BEST BETS: Cashbox Kings to headline Blue Soul Fest

Joe Nosek, left, and Oscar Wilson co-lead the band Cashbox Kings coming to the Blue Soul Fest at Blue Earl Brewing Co. in Smyrna. (Submitted photo)

Joe Nosek got his first taste of the blues while listening to his father’s Rolling Stones albums.

“That’s how the majority of that generation learned about the blues, from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton. But those guys idolized people like Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Otis Rush,” Mr. Nosek said.

“Back then, the fan base heard more Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf from The Yardbirds and other British Invasion bands. It took these young kids from England to take this American music back to England and then back to America. It’s kind of ironic.”

As a young child, not just satisfied with what he heard from the music of the day, he started to immerse himself in books about and the discography of the original trailblazers.

“It all led me to a deeper understanding of the blues,” he said.

Years later, Mr. Nosek is now at the helm of the classic Chicago blues band The Cash Box Kings. The Madison, Wisconsin-based group will headline Saturday’s third annual Blue Soul Fest at Smyrna’s Blue Earl Brewing Co.

The music starts at noon with six bands. The Cash Box Kings will finish things out starting at 6 p.m.

Born in 1974 in Wisconsin and raised in Chicago, he began sneaking into blues clubs to watch Junior Wells, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Sunnyland Slim and others.

“There was just something about the music that touched an emotional nerve,” he said.

“Listening to Howlin’ Wolf, it sent chills down my spine. It was so powerful, raw and emotionally charged. It immediately grabbed a hold of me. I had to see what these guys were doing.”

In high school, he picked up a guitar but quickly realized how many guitar players there were in the world and switched to the harmonica.

“The harmonica is a crucial element of the classic Chicago blues sound. But at first I started playing like Bob Dylan and Neil Young and those types of guys,” Mr. Nosek said.

“But then it didn’t take me too long to realize the blues were where it was at for me.”

While in Madison for college in the 1990s, he played with some of the greats of the genre, including Clyde Stubblefield and Luther Allison.

He formed the Cash Box Kings in 2001 to keep that Chicago sound alive among musicians his own age.

“I played in modern rock blues bands where the people were more familiar with players like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But I started connecting with people my own age who love the traditional style of Chicago blues,” he said.

Aside from himself, the only other original member of the group is drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, whose father was the drummer for Muddy Waters.

In 2007, The Cash Box Kings took on a whole new dimension with the addition of vocalist Oscar Wilson.

A self-taught musician with an encyclopedic knowledge of almost every blues song known to man, Mr. Wilson— who stands 6 feet, 1 inch and weighs over 300 pounds — was born in 1953 on Chicago’s 43rd Street (aka Muddy Waters Drive).

He grew up in the company of many famous blues artists. Junior Wells, Elmore James, Big Smokey Smothers and close family friend David “Honeyboy” Edwards were all regulars at weekly Friday night fish fries/jam sessions at the Wilson home.

“He knows every blues, R&B and doo wop record from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. He’s just incredible,” Mr. Nosek said.

“He’s a larger than life entertainer. He’s part Cedric the Entertainer, part Muddy Waters. He was this undiscovered gem waiting for the right opportunity and the stars aligned.”

The Cashbox Kings recently released their ninth album entitled “Royal Mint,” featuring 13 songs, including six originals and also cover versions of songs by Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Clifton Chenier, Amos Milburn and Jimmy Reed.

Mr. Nosek calls it their strongest record yet.

“I think musically it’s very confident. We cover a little different musical territory but it’s all rooted in the Chicago blues sound. We’re all very proud of the record,” he said.

Among the original songs are politically charged tunes including “Build That Wall,” a wry look at discrimination and racism and “Blues for Chi-Raq” a song about the epidemic of Chicago gun violence.

Mr. Nosek said the band has faced a bit of a backlash over the stances taken in those songs.

“We’ve gotten some hate mail. It hasn’t been violent. Some people are telling us to stick to the music and leave politics out of it,” Mr. Nosek said.

