Ashwyn Smyth - Founder & Chair
Music has always been a very big part of my life and in my time I have sung, played trumpet and piano. But now I play CDs although I have just bought a three string biscuit tin guitar!! No I don't know why either!!
As a teenager in the ‘60s, I originally discovered the Blues listening to the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Manfred Mann etc. which in turn led me to the likes of Snooks Eaglin, John Lee Hooker and Slim Harpo. Then life got in the way and my musical horizons burgeoned leading to a present day collection that ranges from early baroque music through big band, 60s, 70s, 80s trance, ambient, some rock and much more! I cannot imagine not having music in my life. It is wonderful to be able to shut the world away and retreat into music.
In 2001 my love of blues was reignited by chance after attending a gig at the invitation of a work colleague of my wife and soon after Digital Blues was born, initially being broadcast solely via the internet. Now, as Digital Blues heads towards its twentieth year, there is a weekly hour long edition of Digital Blues shows which airs 16 times per week on 8 stations around the world as well as being available as a podcast.
Before I retired, I organised festivals, promoted gigs, co-produced two Essex blues compilation CDs, compered at blues festivals, weekends and national Battles of the Bands where I have also been a judge. I am an occasional contributor to Blues Matters! Blues in Britain and Blues & Co (France) as well as running my own website – www.digitalblues.co.uk
I am very much involved in the Blues, particularly in supporting and promoting the artists and the music in any way I can whether it be by taking part in crowd-funding campaigns, playing new, and established, artists on my radio shows, publicising gigs, festivals, events etc. writing about the music, putting artists and venues together and so on.
A member of the Blues Foundation, European Blues Union and France Blues, for some years I have been concerned that there was no national blues body in the UK so I set about creating the UKBlues Federation along with like minded individuals to whom many thanks for supporting and sharing my goals and ambitions.
You can email Ashwyn at: [email protected]
Tony Hyndman - Treasurer & Membership Secretary
I was honoured to be asked to join the UK Blues Federation board. I look forward to giving back a fraction of the dedication and hard work involved in delivering live blues in the UK that I have relished over many decades.
It is difficult to pin point exactly when I ‘got into the blues’.
I guess it has been a life long journey and a love for live music, which has always been there with me.
Right from junior school I had a passion for music and at that stage performing it. Recorder, Guitar, Trumpet, Trombone, Sax and now blues harp.
What I realised in my thirties is that I preferred to listen rather than play which helped enormously; as I was working far too hard and also trying to be there for my two children as much as possible.
At that time I was travelling over 1000 miles per week and therefore I had plenty of time to listen and learn from the great masters of punk to classic rock to prog and then eventually landing at the blues.
One gloomy Monday evening I came across the Paul Jones show and he played a Parker’s Alibi track. It had not been a great day and this moved me so much I had to pull over to give it 100% of my attention. Imagine my surprise when I contacted the show to discover that Ian lived less than 50 miles from me.
Once the kids discovered I was ‘so uncool’, this gave me the opportunity for ‘me time’, but they still allowed me to fund them through Uni etc, so still had very little money ensuring that I became resourceful in going to gigs, festivals etc.
This is why you may have met me either parking your car as a traffic marshall, driving you to and from your glamping ground as a mini bus driver or simply administering first aid as a steward. I did it all. All for the love of being part of it.
These days the kids are not kids anymore and have their own income thankfully, allowing me to ease off on the festival work and becoming choosier on the gigs and festivals that I actually pay to attend. The vast majority of which are Blues based of course.
You can email Tony at: [email protected]
Rosy Greer - Secretary
My first introduction to the blues was while I was at art college in Stourbridge in the mid 60's listening to John Mayall and the guitar work of the young Eric Clapton. I had time hanging out with Robert Plant and John Bonham and going to gigs with The Band of Joy, as my boyfriend was in the band, this cemented, my interest in electric blues, moving into the realms of progressive rock. I was an active gig goer and had contact with many bands.
On moving to London I was involved in the Students Union social scene at NELP and party to booking and promoting bands for the main college gigs into the mid 70's with my now husband. These included Captain Beefheart, ELP, Airforce, Love, Pink Floyd and many more. From the late 70's, music was put on a back burner because of family commitments and we moved to Lancashire.
My interest was rekindled in blues based music when I became involved with a local blues club in 2007. I was co-opted into the British Blues Archive as a local rep and began to write reviews which were published on Blues in the North West website. I now publish in Blues in Britain monthly magazine and on my Lancashire Blues Archive web page with news, reviews and gig information. My festival reviews also appear on the Early Blues website along with various gig reviews.
Now retired, I am working with new and up and coming blues venues in and around Lancashire and provide help and support for emerging bands and artists who are stretching the boundaries of blues music per se.
I was honoured to be asked to join the board of the UK Blues Federation, helping to keep British Blues at the fore and 'Keeping Live Music Alive'
The Blues is a tradition, and there is nothing more important than a family tradition. That is where The Blues started for me; my Dad and his wind-up gramophone. From the age of 11 I joined the family business and worked as a professional musician.
Being exposed to and having to become competent in such a wide variety of music from traditional Irish and Scottish ceilidh music, to dinner dance jazz, via every corner of Rock ‘n’ Roll, meant that my musical palette was a strange tie-dye hue, a mish mash of glorious blues and dazzling musical theatre numbers.
Early exposure to the ‘music biz’ gave me an excellent grounding in; understanding how to neck whiskey, keeping a roll-up in the end of ones tuning pegs, always carrying spare tissues and not getting ground down by ‘pigeon holes’ and genre labelling.
Unfortunately my hearing deteriorated more, which despite putting an end to my BSL Interpreting career, did lead me down a different path – setting up Access The Arts – an organisation specialising in making music, dance and drama accessible for all.
I continue to work as a professional musician, but the musicians I work with and I have had to find new ways of performing together on stage. I am now proud to be a Deaf musician and I hope to encourage other Deaf people to experience and enjoy music without barriers.
In 2017 I was approached to take over ‘Bluenotes’ on BBC Radio Lancashire. It was felt my love of all aspects of the Blues genre, old and new, meant I would be the perfect fit to take the show forward after Nick’s retirement. The steep learning curve has been worth every twist and turn, as I have had the honour to interview and record sessions with John Mayall, Samantha Fish, Giles Robson, Sari Schorr, Doug MacLeod and many more wonderful artists. One of my highlights so far was being invited to be a judge for the 2019 UK Blues Challenge which was an absolute hoot, and what a treat to see The Achievers go on to represent the UK in Memphis!
It is such an honour to be invited on to the UK Blues Federation Board and I am very much looking forward to being a part of championing the UK Blues scene.
‘’Although I have been welcomed into many different scenes in the UK, it was the blues scene that championed me from the off and I am forever grateful for the platform this scene has given me. I am delighted to be asked to sit of the UKBF Board. I have a passion for championing gender equality and diversity in the blues scene as well as helping up and coming artists and look forward to doing what I can to make positive steps in these areas whilst having an active role on the Board.’’
Elles Bailey is a truly inspirational, hard-working independent artist: a talented, original singer-songwriter, particularly acclaimed in the Blues, Americana and Rock scenes where she’s won multiple awards. She’s built her reputation, sales and following through sustained initiative and hard work. What’s more, Elles is a committed grassroots, live performer, playing over 100 shows a year, including international touring. She’s also used her platform to champion Women in Music.
Elles has written and co-produced two award-nominated and winning Blues/Americana albums, which have sold over 7000 copies, built up over 6 million Spotify streams with 160,000 monthly listeners, and received support from Radio Two’s Cerys Matthews and Bob Harris.
This year, as well as winning UK Song of the Year at The 2020 UK Americana Awards — Elles also won Blues Album of the Year and Blues Artist of the Year at The UK Blues Awards, where she used her acceptance speech to highlight her concern that so few of the awards’ nominees were women. “This is not just a Blues scene issue,” Elles explained, “It’s a wider music industry issue and I know we need to have open dialogue.”
Elles went on to promote the game-changing PRS initiative Key Change, asking that the gatekeepers of the industry — journalists, festival and venue programmers, and broadcasters — do more to create a 50:50 gender balance by 2022. Elles is a fervent supporter of gender equality within the industry and speaks about it at every opportunity.
She actively supports other young artists by mentoring them and has worked with Dom Martin, Georgia Van Etten,Connor Selby and others. Elles also speaks at schools and guest lectures at universities about how to succeed in the grassroots music industry.
Her achievements have been recognized by the Arts Council, who have awarded her 3 different grants and the PRS Foundation (Momentum Fund 2018), and the ISF fund for Americana Fest, Nashville in 2019. She is also a MEGS and DIT-funded artist.
Elles is active in lobbying the government on behalf of the grassroots music industry, promoting the vital importance of what music brings to society and as a recent member of The UKBlues Federation board she is determined to increase opportunities for women in this male-dominated genre, as well as promoting the Blues worldwide.
As well as being an international touring artist, playing sold out shows all over the world, Elles is a self confessed DIY artist and If ever there was a fine example of the Do It Yourself nature of the music business then Elles Bailey is it. From rather humble beginnings Elles, has by dint of hard work and talent, smashed through and past much bigger artists and bigger industry players - not least major record labels - by taking time and effort to really understand the brave new world that is today's music landscape, being brave, breaking rules, making a few mistakes (always part of the learning process) just powering through obstacles and doing whatever it takes. Her work ethic, both on the road, at shows, and in front of her spread sheets is nothing short of phenomenal”
"I'm honoured to have been asked to join the board of the UKBlues Federation. I've been surrounded by the Blues all my life and the chance to help keep the Blues alive in the UK is very welcome. Having taken part in the UK, European and International Blues Challenges, I have seen and experienced first-hand the invaluable support and opportunity that the UK Federation gives. It's time to give something back!"
Winner of the UK Blues Challenge 2018 and the European Blues Challenge 2019, voted Best Female Vocalist in the 2019 European Blues Awards and semi-finalist in the International Blues Challenge 2019 and 2020, Kyla Brox is at the very top of the UK Blues scene.
Daughter of cult blues figure, Victor Brox, the Mancunian vocalist began her career as a teenager in her father’s band and has now honed her own sophisticated sound, as heard on her last two critically acclaimed and award-nominated albums, Throw Away Your Blues and Pain & Glory, which reached No.1 in the IBBA Charts for 2019 and was nominated Best Album in both the European and UK Blues Awards.
A completely independent artist, Kyla has built her career year on year; starting out at grassroots with local pub gigs and growing to headlining concerts all over the globe, including some of the most prestigious Blues festivals in the world.
With thousands of albums sold and a constantly growing fanbase, Kyla Brox is widely regarded as one of the very best soul-blues singers the British Isles has ever produced.
Oliver is a musician and festival organiser. Regularly performing right across the UK with acoustic singer/songwriting trio Mumbo-Jumbo he has also previously performed widely heading The Big Blues Tribe and Stomp & Holler. Twice nominated personally in the British Blues Awards, Oliver’s range of vocal and trumpet performing styles has always been eclectic and he has been a regular performer at blues, folk and jazz festivals. Oliver has also been known on the blues scene as a festival organiser and has led over 40 festivals with ‘blues’ in the title including eight years with the multi-award winning Upton Blues Festival (where he is still a Trustee), Blues at The Fold, Taurus Blues and, in conjunction with Tim Porter, Broom Hill Blues Festival. Oliver also performs regularly with acappella comedy wordsmiths Men in General.
Music has always been in my blood. My grandfather was apparently a really good soloist in the church choir and my father was also an amateur singer, and a lot of my childhood musical memories are of watching him perform in Am Dram performances of Gilbert & Sullivan operas or Broadway musicals. After starting to learn the guitar in primary school I would accompany him, as we did cabaret appearances in the Exeter area: no old people’s home or social club was safe!
Music had become my life’s passion and my parents were very supportive of my going off to music college, with no prospects of a ‘proper job’, and I had a very avant-garde education at Dartington College of Arts followed by the more traditional Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.
Every generation of musician who loves the blues and its emotions has their own key, an artist who sent them on the journey back. In the mid-seventies an exciting band caught my attention and they were called Little Feat. I loved the feel and groove of the band, and its mercurial genius of a singer and guitarist, Lowell George. I love them to this day and they, along with rock bands with a blues influence, such as Led Zeppelin, set me off to find where their inspiration had come from - and it was the wonderful well-spring of the Blues. For me, the emotion of the blues is always more important than a chord sequence.
I became a sound engineer and then producer at BBC Radio, specialising in live sessions and concerts, and was lucky enough to record B. B. King three times in the nineties and also did a session with Johnny Winter at this time. This sealed the deal. In 2006 I was asked to take over producing the Paul Jones Blues Show on BBC Radio 2. I had worked on the show and its sessions over many years as an engineer and this seemed like a good fit. We met up and I said I was looking forward to this, but did not want to be the curator of a museum. Paul felt the same and we had an equal passion for the current U.K. blues scene, and together with his encyclopaedic knowledge of blues history and my ability to get out in the clubs and see what new stuff was going on, we formed a successful partnership that went from 2006-2013, when the ‘beeb’ underwent one of its periodic needs to reorganise itself! Lately I’ve been enjoying producing sessions for the new Cerys Matthews Radio 2 Blues Show.
Also in 2006 I first came across a podcast from a broadcaster called Dave Raven. We met up and shot the breeze about music and radio and this started a long friendship, and it was Dave and Paul who inspired me to do my own radio show, which I started in 2014. Blues And Roots Connections is not all pure blues - my tastes are wide, but I hope the essence of heartfelt, honest music played with passion runs through it. Dave was so helpful when it came to helping me find my way in the new frontier of internet radio and podcasting, culminating in being voted Blues-based Broadcaster of the Year in the British Blues Awards. I am now Chair of the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association.
I am also a member of the British and UKBlues Award winning band, Catfish. It is my experience of being in a busy recording and touring band, plus my nearly forty years of experience in radio that I hope to bring to the board of the UKBlues Federation. I am deeply honoured to have been invited and l look forward to working with the Board and members to promote the music we love.
My introduction to blues music was similar to many other enthusiasts. I was a skinny 14 year old growing up in the mid 60s at a parochial seaside town in north Wales when in July 1966 at the local outdoor swimming baths I first heard the just released John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers album starring Eric Clapton, the “Beano” album being played on a battery operated record player. I was hooked!
Paper round money saved eventually brought me my own mono copy to play on my Dansette but it wasn’t until I was 16 and old enough to journey to Liverpool to Brian Epstein’s record store NEMS that I was able to extend my blues LP collection. I also was able to get to gigs there and saw the likes of John Mayall, Canned Heat and Taste.
When I was 19, I went to London to study dentistry at the Royal London Hospital and there discovered the legendary Dobell’s record store in Charing Cross Road. I was able then to expand my LP collection with American imports.
Move on to the 90s and I was back in North Wales building up my own general practice and not having too much time for live music bar the odd trip to Alexander’s in Chester and the occasional day to Burnley and Colne festivals.
However, my other passion was rugby so when the opportunity came to go to Chicago with Wrexham Rugby Club in 1997, I jumped at the chance.
We were there for 10 nights and on the 4 nights not committed to rugby, I got to see Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Willie Kent and Son Seals...I was in heaven.
On returning, it struck me that there wasn’t anywhere nearby where I could hear blues regularly so I decided to open a blues club at the rugby club. I asked two mates if they’d like to help me with this venture and so Hooker Blues Club was formed.
Our first gigs featured local bands but a gig with The Producers helped us get noticed in Blueprint magazine and before long we were presenting all of the named bands on the U.K. circuit.
Our first American act was Deacon Jones who was John Lee Hooker’s band leader.
In 2005 the rugby club became unusable after vandalism and so, with a gig due shortly after with Atlanta guitarist Bill Sheffield, I had to find another venue very quickly. We moved to the village hall in Worthenbury and Goin’ Up The Country Blues Club was formed and we have been there ever since.
In that time I have been fortunate to have booked many of the biggest names in American blues with some acts playing their first ever UK club dates with us. As well I have staged 23 local based festivals with profits going back into local community groups.
I took my passion one stage further in 2002/3 when I started to book tours for American acts which lead to the formation of my company, Beatroot Music, and I recorded 5 albums for UK bands Trafficker and Blues ‘n’ Trouble amongst others and a live dvd of Mojo Buford for a Memphis record company.
I have regularly written articles and reviews for the blues press and have had them published in Blueprint, Blues in Britain, Blues and Rhythm and Early Blues and also Big City Blues in Detroit.
I am a regular visitor to the USA attending The King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas, The Pinetop Perkins Foundation Festival in Clarksdale and also the Chicago Blues Festival which has helped me build up first-hand knowledge of what is happening in the American blues world.
