Best Bets: Grey Fox Band brings back blues

The members of the Grey Fox Band are, from left, Stu Welch, Doug Drummond, Jim McGiffin and Jeff Williams. They will play a concert at the Old State House in Dover Friday night.

With a multitude of area blues groups on the scene, The Grey Fox Band stands out. Their style of traditional blues is an anomaly among the music usually played by most bands these days.

“You hear a lot of rock-blues bands playing Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. But not too many guys play the traditional older stuff,” said vocalist and harmonica player Stu Welch.

“There aren’t a whole lot of harmonica players around here who can do that type of stuff. You can’t swing a dead cat without seeing a whole bunch of great guitarists but the harmonica is a little bit different, which is what you need for playing the type of music we play.”

The Grey Fox Band will bring their brand of blues to the Old State House concert series in Dover, presented by the Delaware Friends of Folk, Friday night at 7:30.

Mr. Welch is joined in the band by International Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Doug Drummond; Charlie Dillinger, the original drummer for famed local band Rocket 88; and guitarist Jim McGiffin, a local musician for over 40 years and member of popular local Irish group Celtic Harvest.

For tonight’s performance, Mr. Dillinger will be replaced by Milford’s Jeff Williams on drums.

Everyone in the band, except Mr. McGiffin, is retired. So one might say the name of the band fits. But that’s not the whole story as to how they came upon it.

“One day, Jim came in and said ‘What is Delaware’s official wildlife mammal? It’s the grey fox.’ We are all from Delaware and it matches our hair color so we thought it fit well for our name,” Mr. Welch said.

The group, which has only been around for about a year and a half, was started by Mr. Drummond’s desire to compete in the Central Delaware Blues Society’s annual Battle of the Bands, which affords one group the opportunity to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee in February.

“We got together with Charlie and Jim and we had so much fun at the competition, we decided to stay together.”

They do have a few originals that they play but the rest comes from a repertoire that includes music from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson.

“I like playing that type of more traditional music because it’s more harmonica friendly,” Mr. Welch said.

“My theory is that no one could afford a saxophone back then but a harmonica was only five or 10 cents. So that’s why a lot of songs featured the harmonica so prominently.”

Mr. Welch said the music is harder to play than more contemporary blues.

“The authentic version is extremely difficult. It features a lot of bent notes and there is a certain rhythm to the tongue blocking. It takes a lot of time to learn it,” he said.

Mr. Welch, who grew up in Seaford and now lives in Felton, learned to love the harmonica after hearing his father play it.

“My knees would just lock up when I would hear him play. I really liked it. I got one for my 49th birthday and studied different styles and types of music and kind of settled on the blues,” he said.

He’s been playing it for about 11 years, really buckling down on it after a 20-year career at the Dover Air Force Base and owning his own construction business.

The band has mainly played at the Bayview Tavern in Frederica and The Touchdown Lounge in Dover since they took their act on the road with occasional forays into Georgetown. But they hope to be a bit more active in 2020.

“When we started playing out, it was around January or February and venues pretty much had their entertainment booked for the year at that point. So we’re looking to play some other places next year,” Mr. Welch said.

Tonight’s show will be an acoustic performance, which Mr. Welch is looking forward to.

“It will be at a lower volume, which is great,because blues wasn’t played loudly back in the day. So it puts blues where it’s supposed to be,” he said.

“No amps and a small drum kit with brushes. People who will come out will be real music lovers. And that’s the kind of place where we need to be.”

This is the sixth season for the Old State House series on The Green, which is produced in cooperation with the First State Heritage Park and is supported by a grant from the Kent County Fund for the Arts.

The concert is free and seating is limited.

Holiday open mic

Delaware Friends of Folk will also present their monthly coffee house concert Saturday in the Bennett Chapel at Wesley College, corner of Division and North Bradford streets in Dover, beginning at 7:30 pm.

