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Blues Society brings Juno award winner to Bon Soo

Sault Blues Society will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a Bon Soo concert featuring international blues artist Jack de Keyzer.
This will be the third year Sault Blues Society has presented award-winning shows as part of Bon Soo. The popular local Zak’s Allstars Band will warm up the audience before the two-time Juno Award-winning and seven-time Maple Blues Award-winning de Keyzer takes the stage.
Tickets to the show are $25 for general admission and $15 for students, prices called by the Blues Society “a steal” for a show put on by such an experienced musician who has been described as “the finest blues guitarist in Canada” by the late musician Jeff Healey.
De Keyzer’s website points out, Bob Dylan once said, “If Jack de Keyzer were from Chicago, New York, or LA, he’d be famous.”
Sault residents can catch de Keyzer’s concert at the Machine Shop on Thursday, Feb. 6, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and the show beginning at 7. Blues Society president Johnnie Tibbles said tickets are selling quickly, with more than 200 already gone.
“It will likely be a sellout with just a few standing room tickets available at the door,” said Tibbles.
The Bon Soo concert is one of the three to five shows Blues Society presents every year.
Since its inception in 2010, the group has organized and presented 31 “top quality blues shows,” Tibbles said, but scheduling the events can be tricky.
“Presenting a one-off show definitely presents extra financial costs where a band routing through or near the Sault saves money on travel expenses but sometimes the timing on these bands does not fit with venue availability or is not a good fit with other local events,” he explained.
Nevertheless, the Blues Society has successfully organized the shows with the help of the volunteer executive and support of paid SBS members, local blues fans, and several cultural grants from the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
In the past, the group also received support from several local businesses including Community First, Hollywood Limo, the Mortgage Centre, T and T Promotional Products, and the Water Tower Inn, to name just a few.
SBS doesn’t exist solely to put on concerts, Tibbles said.
The Society’s objectives include organizing a Blues Festival – “providing opportunities for listeners and players of the blues to share their knowledge and experience with others, and educating the people of Ontario about the diversity of the blues.” It also provides “opportunities for local and regional musicians to advance their understanding, skills, and enjoyment of the blues.”
The Society has also hosted several fundraisers over the years, most in support of other organizations.
Its first fundraiser was held in May 2011 featuring Brass Taxx, followed by a second in November 2012 with the help of local band 5ive Below Zero, with the goal of establishing the SBS operating fund.
Since then, the organization has helped with Rusty McCarthy’s Blues for Food events at the Water Tower Inn Pub, which has collected cash and non-perishable donations for the Soup Kitchen and St. Vincent Place. The SBS also held a fundraiser for local musician Tyrone Souliere in 2016 to support him when he was battling cancer.
It was largely thanks to the efforts of McCarthy that the SBS was established, Tibbles said.
“In March 2010, McCarthy convinced Jim Traveson to help him get the Sault Blues Society formally started,” he said. “They called the first meeting of known blues enthusiasts and musicians to discuss the possibilities of a local society.”
That meeting resulted in the election of Traveson as president and McCarthy as vice-president of the newly formed Sault Blues Society, which was incorporated as a not-for-profit in October 2010.
“Those attending Traveson and McCarthy’s inaugural meeting were thirsty for a steady stream of great blues musicians performing in the Sault,” said Tibbles. “It was also anticipated that when quality musicians were in the Sault there might be the opportunity to present master’s musical workshops. To date the SBS has presented vocal, guitar, keyboard, and several harmonica workshops for local musicians with all levels of experience attending.”
However, it hasn’t been a straight road from the Society’s establishment to the 53-member strong organization that exists today.
“The executive numbers have gone up and down slightly over the years as executive members retired or moved and new ones replaced them. 2014 was a very quiet year for the SBS, so in March 2015, I and many others were looking for more blues in the Sault,” said Tibbles.
“I approached Jim Traveson, called a meeting of the Sault Blues Society executive asking if there was interest in revitalizing the SBS.”
That meeting led to the election of Tibbles as president and Mac Headrick as vice-president, along with several other members of the new executive.
Local artists who have been hired include Stuart Bolduc, Keith Conway, Paul Dellavedova, Frank Deresti, Jeff Holmes, Korah’s Mustang Sally, White Pine’s Pinestones Band, and Mike Yurich, among others.
Over the years SBS has presented local artists with the “Dedicated to the Blues Award,” usually at the Blues for Food event. The recipients include Jay Scali (2013), Rusty McCarthy (2017), Jim Traveson (2018), and Bob Yeomans (2019).


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