Summer heat doesn’t bother blues singer and guitar player Gordon Bonham. So when he takes the stage for July 5’s JCB NeighborFEST concert, he’ll be ready to jam and entertain the crowd.
“To be honest, I hope it’s hot,” Bonham said by phone from his Indianapolis home. “I like it when it’s hot.”
Bonham, who has played with such blues greats as B.B. King and Bo Diddley, has learned during his career the importance of pleasing the audience and giving it his all, no matter the conditions.
He recalled seeing some of these music legends away from the performance stage and said they were just “normal guys” enjoying life and having everyday conversations.
“They had a certain class,” he said, when asked what he learned from them. “They showed me when you’re performing, you respect your audience and put on a good show. If it’s 100 degrees, you still put on a good show.”
Bonham knows all about having the show go on come heat, humidity or rain storm. In June alone, he had 28 performances scheduled, including one outdoor gig where weather temporarily suspended the concert.
Next week’s performance at the popular JCB NeighborFEST between Third and Fourth streets on Washington Street in front of The Commons will be the fourth time Bonham has performed in Columbus.
“Gordon Bonham has a large following in Columbus,” said Tami Sharp, program director at the Columbus Area Arts Council. “He’s a great performer that brings an enthusiastic crowd. We are always pleased when he agrees to come back.”
Bonham said those who come to the show can expect music that is up-tempo and makes them want to dance.
“This isn’t sad music,” he said about what some might misconstrue about the “blues” name. “I like to tell people blues is about partying. This will be hard-drivin’ Chicago blues.”
If you go
Gordon Bonham Blues Band
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. July 5
Washington Street between Third and Fourth streets in front of The Commons downtown
Food and beverages, including beer and wine, will be available for purchase
Bring lawn chairs
Parrots of the Caribbean — Jimmy Buffet tribute on Aug. 2; Naptown Boogie on Sept. 6
He describes his music as a mix of styles, from the Mississippi Delta to the back alleys of Chicago, from big Texas shuffles to West Coast swing.
Other blues legends he has performed with include Pinetop Perkins, Robert Lockwood Jr., Yank Rachell, Jimmy Walker, John Brimm, Billy Boy Arnold and Sunny Land Slim.
He played as part of the grand opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and appears every Monday with Soul Bus at the Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis.
Bonham can’t quite place a time when he suddenly learned he loved blues but remembers growing up in Hammond and spending weekends at blues clubs in nearby Chicago.
“I would just jump in the car, drive to Chicago and soak it in,” he said.
Bonham remembers frequenting a club where blues great Buddy Guy played on Sunday afternoons and enjoying some really good barbecue with only a small audience being part of the great atmosphere.
“It was the best music I ever heard,” Bonham said.
He also remembers hearing talented blues musicians who played in clubs at night and had normal jobs during the day such as driving dump trucks.
For his Columbus performance, Bonham will have a five-piece band consisting of himself on guitar and vocals, a drummer, bass player, harmonica player and keyboardist.
One of the things he likes most about blues, Bonham said, is that he and the band can go with the flow of the song and take it in a new direction for every performance.
“You can play the same song for 20 years, and it might sound different every night,” he said. “But it always works.”
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