Michael John, Founder Of The 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival

Written by on March 21, 2013 in Gigs / Tours / Events, Interviews, March 21, 2013, News To Shout About! - Comments Off on Michael John, Founder Of The 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival

Interview With Michael John, Founder Of The 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival

Michael John (far l), founder of the Ventura County Blues Festival and President of the Ventura County Blues Society, pictured with this year’s headlining act Johnny Rivers (center) and the festival’s yearly celebrity emcee, actor/musician, Mickey Jones (r). The 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival takes place April 27, 2013.

Ventura County Blues Festival (MOORPARK, CALIF) – New name, new venue, legendary lineup: Michael John’s 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival takes place Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Moorpark College, 7075 Campus Rd., Moorpark. Gates open 10 a.m., music starts 11 a.m. Tickets $25 in advance, $30. day of show. Kids 12 and under free with adult. Plus food and craft vendors; guitar giveaway signed by all the artists; special kid’s area; and silent auction including new autographed Fender guitar signed by Johnny Rivers, and photo opportunity (with Rivers). Info: www.venturacountyblues.com or call the Festival Hotline: (805) 501-7122. Festival proceeds benefit the American Diabetes Association and local charities. Presented by the Ventura County Blues Society.
This year’s 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival is headlined by musical living legends: Johnny Rivers and Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds; plus talented national acts guitarist Kenny Neal; keyboardist-vocalist Dona Oxford; Preston Smith and the Crocodiles; and Michael John and the Bottom Line. Special Guest Emcee: Actor/musician, Mickey Jones.
All Access Magazine Publisher Debra Stocker (AAM) recently interviewed festival founder Michael John (MJ) about this year’s event. Here’s how it went.Ventura County Blues Festival

AAM: Are there any new changes or differences between this year’s Festival and last year’s?

MJ: Absolutely, as mentioned in our press release the festival has a new name, new venue and a legendary line up. We have moved our festival to Moorpark College; logistically it made more sense and helped to cut down our costs, with plenty of parking and a larger more comfortable area for our festival. In addition, we are giving back to the college so it really is a “win-win.” We changed the name from the Simi Valley Blues Festival to the Ventura County Blues Festival; we felt it was important to open it up to all of Ventura County and to make sure people know who we are and about. I am the founder of the Ventura County Blues Festival and the founder and President of the Ventura County Blues Society who is now the presenters of the festival. From the beginning our festival has always been a charity event and always will be. Not only will proceeds go back to the college but also to the American Diabetes Association as well as community charities. We also work and have other groups get involved such as the Moorpark Kiwanis to help us out with parking and the Boy Scouts with the trash detail. Everyone who works the festival are volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering please send an email to info@venturacountybluessociety.org and someone will get back to you. There is no question this; our 8th annual will be the biggest and best one so far, still making it family affordable and now having a permanent home and name.

AAM: How did you arrive at the decision to book the great Johnny Rivers as the main headliner for this year’s Festival?

MJ: I have to tell you, this is all because of my very dear friend and Emcee of the festival since its inception, Mickey Jones, Mickey was the original drummer on Johnny Rivers’ hit “Secret Agent Man” and he is still close friends with Johnny to this day.  Mickey is a living legend himself and has played drums for Trini Lopez, Bob Dylan, and ten years of recordings with Kenny Rogers and The First Edition as well as with our headliner Johnny Rivers. These milestones netted him 17 gold and platinum albums. He is best known today as an actor with over 80 films, and over 500 television shows, and more than 500 commercials. Mickey still keeps a very busy schedule but always finds time to do charity work and we are very blessed to have him on our team. He has a book out about his life and career called “That Would Be Me, Rock & Roll Survivor to Hollywood Actor” available at www.mickeyjones.com. Mickey has invited Johnny Rivers to come out to our festival and Johnny has made a guest appearance at the festival in the past and just loved it.  So with the help of Mickey we made this into a reality which really is a pivotal moment for the festival.  Johnny Rivers played Blues his whole life and made the Willie Dixon song “7th Son” one of his many big hits.

AAM: Your Festival is different from many, in that it is extremely family-friendly. Please elaborate on that?

MJ: Our festival is a charity event and always family-friendly. Every year we have a kids area and this year is no different. With the help of the college we will have an area which will have face painting, arts and crafts and many other things for the children to enjoy. Our admission fee is $25.00 in advance and $30.00 at the gate with children under 12 always free. We make it a point to bring something very special to our community while at the same time staying true to our festival motto “Coming Together To Help Others.” Festival tickets are tax deductible and we encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the day while doing something positive for our community.