“But we felt strongly that some of these issues needed to be addressed and didn’t shy away from it. A musician’s job is to reflect the human experience and it’s impossible not to be affected by what’s going on in the world today.

“Oscar and I both have family members who have been directly affected by the atmosphere of intolerance and hatred. I had a family friend this summer mistreated because of the color of their skin.”

“Blues for Chi-Raq” is a deeply personal song for Mr. Wilson because it deals with the chaos in his beloved south side of Chicago.

“We’re not trying to offend anyone. It’s a free country. People have the right to say anything they want and we just felt it really necessary to speak out,” Mr. Nosek said.

Nominated last year for Band of the Year at the Blues Music Awards, The Cash Box Kings mainly play in the Midwest and Europe. This will be their first trip to Delaware.

“We’ve heard good things. We’re excited to come play,” Mr. Nosek said.

Blue Earl founder Ron Price is happy to have them aboard on Saturday.

“I’ve become a big fan of the Chicago blues and Texas-style blues. I’ve played in blues bands myself for 20 years,” said the bass guitar player.

“We stream the Sirius XM blues channel in the tap room and that’s where I first heard them play only a couple of years ago. I had maybe heard them play in passing but I’m also a big fan of Alligator Records, which is now their label. They are an absolutely amazing blues band.”

Joining The Cash Box Kings will be The Teletones, Dr. Harmonica & Rockett 88, The Blue Cats, Mikey Jr. and Steve Guyger.

There will also be a biergarten, food trucks, a beer brewed specifically for Blue Soul Fest, event T-shirts, glassware and more.

Tickets are on sale at Blue Earl is at 210 Artisan Drive, Smyrna.

Copeland String Quartet

For music of a different sort, The Copeland String Quartet made up of violinists Eliezer Gutman and Thomas Jackson, violist Nina Cottman and cellist Jennifer Jie Jin, all veteran performers with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, the Kennett Symphony of Chester County and other regional orchestras, will perform at the Theatre at Dover High School tonight at 7.

The evening’s varied repertory will include Bach’s “Art of the Fugue”, Dvorak’s “American Quartet” and a Tango piece “Pour una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel. A Haydn and Beethoven quartet is included in the program.

The concert will usher the first Strings Festival hosted by the Academy of the Arts at Dover High School. On Saturday, members of the quartet will work with students of the violin, cello, viola and bass in a series of classes including Technique, Ensemble, Chamber and Repertory. They will provide feedback and examples to the young students.

Members of the quartet have performed for the Philly Pops, Opera Delaware, Houston Symphony, Boston Symphony, Lancaster Symphony and at Tanglewood Festival and the Aspen Music Festival.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students.

For tickets to tonight’s concert and/or to register for the Strings Festival on Saturday, call Diane Neutzling at (302) 241-2400 or email Registration for the Strings Festival is $40 and includes all of the classes, lunch on Saturday, and a ticket to tonight’s concert.

Gourmet Gala Saturday

The Delaware Technical Community College Terry Campus will host its 14th annual Gourmet Gala on Saturday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. in the on-campus Del-One Conference Center.

The Gourmet Gala, the premier fundraising event for student success on the Terry Campus, is a black tie-optional affair that offers guests specialty food and beverages from Delaware restaurateurs, brewers, vintners and distillers. The evening will also feature a silent auction and live music performed by the Doug Segree Band.

Money raised through the Gourmet Gala enhances the ability of the Terry Campus to offer educational opportunities and activities to its student body, provide scholarships, and source the funds needed to purchase equipment for classrooms and learning labs.

Tickets are $125 and can be purchased online at or by calling (302) 857-1125.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the comedy “Boo 2! A Madea Halloween,” the sci-fi thriller “Geostorm,” the action-adventure film “Only the Brave,” the drama “Same Kind of Different as Me” and the suspense thriller “The Snowman.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the horror film “Annabelle: Creation,” the animated film “The Emoji Movie” and the documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

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