Third annual Blues@Bloss event to feature Rockin’ Johnny Burgin
BLOSSBURG — Chicago Blues artist Rockin’ Johnny Burgin will be bringing his unique guitar sound to the Victoria Theatre stage, 222 Main St., at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 for the third annual Blues@Bloss concert.
“I have known Johnny for years, having booked him on three different occasions at the Billtown Blues Festival,” said Bonnie Tallman, co-founder of the event. “He approached me in the spring mentioning he would be traveling from Rhode Island to the west coast in August, and could I help secure a gig in Williamsport. As it turned out, mainly because of the Little League World Series, there were no Williamsport venues available for him. However, I knew I would need to be putting something in place for the 3rd annual Blues@Bloss.”
Though Blues@Bloss is not affiliated with the Billtown Blues Association, Tallman, who is the executive director of Billtown Blues, said the idea to start the festival came after she had a chance encounter with an unknown relative of hers, Adam Mahonske, who is a classical pianist and college professor in Maryland. Ironically, Tallman and Mahonske both have a vacation homes in Blossburg, which is where they met five years ago.
“We found each other at a concert where he was performing and started sharing our stories, and Adam was intrigued with my position as a founding member of the Billtown Blues Festival and the blues music events I have been involved with for 30 years,” said Tallman. “He is also a film buff and had developed a relationship with the owners of the Victoria Theatre. The theater owners were very interested in expanding the use of the theater and, voila, the idea of presenting blues concerts there was born.”
With the event being only in its third year, it was huge for Tallman to book a major blues musician like Burgin, who is widely-acclaimed on both national and international stages.
“Adam and I had not planned to make the stretch to a national touring act in year three, as we were still learning our way, developing interest and the venue was not fully up to speed for meeting the technical requirements of most national touring artists,” Tallman said. “However, I explained the situation to Johnny, and instead of forcing any demands, he embraced the idea of helping a new venue to support live music.”
Burgin, who was recently honored with a Blues Music Award by the Blues Foundation, says his biggest musical influences are Earl Hooker, Mighty Joe Young, Son Seals, and Robert Lockwood Jr.
“I’m into the 50s to 70s Chicago sounds the most,” Burgin said.
The uniqueness of Burgin’s sound is something that he attributes to his approach to guitar playing.
“So much of your sound comes out of your right hand and the way you pick. I alternate between my fingers and a pick, and I really pick hard,” said Burgin. “I had a Rickenbacker guitar when I was starting out, and it would get buried if I didn’t pick hard to cut through. That’s how I got my sound.”
Though he lives in Chicago now, Burgin is no stranger to the area, having been born in Williamsport. He didn’t live in the city long, however, spending most of his youth in New York and Mississippi.
“My father was an actor doing summer stock theater in Billtown (the summer I was born),” he said, also noting that he has a twin brother who is buried in Williamsport, after passing away shortly after birth.
Tallman said that having events like Blues@Bloss in the local area is important because they bring the community together to share in a live music experience. They also help keep the blues alive and well in the region.
“Blues music is not a mainstream genre and not always understood or recognized for its contribution to modern music worldwide,” said Tallman. “So, the educational opportunity is an added plus. Adam prepares a wonderful educational pre-show film to get the audience thinking about blues music as an art form.”
So far, the community has reacted very well to the Blues@Bloss series, which bodes well for the future of the event.
“We could not be more pleased with the enthusiasm and respect shown to the performers we presented for the first two years,” Tallman said. “Many Lycoming County Billtown Blues members have traveled to Blossburg for the first two concerts to support the town’s effort and of course to support live blues music, which is wonderful.”
Tickets to the event can be purchased online at www.victoriablossburg.com and at 242 Coffee Co., 242 Main St.