” A hard-rocking, high-voltage blues guitarist most often compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tinsley Ellis is hardly one of the legions of imitators that comparison might imply. Schooled in a variety of Southern musical styles, Ellis draws not only from fiery Vaughan-style blues-rock, but also Texas bluesmen like Freddie King and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, the soulful blues of B.B. King, the funky grit of Memphis soul, and numerous other electric bluesmen. Ellis has been praised in many quarters for the relentless, storming intensity of his sound, and criticized in others for his relative lack of pacing and dynamic contrast (he’s also been dubbed a much stronger guitarist than vocalist). Yet no matter which side of the fence one falls on, it’s generally acknowledged that Ellis remains a formidable instrumentalist and a genuine student of the blues.
Ellis was born in Atlanta in 1957, and spent most of his childhood in southern Florida. He began playing guitar in elementary school, first discovering the blues through the flagship bands of the British blues boom: John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the Peter Green-led Fleetwood Mac, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, and so on. He soon moved on to a wide variety of original sources, becoming especially fond of B.B. King and Freddie King. After high school, Ellis moved back to Atlanta in 1975 to attend Emory University, and soon found work on the local music scene, joining a bar band called the Alley Cats (which also featured future Fabulous Thunderbird Preston Hubbard). In 1981, Ellis co-founded The Heartfixers with singer/harmonica player Chicago Bob Nelson, and they recorded an eponymous debut album for the tiny Southland imprint. They soon signed with the slightly larger Landslide and issued Live at the Moon Shadow in 1983, by which point they were one of the most popular live blues acts in the South. However, Nelson left the group shortly after the album’s release, and Ellis took over lead vocal chores.” Continue reading