Tinsley Ellis, Blues-Rock Guitar Legend, Drops New Album Before Arden Show

The musician talks about his latest release, the coolest artists he’s shared the stage with, and the time he performed at a nudist colony.


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Photo by Suzanna Khorotia

They just don’t make 'em like Tinsley Ellis anymore. The 60-year-old guitar player has been writing and performing his eclectic style of blues-rock for almost 40 years. His latest album, “Winning Hand,” drops on Friday, Jan. 12, one week before his show at Arden Concert Gild on Friday, Jan. 19. The show begins at 8 p.m.; tickets are $20 for members and $25 for general admission. 

 

How long have you been playing and performing?

I was a product of the British invasion—I saw The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and begged my parents to get me a guitar. I also found out about B.B. King and Muddy Waters in the early 70s, and eventually got with Alligator Records in 1988.

 

Describe your style of music.

I am a guitar player but I mix the blues with the rock that I was born to play.

 

Who are some of the musicians you’ve played with during your career?

I have toured with The Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic and Jimmy Buffett.

 

Can you recall any unusual or funny performances?

About 10 years ago, we were hired to play in a blues festival at a nudist colony. We joked about it for months. I remember on the way to the show, the bass player said to me, “Why are you driving 40 miles per hour on the interstate?” I said, “Because I’m scared!” We did sell every T-shirt that we had as the sun went down. I would do it again.

 

 

What can people expect with your new album, “Winning Hand,” and your performance on Jan. 19?

They can expect more of the same guitar-oriented blues-rock. The show will be a best-of show, plus I’ll play some songs from my new album.

 

Where are some of your favorite places to perform?

The Variety Playhouse in my hometown of Atlanta, plus cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Denver.

 

What about Delaware? Have you performed here before?

Yes. I performed at World Café Live at the Queen [now The Queen] and with Buddy Guy at the DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival.

 

What’s your favorite track from your new album?

The final track called “Saving Grace.” It’s almost nine minutes long. It’s a song about lost love and woe. I come from an era where you put a long, slow-burning song at the end.

 

Can you describe your songwriting process?

It’s pretty easy: You work yourself up into a frenzied foulness. Half the songs are happy—they aren’t all woe. All the songs come from personal experiences—I decided that I would write all my own stories and inflict myself upon others.

 

What do you do when you aren’t touring or performing?

With the new album coming out, I have been so busy. 10 years ago I thought I was ending. But now, I feel like I’m 9 months pregnant and about to burst.

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