2009-09-10 / Scene

Blues lives on with another generation as daughter joins father’s band

BY NATALIE BLYTHE STAFF WRITER

Photo Provided Big Bill and the Blues Ambassadors, along with Bill’s daughter Kelly, recently performed at the Redwood Blues Festival last month. Photo Provided Big Bill and the Blues Ambassadors, along with Bill’s daughter Kelly, recently performed at the Redwood Blues Festival last month. DAVISON — What was once a three-piece blues band has quickly morphed into a family affair with the recent addition of Davison resident Bill Harwell’s daughter, Kelly, to his blues band, Big Bill and the Blues Ambassadors.

Kelly recently stepped into the spotlight. Her debut came during the Redwood Blues Festival last month and so far, the response has been tremendous and positive for her and the band.

“In three weeks, our MySpace videos have had more than 1,700 hits,” Bill said. “There has been a lot of interest, especially for her age. Kelly has true talent.”

The 19 year old, who attends University of Michigan Flint to pursue a degree in nursing, has been singing since she was two.

“Being a musician, I knew she had a gift,” Bill, 53, said. “I remember when she was young and we were riding in the car, listening to the radio. I could hear her singing, so I turned down the radio and just listened to her. She had a natural talent.”

From that point on, Kelly, who credits her influences as John Mayer, Christina Aguilera and Susan Tedeschi, has made music a big part of her life. While attending Davison Community Schools, she performed in the show choir and musicals, and sang the national anthem every week at bowling tournaments, in addition to being captain of the girls’ bowling team at Davison High School. “I also took a year at BJ’s Songbirds,” she said.

Bill, who has been playing the blues for 35 years, said his earliest influences were the “three Kings: Albert, B.B. and Freddie.”

“I started playing the guitar when I was 18, and the first record I bought was B.B. King,” he said. “I’ve stayed with the blues. I was in a Top 40 band for a short time, but I am a true blues player. I started with it, I’ve stuck with it and I will be playing the blues for the rest of my life.”

Along with the fatherdaughter duo, the band consists of drummer Brian Whitcomb of Lapeer and Mike Huber of Grand Blanc. Bill said Kelly will perform with the band when she can, considering her busy academic and work schedule. “I’m working around Kelly’s schedule,” he said.

The band, which plays gigs around the Davison area, will be performing at the Old Town Blues Festival at 4 p.m. Sept. 18 in Lansing and at Memphis Smoke 9 p.m. Sept. 19 in Royal Oak.

The band also is working on a CD, containing several original songs. For more information on the band, including upcoming gigs and videos of performances, visit www.myspace.com/ bigbillsbluesambassadors.

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