South's blues clubs and roadhouses, with Ellis' electrifying guitar cutting the way. Tinsley developed a devoted cult following with both his musical and physical gymnastics, thanks to his wireless guitar, which enabled him to blast chords from tabletops, bar counters and an occasional car hood.
After cutting a debut LP on the Southland label, The Heartfixers gained national recognition with Live At The Moonshadow, on Atlanta's Landslide Records. "Tinsley Ellis is a legitimate guitar hero," raved The Washington Post, and critics from publications as diverse as Newsweek and Spin agreed. When Bob Nelson left The Heartfixers, Landslide teamed the band with legendary blues shouter Nappy Brown for an album, and the praise for Ellis continued, with Living Blues hailing his energized soloing as "world class." All the while, Ellis was fine tuning his singing talents, and The Heartfixers1986 release, Cool On It, found him delivering strong vocals along with his usual effortless guitar wizardry. Two successful European tours spread the word overseas and attracted the attention of Alligator Records.
With Georgia Blue, the 30-year-old Ellis reaches maturity as a guitarist and vocalist. Ellis' deep love of the blues is represented here with tributes to the legends whose music inspired him, from Albert King's I've Made Nights By Myself to Texas Stomp, Tinsley's own homage to the Texas guitar heroes Clarence ''Gatemouth" Brown and T-Bone Walker. When Tinsley wants to step out from the tradition, he delightfully picks his way through funky blues-rock originals like Can't You Lie and Free Man, the title of which is sort of a symbol of Ellis' evolution as a solo artist. As he puts it: "Ten years ago you couldn't buy a job as a blues guitarist in Georgia. It hasn't happened overnight, but there's a new audience for this music in the Deep South. I'm glad that people want to hear me play the music I really love.''
Those of us who have watched Tinsley Ellis grow from a local guitar hero to an internationally recognized bluesman can agree wholeheartedly.
Popular Music Critic, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution