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The Blues Saloonís 13th Anniversary Party!
Tinsley Ellis, Pistol Pete
and the Soul Mates
@ The Blues Saloon, October 30 & 31, 1998
By Ray Stiles

The Blues Saloon "Regulars"
Helping the Blues Saloon staff celebrate their 13th anniversary were three great bands AND most of the Blues Saloon "regulars." The "regulars" are a group of loyal blues fans who have become friends over the past number of years meeting each other almost every weekend at blues shows around town (especially at one of their most popular hangouts -- The Blues Saloon). They make attending these blues shows an "event" and are always fun to be around. The Blues Saloon also served up a complementary buffet to go along with the blues music in celebration of their anniversary.

Local blues band the Soul Mates jump-started both nights with opening sets of blues and R&B featuring Wilbur Coleís keyboard playing and deep, resonate vocals on songs like "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and Wilson Picket's "Let It Shine." This is one of the many excellent blues bands that operate out of the Twin Cities and help make this one of the healthier blues scenes in the country.

Tinsley Ellis played Friday night and was joined by Wayne Burdette on bass, Scott Callison on drums and Jimmy Larpenter on saxophone. Local keyboard whiz Tom Hunter also joined in the fun later in the night. Tom is a big man with an even bigger talent who keeps showing up at just about every major show in town and can play with the best of them. He always injects a vigorous intensity into any performance and when he really gets wound up, watch out, his fingers can fly faster than the Concord on a Trans-Atlantic flight.

Tinsley Ellis
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
Tinsley Ellis is such a fun guitar player to watch. He is so remarkably versatile and just a great guitar player. Several times during the night he left the crowd, who were packed on the dance floor, standing gaping at what he was doing with his guitar. He can make that sucker sing!

An old friend of Tinsley Ellis is now touring with him on Saxophone. This addition was a perfect match for Tinsleyís guitar. It really added a nice dimension to the sound and gave Ellis something to play off of. Jimmy Larpenter was just a riot to watch too. He can really kick up a storm on the sax and at one point he even had TWO saxophones in his mouth at one time, playing them both!

Tinsley Ellis' most recent CD, "Fire It Up," can be found on Alligator Records (web page: He will be moving on to a new label for his next release in 1999.

On Saturday the Blues Saloon featured the Twin Cities' debut of Pistol Pete and his ROCKING blues power trio. Getting his nickname, Pistol Pete, from a friend because he plays so fast, Benjamin Newell is a 36 year old Chicago area guitar player whose guitar playing can only be described with one word -- amazing!

He plays intricate and intense, lightning fast licks that draw on his influences ranging from the blues of Buddy Guy and Albert King, to the rock of Jimi Hendrix and Joe Satriani, to the jazz of Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. He is another one of those guitar virtuosos that leaves you wondering "how can he possibly play those things on the guitar?" In addition to his blues, rock and jazz stylings, Pistol Pete can just as easily throw in a little bit of reggae or some in-your-face funk, all with dazzling style and supreme showmanship.

Newell said he started playing guitar and violin at the age of 4 after moving from California, where he was born, to Chicago where he was raised by his aunt and uncle (his uncle was a blues guitar player and served as one of his earliest influences). By the age of 10 he was playing in lounges and small clubs and by his teens he already had developed a spectacular guitar style and had formed his own band. He has some Buddy Guy-like vocals, with a very powerful voice and has developed into a very good song writer. He has released two CDís, "Loaded" and his most recent release "Pistol Pete" which features mostly original material.

Pistol Pete
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
Newell just loves what he is doing. He says he literally lives his music 24 hours a day. When he isn't performing or practicing he gives over 50 private guitar lessons a month to budding young guitar players. I first saw Pistol Pete several years ago when he played at the 1996 Chicago Blues Festival and was just amazed at his "warp drive" guitar playing. People who just happened to be walking by were stopped in their tracks as they heard his breathtaking performance.

With just bass, drums and guitar, Pistol Peteís scorching power-blues trio knocked a few shingles loose from the roof of the Blues Saloon. Playing lightning fast, with the volume turned up and some spectacular pedal affects, Pistol Pete can be a one-man wrecking crew, exploding through a foot of concrete with the laser blasts from his guitar. But just when you think you have him pegged for another one of those electrifying blues rockers he pulls out a complex jazz number or a slower blues that spins your head and brings a "wow" to your mouth.

He was joined by Freddie Crawford on bass and Tim Eytalis on drums. Crawford may be familiar to area blue fans from his playing with Jimmy Rogers and Jimmy D. Lane. This show was filled with energy, excitement and showmanship and in addition to playing some of the fine original songs found on his albums, as well as some intricate jazz, Pistol Pete let the fireworks roar on some blues and rock standards like "Red House," "Born Under A Bad Sign," "Tore Down," "Purple Rain," and "Hey Joe." This guy is very good and you can order his CDís directly from his web page at:

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ray Stiles, all rights reserved.

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