JOHNNYRIVERS AAM: Let’s discuss some of the other big names playing this year’s Festival such as Savoy Brown and Kenny Neal?
MJ: I am so excited to have Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds, they are flying in from New York to do this show, their only Southern California appearance; and we can’t thank them enough in working with us to make it happen. They have truly made a mark in the music scene with the many hits they have as well. Kenny Neal is the icing on the cake! He is the recipient of multiple awards and is blessing us with his presence. I saw this comment posted online “If you want to experience the “Real Deal,” take time out to find Kenny Neal” so very true. I would also like to make mention of our other acts, Dona Oxford who is the ‘Queen of Boogie Woogie Piano;’ everyone has their opinion about this but there is no question in my mind she has this title, hands down. Every time this lady performs she brings it and April 27th 2013 will be no exception. She is a local gem and I am so glad I can share her with festival fans because I know without a doubt after her performance there will be a line at the artist booth of new fans purchasing her CD and getting an opportunity to meet her. Also, Preston Smith and The Crocodiles. Preston has been on the music scene for many years and has some major accomplishments. He has performed on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and has had many of his songs on movie title tracks as well as commercials; the man is a born entertainer. Preston and his band recently won the Ventura County Blues Society Band Challenge and represented the society at the International Blues Challenge this past January in Memphis.
AAM: As you see it, what is the current state of the live Blues scene in Southern California?

MJ:  I have to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel; things seem to be picking up on the Blues Scene. The Blues Societies are doing their part, Ventura County Blues Society in addition to the festival have a concert series which also get our regional bands involved, the Santa Barbara Blues Society with their ongoing shows, Santa Clarita, LA, So Cal, Orange County are all making contributions to insure the Blues Scene is strong.  Every year we provide all the Blues Societies from California a booth at our festival, we call this ‘Society Row.” It gives them all a chance to meet each other, network and work together to make the blues scene stronger as it’s not a competition, ut rather a brotherhood and a sisterhood which I am very proud to be a part of. There are other groups which are not non-profits however, they too support the blues scene one being Hi-Hat Entertainment – they have great live Blues Shows every Friday at Yolie’s in Ventura. So together,r everyone is doing their part to make the Blues scene stronger.

AAM: Your own band, Michael John and the Bottom Line, has been around for a number of years and met with success in its own right. It also opens the Festival. Thoughts on that?

MJ: Thank you, yes it’s been a long fun ride and will continue for a very long time to come. The opening of the festival has been an annual tradition and I can’t tell you how excited I am that it has reached this point. My guys have been so supportive and we have generated a lot of money for charity from it. We are going to mix it up this year with a few special guests, I have asked guitarist-vocalist Tommy Marsh, local favorite and host of the Ventura County Blues Society Jam on Wednesday nights at the Tavern in Ventura, to play second guitar for our set. He and my son Mikey Mo will be throwing it down. Mikey is branching off and putting his own band together as well which I am very supportive of, he has excelled as a musician and singer and is getting a name for himself in the local scene, I could not be any prouder of him and what he has accomplished. My brother and bass player, Chuck Lee, had decided to move on from the Bottom Line and we brought in Mr. Steve Nelson, he plays stand up and electric bass, also longtime friends Tom T-Bone Broderick on drums, Eddie Z and Jeff Dellisanti on horns This unit will bring it and is the perfect way to kick the festival off. Also, we will have special guests coming up such as top five best self-produced CD recipient Dave Widow, who will perform a couple songs with the Bottom Line; and Mickey Jones, who has sat in with the Bottom Line every year and that, too, is tradition.

AAM: Where do you see the Ventura County Blues Festival progressing to in the next decade?

MJ: I have watched how the festival progressed the last eight years from my back yard to Oak Park to now the beautiful campus of Moorpark College. The Festival name has changed from Write4Hope Blues Festival, (to) Simi Valley Blues Festival and now, the Ventura County Blues Festival. People who live in Ventura County can look at this event as something to be proud of to have in their own community, bringing some culture while at the same time doing something positive.  This year is pivotal for the Ventura County Blues Festival, I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and having a new venue, new name and legendary acts, there will be no turning back. The next ten years I see the festival growing with major artists at the helm throughout the day and the Ventura County Blues Society donating a record amount of money to the American Diabetes Association and other local charities. The Ventura County Blues Festival has become one of the premiere festivals in California and I am so proud to be a part of something so special and to see so many people get behind to support and volunteer.  Come out a join us for a fun day Saturday April 27th www.venturacountyblues.com