In a tribute to Rock and Roll guitar pioneer Jimi Hendrix and Blues legend Ray Charles, The Wrightwood Blues Society presented “Wrightwood’s “Houz Ah Blues” featuring The Riki Hendrix Experience, and The Greg Jones Band, June 10, 2023, on a balmy, but pleasant Saturday evening. Opening the show with local musical artists Bonnie Howard, and Toby Williams, the capacity crowd was treated to dinner and a show at the beautiful “Wrightwood Place” in the mountain community of Wrightwood, CA.
Captivating the crowd with their performance, “The Riki Hendrix Experience” proved to be more than the psychedelic show everyone expected. No stranger to headlining large venues, Riki Hendrix can trace his musical origins back to his earlier performing days with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, who performed around the world in a tribute to his late cousin, the guitar hero, Jimi Hendrix, and “The Band of Gypsies.” The resemblance of Riki Hendrix’s voice and guitar to Jimi Hendrix was astoundingly accurate. Backed by his band of gypsies (Gina Bee and keyboards, Dennis Sanchez on bass guitar, and Richard “Thumper” Prudhome on drums,) the mix on stage was a perfect blend of volume and intensity.
Displaying some of Jimi’s guitar tricks, Riki played one guitar solo on his Fender Stratocaster with his teeth, producing maniacal applause and cheers from the very enthusiastic audience. A return appearance by “The Riki Hendrix Experience” will surely be welcomed by this mountain-top auditorium. In a “Tribute to Genius,” Blues legend Ray Charles was expertly represented by “The Greg Jones Band and The Raylettes,” who definitely let the good times roll. “Twisting” had everybody doing the Twist, while the ballad “Georgia” certainly put the pleasant crowd into a soulful mood. Wrightwood Place may want to consider enlarging the existing dance floor next time this celebration of the well-loved musical genius Ray Charles comes to town. “Unchain My Heart” unleashed the brass section of Craig Kupka on trumpet, with Collin Kupka and John Burcher on the saxophones. At the same time, the gorgeous “Raylettes” Bonnie Bishop, Cherrye Cherry, and Brittan E. laid down the backup vocals for Dr. Greg Jones.
The performance by the Greg Jones Band, and the Raylettes, had the Master of Ceremonies so convinced he had to catch himself from accidentally asking the ecstatic crowd to “Please give it up to the one and only Ray Charles!” Thankfully, the Emcee corrected himself in time. Wrightwood’s own Toby Williams performed his mystical narration of “The History of Blues.” In an unorthodox manner, performer Toby Williams entered the Wrightwood Place stage from the lobby, instead of the traditional stage entrance, dancing and gyrating with a hand drum, chanting some unknown prayer amongst the audience seated at their tables. Before they knew it, the crowd was engaged in the show recreating ancient rhythms and clapping along with Mr. Williams in time, representing the origins of modern blues and rock and musical patterns. Toby Williams and “The History of the Blues” might be considered an eclectic act, but it was well-received by the house that night.
Tri-Community minstrel Bonnie Howard opened the show with an all-acoustic guitar set, singing a range of popular hits. The taunting numbers “I Put a Spell on You” and “Stormy” left the audience fired up and were the perfect primer for what would prove to be an enlightening and entertaining evening at Wrightwood Place. Dinner and show guests Barbara and Dennis Holt from Phelan said, “The meal was superb, and the show was great! We will come back for every event! I hope they continue this!”
All proceeds go to the Terry “Big-T” DeRouen Memorial scholarship, which encourages the development of aspiring young musicians and artists.