Bad Juju adds blues to June Jam

Ken Belmont’s love of the blues came courtesy of a person he will never know.

While in the Army deployed overseas in support of Operation Desert Storm, he received a care package. In it was a copy of Living Blues magazine.

“It had a story about (blues great) Robert Johnson and it really piqued my interest,” Mr. Belmont recalled.

Ken Belmont, left, and George Dreisbach will join John Smith and Chris Sherlock as local blues band Bad Juju takes the stage for Saturday’s annual June Jam in Houston. (Submitted photo by David Wolanski)

Ken Belmont, left, and George Dreisbach will join John Smith and Chris Sherlock as local blues band Bad Juju takes the stage for Saturday’s annual June Jam in Houston. (Submitted photo by David Wolanski)

“It all just came from a generic care package sent by a good American.”

After dabbling a bit with the guitar in high school, it wasn’t until years after he moved to Dover following his deployment, in 2000, that he started to get serious about guitar and the blues.

“Some of my mentors, Lin Doughton, Joey Fulkeron and David Brenton really spent time with me and showed me a few things. Because of guys like that, I started to get out and play and eventually start a band,” Mr. Belmont said.

The band he started seven years ago, Bad Juju, will be part of the lineup at Saturday’s June Jam in Houston to benefit various charities.

It’s the first year Bad Juju will play at June Jam, which is celebrating its 37th year.

“We’ve always wanted to. We have kind of cross-pollinated with other bands and other events related to June Jam but we’ve never worked directly together,” said Mr. Belmont, the group’s bass guitarist.

“(Former June Jam president) Matt Boller had threatened to put us on the bill for years. This year we finally made it. It’s a great event that’s been going on for a long time and for us to be associated with it is great. We get a chance to play with our friends and see some of the locals come out and hear us play.”

As usual with a Bad Juju show, “the plan is to have no plan,” Mr. Belmont said.

“We are looking to put together a power set of some of the most dynamic material that people like to hear. It’s going to be a really great opportunity to exploit our strengths both for us as player-performers but also for the people to listen to.”

Best Bets logo CLEAR copyFor Saturday’s set, Mr. Belmont will be joined by John Smith, of Hockessin and George Dreisbach, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, both on guitar and vocals; and Chris Sherlock, of Newark, on drums.

Mr. Sherlock replaces regular drummer Bob Martin of Media, Pennsylvania, for Bad Juju’s portion of the afternoon that is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. June Jam itself begins at noon.

Mr. Belmont and Bad Juju has been at the forefront of a strong blues movement in Kent County of late. The Central Delaware Blues Society recently was established to foster local interest in blues music and this year helped send Sussex County’s lower case blues to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

Craig Coffield, general manager of Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course in Magnolia, has hosted a number of blues concerts in the facility’s clubhouse, including a Thursday night jam with regionally and nationally known musicians.

Mr. Belmont has provided the sound for those nights as well as periodically performing.

“I feel like I just accidentally wound up in the right place for playing blues,” Mr. Belmont said.

“I’ve been with Craig since Day One and we’ve done a lot of work. He has trusted me to run the room while he’s handled the venue itself. We’ve had pretty good success with it.

“A lot of people keep coming back, including the performers. It’s a great thing that we didn’t have in this area. Without Craig, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do this.”

This year’s June Jam headliner is the Michael Allman Band. Fronted by the son of Gregg Allman, the group has been touring the country for years,

Mr. Allman will perform original songs from his albums “Hard Labor Creek,” “If Dreams Were Money” and “Mule Named Whiskey” as well as covering songs from The Allman Brothers Band. The show is expected to begin at 8 p.m.

Newark band Kategory 5 kicks things off at 12:05 after the national anthem. Following Bad Juju will bring the annual performance of the young Junior Jammers and then local groups Results May Vary and Shades of August.

Country singer Sam Grow will perform two sets starting at 5 p.m. At intermission will be a tribute to first responders. Mr. Grow will be performing at Cowboy Up in Dover later that night at 9.

At 6:45 p.m. popular local group The Ashley Mitchell Band will take the stage followed by Mr. Allman.

This year’s June Jam will benefit Friends of Delaware Veterans, Code Purple, Kent County Vietnam Veterans, Sarah Smile Foundation, Special Olympics, Toys for Tots and USO Delaware.