I am deeply honoured to have been asked to sit on the Board of the UKBlues Federation and look forward to working to the best of my ability to keep the music alive and to bringing it to a new generation of fans.
Having had a music teacher Mother, I was immersed in the performing arts from an early age. She taught me the piano. I went on to play clarinet in a good few classical settings before taking up bass as a teenager. Rhythm and Blues, and later, the glorious dance music of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards became my consuming passion. These genres are rhythmically inextricably linked, and I enjoyed some wonderful moments with a range of very talented people. I was in Edinburgh then, so I was a regular performer at the Fringe. For me, being half the rhythm section was magical. It is still is.
Performing live music took a back seat as I pursued a career in public service and raised my family. A chance meeting of minds about a decade ago catapulted me headlong right back into it! This time, my musical energy was very much directed at reflecting the classic blues of artists such as Albert King, BB King, Freddie King, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam and Peter Green. And I am a huge fan of Ronnie Earl’s intensity and dynamic range. There is just something about the feel, the tone, the economy and the phrasing of these and other greats which have completely captured my emotional self. Live blues is ALL about the moment. It is truly visceral. (photo David J Morgan)
I was hugely fortunate to play in rhythm sections for superb local (Border) bluesmen, Christian Sharpe and Martin McDonald, and later with the astonishing and uniquely talented keys character Fraser Clark. Audiences are mesmerised by him! My regular drumming partners have been equally impressive. Scott Broadhurst, Lee Barnham and Sandy Sweetman are masters of their art. The Deluxe, and later, Redfish, my two principal blues outfits, have played in countless live situations. It is their ability to improvise and communicate in the moment which marks the soloists and frontmen out as great blues performers, in my view. And of course Redfish has allowed me to collaborate with the original songwriting talent of “Stumblin’“Harris.
My enthusiasm for the genre led to my to co-development of the “Old Fire Station Blues Jam” in Carlisle. It has grown over the past three years into what can only be described as a full-blown live music community. A leap of faith quickly became a packed venue every month, with old and new friends clamouring to get their favourite seats with pals on a Sunday. Established and developing talents have been nurtured in a safe and hugely fun environment. Music photographers love this setting for their art too. And just as important today, the OFS has proved itself as a sustainable business model.
I greatly look forward to bringing my love of blues, together with a degree of practical experience, to the Federation, to its members, and to my blues community.”
'Emeritus' Board Members:
Alan White - Blues & Gospel Historian & Archivist
Blues and gospel music researcher, historian and archivist, freelance photographer, exhibitor and websites publisher.
Originator and manager of www.earlyblues.com and www.earlyblues.org , probably the Internet's longest (and largest) continuously running blues sites dedicated to broadening awareness and understanding of the blues and encouraging and supporting current blues music. Comprises a vast and diverse range of blues material including: the renowned 'UK and European Blues Festival Guide', blues festival photographs and reviews, tours and gigs, artist and band interviews, history of the blues in essays, articles, poetry, art and in-depth research projects, blues clubs, forums, lectures and courses, recommended blues books, magazines CDs, DVDs, and radio stations, blues travelogues, blues news, and blues 'resting places'. A myriad of blues related material!
Also originator and manager of www.earlygospel.com concentrating on the origins and early advocates of gospel music, www.earlyrnb.com concentrating on the history and early advocates of Rhythm & Blues music, and www.undergroundrailroad.org.uk concentrating on the origins, development and work of the anti-slavery Underground Railroad movement.
Freelance photographer specialising in blues music festivals, tours and gigs across UK and USA. Curator of photographic exhibitions and related talks, many with a blues theme. Producer of blues photobooks.
European Blues Awards Lifetime Contribution Award 2014.
UK Blues Awards Unsung Hero Award 2020.
You can email Alan at: [email protected]
Peter Harvie - Blues Researcher
I first heard the blues in 1963, when I was 14. There was a documentary on TV and I immediately knew this was my kind of music. Seven years later I was staying at George Melly's house and driving him to his gigs, and met so many blues artists, and this inspired me to play blues saxophone. In 2007 I tried to find out about British Blues but there was very little information, just a few stalwarts. I set up a British Blues web site and Facebook page and overnight I was swamped with British Blues enthusiasts, it turned out there are many people like me wanting to know more. I spent the early days arguing that British Blues is not just the British playing American music but a genre in its own right, now it is accepted that is the case.