TAMPA – Tinsley Ellis performs Saturday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m., at Skipper’s Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road.
Ellis will be performing songs from his latest Alligator release “Speak No Evil.”
The blues guitarist/vocalist is proud of his Southern roots.
Born in Atlanta in 1957, the blues-rocker grew up in southern Florida. He was 8 years old when he first played guitar. Like many other musicians from that era, Ellis discovered the blues through the backdoor of the British Invasion bands such as The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, and The Rolling Stones.
According to his official biography, Ellis was particularly drawn to three “Kings”: Freddie King, B.B. King and Albert King. He spent hours immersing himself in their music as his love for the blues began to grow. At age 14, Ellis saw B.B. King perform, sitting in the front row. The experience provided him with the impetus and inspiration he needed to envision his future: He knew from that moment on that he would become a blues guitarist.
The years that followed saw Ellis move from band to band, gaining experience.
In 1975, he returned to Atlanta and joined the Alley Cats, a gritty blues band that included Preston Hubbard – who would eventually move on to bands such as Roomful of Blues and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. The band recorded several albums, including “Live At The Moonshadow,” “Cool On It” and “Tore Up.”
By this time, fans and critics alike recognized Ellis as a genuine guitar hero. The time had come for the musician to strike out on his own.
Ellis sent a copy of the master tape for his solo debut to Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records.
“I had heard ‘Cool On It,’ and I was amazed,” said Iglauer in the artist’s biography. “I hadn’t heard Tinsley before, but he played like the guys with huge international reputations. It wasn’t just his raw power; it was his taste and maturity that got to me. It had the power of rock but felt like the blues. I knew I wanted to hear more of this guy.”
In 1988, “Georgia Blue” introduced the blues-rocker to a much wider audience. His first Alligator release earned enough critical praise – as well as fan approval – to convince Alligator records to reissue “Cool On It” and “Tore Up.”
A string of Alligator releases followed, including “Fanning the Flames” (1989), “Trouble Time” (1992), “Storm Warning” (1994) and “Fire It Up” (1997).
In 2000, Ellis moved to Capricorn Records. There he recorded “Kingpin.” When the Capricorn label folded, Ellis moved again, this time to Telarc. There, the blues-rocker released “Hell or High Water” and “The Hard Way.”
Alligator Records welcomed Ellis with open arms when he returned in 2005.
His first release following his return was “Live! Highwayman.” Recorded at a packed club just outside Chicago, the CD took Ellis’ extended soloing and heartfelt vocals to staggering heights. Ellis followed it up with “Moment of Truth” in 2007.
His most recent release, “Speak No Evil,” is the most guitar-driven album of Ellis' storied career, according to Alligator Records.
Ellis pours his soul into each and every performance with unguarded, raw emotion. With rip-roaring songs that are both poignant and humorous, “Speak No Evil” is as wide-ranging and inspired a recording as Ellis has ever made, and one of the most satisfying Southern blues-rock albums in ages.
“Speak No Evil” features his fiercest, most brutally honest and hardest-hitting original songs to date. The soulfulness and expressiveness of his guitar playing are ferocious, but when the mood calls for it, can be gentle and melodic. Ellis will bring all those elements to the stage at Skipper’s Smokehouse Oct. 13.
The musician averages more than 150 live shows a year. He has played in all 50 states as well as Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. He has shared stages with almost every major blues star, including Stevie Ray Vaughn, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and many others.
With “Speak No Evil” and continued non-stop touring, Ellis will bring his monumental guitar work and intensely powerful vocals to rock and blues fans all over the Tampa Bay area when he performs at Skipper’s Smokehouse.
On stage, Ellis lets his songs and his guitar do the talking.