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Theodis Ealey
@ Famous Dave's, October 9 and 10, 1998
By Ray Stiles

Theodis Ealey
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
Mississippi born Theodis Ealey now calls Atlanta his home and with the success of his most recent Ichiban CD "Raw" he is finally hitting the road for his first tour of the United States (he has toured in Europe prior to this time). Famous Daveís was fortunate to host his first Twin Cities performance and he left town having impressed quite a few people.

Born in 1947, Theodis learned to play the guitar from his older brother. He first played in a club when he was 7 years old and at 13 was playing bass in his brotherís band (for $5 a night in 1960, he said with a laugh). He lived in California from the early 1970's until 1991 when he moved to Atlanta and began recording for Ichiban.

Theodis Ealey is one of those unique performers who instinctively knows how to work an audience. He realizes that entertaining is an important part of his performance and he creates a personal connection with his audience by getting out in the crowd or carrying on a friendly banter while on stage (he was out in the crowd playing his guitar during his very first song). He said he grew up playing in small juke joints where he was always real close to the people so itís just natural for him to rub shoulders with his audience. He also likes to mix his material up a bit -- playing blues, R&B and country. Itís interesting when you talk to many of these bluesmen, they will almost invariably talk about when they were first learning to play they just played what was called popular music. It wasnít necessarily called blues, it was whatever the audience wanted to hear and what paid the bills. So it wasnít uncommon for them to play a delta blues one song, then go right into a country number on the next. And thatís exactly what Theodis was doing this night at Famous Daveís. He went from some traditional Chicago blues like the Jimmy Reed song "Baby What You Want Me To Do," to "Hideaway," to the Otis Redding "Iíve Been Loving You Too Long," to Dylanís "Early In The Morning," to Princeís "Purple Rain," (played and sung by Rick Gallon) to Van Morrisonís "Brown Eyed Girl" (actually the bass player sang this one), to the Willie Nelson classic "Funny How Time Slips Away." This was one very entertaining evening of blues, soul, R&B, country and rock by a guy who knows exactly what he is doing.

Theodis Ealey & Stacy Stiles
Photo © 1998 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
His band featured Robert (Heavy Duty) Peterson on bass, Calvin Pool on drums and Rick Gallon on guitar; all excellent musicians and all pretty good vocalists too. Every member of the band sang at least one song with the drummer even getting up at one point and trading places with Theodis while he sang "Down Home Blues." It was pretty good too, as he even pulled out some funky dance steps finishing off with an understated but impressive soft shoe routine. I guess he needs to get out from behind those drums more often. Theodis even did an capable job on drums.

The highlight both nights for me was listening to Ealeyís rendition of the Otis Redding song "Iíve Been Loving You Too Long." He combines a raw, soulful vocal quality with some biting and incisive blues guitar that is captivating to listen too. You can also tell he is genuinely having fun up there -- with his extended guitar solos and playfulness with the audience. My youngest daughter was with me on Saturday so on one of his "out in the audience experiences" he came right up to Stacy and had her help him out on one of the songs by strumming his guitar. I think we might have another young blues convert here.

Read a review of his Ichiban CD "Raw".

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

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