Joe Boyd: Doin’ Good Through Good Music
By Dominic Valentine
Clarke County blues lovers know the Blues House Festival in Winchester, where headliners who often appear at the Barns of Rose Hill play for a good cause. But they might not know Joe Boyd, the guy who brings it all together.
Joe Boyd is a regular guy who does uncommon things for those in need. As chairman of the Winchester Blues House Festival, this steel worker by day becomes the Shenandoah Valley’s king of rock promotion after hours.
Summer is festival season, the time of year that Boyd’s schedule becomes jam-packed with all the details of bringing a professional music festival to fruition: Managing the security, ticket sales, vendors, setups, and stage management, along with praying for good weather and, of course, choosing the entertainment lineup. For Boyd, all this hard work is a labor of love because it combines two of his favorite pastimes: good music and charitable causes.
From its inception Blues House has been about giving back to the community. Over the last fourteen years, many charitable organizations have been the beneficiaries of proceeds raised from Blues House ticket sales. For the last six years, the proceeds have gone to the Frederick County branch of Habitat for Humanity, whose mission is putting the dream of home ownership within the reach of the working poor. “It is the ultimate cliché, but it’s the truth,” says Boyd. “I really do get more out of it than I give. There is a lot that goes into pulling off a festival like Blues Fest, and we have a lot of caring folks that help us out.”
Boyd’s tenure with Blues House started in the festival’s second year where Boyd volunteered as a stage hand. In addition to Boyd’s day job, he was then working part-time as a local bartender. His love of live music and, specifically, the Nighthawks led him to Blues House. “I wanted to see them play and I didn’t want to pay,” jokes Boyd. “I didn’t know anything about music. I only knew what was good and what wasn’t. And all these years later that’s still all I know about music.”
After helping out that first year, Boyd was hooked. “It was a great event, a way to give back to the community and have a good time doing it.”
For the last three years Boyd has served as the chairman of Blues House and also doubles as the stage manager too. “Of all the jobs I do, choosing the lineup is by far the hardest part,” says Boyd. “There are so many talented players locally, regionally and nationally. And with the advent of Facebook we get so many submissions it is hard to say no to everyone.”
Boyd is confident that Blues House attendees will be excited about this year’s lineup. The festival will opens at 11am with the National anthem sung by 12 year old Charlee Allman, who has sung the Anthem at the Verizon Center for both Capitals and Wizards games, followed by local favorites Terry Oates and the Mudcats.
New to the Blues House stage this year will be Skinny Velvet, featuring keyboardist Neil Bartley. Skinny Velvet has won numerous awards for their blues rock and carry the moniker Carolina’s Most Dangerous Band. Pensylvania Blues Hall of Famer Skyla Burrel will take the stage third, and be followed by ”Boom, Boom Out Go The Lights” hit maker Pat Travers. Pat is known as a guitar virtuoso with a resume that spans over 30 years.
The Ori Naftaly Band, voted best Israeli Blues Act of 2013, will take the stage last, proving that the blues knows no bounds and enjoys international appeal. Saxaphonist Ron Holliday is also retuning for an encore performance. Last year Halloway, a blues legend in his own right, joined several other artists onstage, adding his historic tone and improvisational licks. Ron is currently a member of The Warren Haynes Band. He has been a member of Susan Tedeschi’s Band, The Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, Gil Scott-Heron’s Band and Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band and is featured on many popular recordings.
Like all event coordinators, Boyd hopes to keep growing Blues House, not only because he enjoys what he does, but because the money raised from sponsors and through ticket sales goes directly to Habitat for Humanity locally. “The dollars we have raised over the years for our community lets people know there are people who care about those a little down on their luck, and we are all stronger and better for it.”
The 2013 Winchester Blues House Festival takes place Saturday, July 13 from 11am to 7pm at the Winchester Eagles Club Aerie 824 Outdoor Pavilion, 700 Baker Lane (off of Berryville Avenue, Va. Route 7) in Winchester.
For information on Winchester Blues House Festival visit the Winchester Blues House Festival facebook page or the Habitat for Humanity website at www.http://habitatwfc.org/.