Tickets are $35 or $10 for children between ages 5 and 12. Kids younger than 5 are admitted free.

Tickets will be available at the gate, which opens at 10 a.m., but also can be purchased at Mainstay Suites in Dover, B&B Music in Dover, Lewes and Salisbury, Maryland; Panasystems in Georgetown; and at www.junejam.com.

Johnny Neel in Dover tonight

Another Allman connection will be felt this weekend in Kent County as Johnny Neel, former keyboardist and harmonica player for The Allman Brothers Band, will perform at 8:30 tonight at Grotto Pizza on U.S. 13 in Dover in a fundraising event for the Dover High School Alumni Association.

Musician Johnny Neel will be in concert tonight at 8:30 at Dover's Grotto Pizza in support of the Dover High School Alumni Association. (Submitted photo)

Musician Johnny Neel will be in concert tonight at 8:30 at Dover’s Grotto Pizza in support of the Dover High School Alumni Association. (Submitted photo)

While with The Allman Brothers, Mr. Neel, a Wilmington native, received a Grammy nomination for keyboard work on the instrumental cut “True Gravity” from the “Seven Turns” album. In addition to his stage time, Mr. Neel has appeared in several movies and more recently provided vocals on four Walt Disney Records CD releases.

Blind since birth, Mr. Neel’s early career got off to a great start as he cut his first single, “Talking About People,” at the age of 12 with his band, Johnny Neel and The Shapes of Soul. The song was a hit on local radio in the Wilmington/Philadelphia area. As an adult, The Johnny Neel Band had a strong following up and down the East Coast, including in Dover where he often played at the former Kelly’s just north of Dover.

In 1984 Mr. Neel moved to Nashville where he toured with a number of bands. In 1989, he was invited to join the reunited Allman Brothers Band.

He also has played with Gov’t Mule and Dickey Betts.

Tickets cost $20 and are available at the door.

Brewgrass Festival Sunday

The first Downtown Milford Inc. Brewgrass Festival presented by Mispillion River Brewing, combining beer, food and bluegrass music, is set from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday in Milford’s Bicentennial and Memorial parks. All participants must be 21 years of age or older. No children or pets are permitted.

Tickets are $30 for general admission, $40 at the door and $5 for designated driver. Beer tasters will receive a souvenir plastic Mason jar for their tastings.

Participating breweries include: 3rd Wave Brewing Co., Argilla Brewing Co., Blue Earl Brewing Co., Crooked Hammock Brewery, Dogfish Craft Brewed Ales, Evolution Craft Brewing Co., Fordham and Dominion Brewing, Frozen Toes Brewing, Mispillion River Brewing, Ocean City Brewing Co., Rubber Soul Brewing and Tall Tales Brewery.

All breweries will provide tastings and Dogfish Head and Mispillion River Brewing will have full pints for sale.

Event-goers also can enjoy beers from budding home brewers and judge their favorite.

Home brewers can enter the home brew competition in any of the three categories (IPA, Ale, and/or Wild Card) with four entries per category. More than one entry will be accepted — $5 per entry — and one six-pack per entry is required. Home brewers must be present at festival, so a DD ticket is included with entry. An additional festival ticket must be purchased to partake in included brewery tastings.

Musically, Mule Train, featuring members of Chapel Street Junction, starts off at noon; followed by Flatland Drive at 12:30; Last Chance at 1:30; Magnolia Street String Band at 2; Blue Hen Express at 3; Chapel Street Junction at 3:30; Hooverville at 4:30 and Chester River Runoff closes out the day at 5 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at https://tickets.beerfests.com/event/DMIBrewgrassFestival. For more information, contact Sara Pletcher at sara@downtownmilford.org.

Strike up the band

Also Sunday in Milford, the Milford Community Band is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a concert at 3 p.m. at the Milford High School auditorium.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the MCB, a special piece of music has been commissioned by nationally known composer and conductor James Swearingen. He will conduct the world premiere of his piece “Celebration and Tribute.”

There will be no charge, but donations will be accepted.

Now showing

New in theaters this weekend is the blockbuster “Jurassic World 3D.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the sci-film “Chappie” and the Liam Neeson action thriller “Run All Night.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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