Admission is a donation of nonperishable items for the Food Bank of Delaware. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

This event features the annual holiday open mic, hosted by Sand Creek. Performers of all skill levels are welcome to engage the Friends of Folk audience in 15-20 minutes of original or traditional songs, or cover music by other artists.

Sound and lighting will be supplied. Sign-up for the eight to 10 performance slots begins at 7 p.m. The event will be preceded by the group’s annual membership meeting and board elections beginning at 6:30.

Holidays in Smyrna

It will be a busy Sunday in Smyrna with The Smyrna Historic District Holiday House Tour and open house at Belmont Hall.

The house tour will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. The self-guided tour will feature four non-residential houses and 11 private homes. A $10 donation is requested for Adults and $5 for ages 12-18, ages 11 and under are free.

Pick up your map and make a donation at Smyrna Cards and Gifts, 16 S. Main St. or at the Smyrna Museum at 11 South Main St.

On Sunday, maps will be available from the Smyrna Museum and Belmont Hall from 1 to 4 p.m., and from the Dr. John Clifton Townhouse, 40 S. Main St. or the Pressley Spruance House, 120 N. Main St. after 4 p.m.

Call 302-505-0835 or visit www.belmonthall.org for more information.

You can also view Christmas decorations designed by the Duck Creek Gardeners and the Friends of Belmont Hall Sunday at Historic Belmont Hall’s free Open House from 1 to 4 p.m.

Maps and the donation of $10 per person for the Smyrna Historic District Holiday House Tour are available during the open house.

Belmont Hall is located at 217 Smyrna Leipsic Road, Smyrna. Check the website at www.belmonthall.org, or email belmonthall.de@gmail.com for more information.

Streisand holiday show

“Barbra Streisand’s Holiday Favorites” with Carla DelVillaggio will be staged at the Milton Theatre Friday through Sunday.

This holiday show will feature many of the songs found on Ms. Streisand’s two holiday albums, including her singular rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

Carla DelVillagio brings her show “Simply Streisand” to the Milton Theatre for performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Submitted photo)

Ms. DelVillaggio will also perform songs from the extensive Streisand songbook, including “The Way We Were,” “People,” “Evergreen,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Second Hand Rose” and more.

Shows will be at 2 p.m. today, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20-25. Purchase them online at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St.

‘Almost, Maine’

The Take Two Drama Club of Sussex Central High School will present the comedy, “Almost, Maine” this weekend.

Set in the mythical town of Almost in the interior northern section of Maine, the play shows the exact moment of multiple couples magically falling in love or tragically out of love or some quirky area in between.

The production will take place today at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Sussex Central Centre for Visual and Performing Arts, 26026 Patriots Way, Georgetown.

SCHS juniors Andrew Radcliffe and Kaitlyn Nusz as Phil and Marci in “Almost, Maine.”

The themes are for mature audiences (ages 13 and over), as the play examines many diverse types of couples in an even-handed and humorous manner.

Ticket prices are $10 for general admission; $7 for seniors, students and military; and $5 at a special two-for-one rate for all middle school students. No one will be turned away for inability to pay but donations and all proceeds immediately support future Take Two/SCHS dramatic productions.

Toys for Tots rap

Finally, Sgt. Bell the Rapper, of Houston, has a three-minute rap single released on the Marine Toys for Tots site (toysfortots.org) entitled “Toys 4 Tots.”

Lake Forest High senior Sara Brand and Sgt. Bell the Rapper are involved in a local campaign for Toys for Tots.

Both Sgt. Bell and Lake Forest High senior Sara Brand, of Felton, have a billboard campaign also to help Toys for Tots in Kent and Sussex counties.

One billboard is in Seaford on the corner of U.S. 13 and Del. 20 and the second billboard is on the corner of U.S. 13 northbound and Star Hill Road in Camden.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the suspense/thriller “Black Christmas,” the fantasy sequel “Jumanji: The Next Level” and the Clint Eastwood-directed “Richard Jewell.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the movie version of “Downton Abbey,” the animated “Abominable,” Brad Pitt in “Ad Astra” and “Rambo: Last Blood.”

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