Special to The Record
Nobody wants to have a blue Christmas.
A blues Christmas? That’s another story.
Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band from Victoria will perform A Tribute to the Blues of Christmas on Nov. 27 at the Sid Williams Theatre.
Although the band, which formed in 1978, gigged all over the Island in its heyday, it hasn’t played in the Comox Valley since the 1980s, band leader and lead singer Hank Lionhart says in an interview from Victoria.
“We used to play up there a ton, at the Mex and Waverley. We did a couple of hall gigs up there; we played with Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band back in the day.”
The band, which was born at the University of Victoria’s Sub Pub, took its cue from Lionhart, who had been in a blues band in his native province of Alberta.
“It wasn’t long into our existence when we started writing original material. We have done mostly original material and we have three albums.
“We did two albums in the early days produced by (Powder Blues Band singer-guitarist) Tom Lavin.”
Buoyed by a contract with RCA, Uncle Wiggly opened for blues legends Muddy Waters, James Cotton and Paul Butterfield as well as Joe Cocker.
Uncle Wiggly, which disbanded in the early ’80s, regrouped in the ’90s and went on one tour a year. They released a new CD this year called Still Burnin it Up.
The Sid Williams Theatre show will be a departure from typical blues material.
“The Christmas show is something that I’ve wanted to do for 30 some-odd years. I just thought it would be a great idea to pay tribute and homage to all the fabulous blues Christmas tunes ‘cause there are so many great Christmas blues tunes that people are unaware of.”
Don’t expect traditional Christmas carols.
“I decided it would be pretty cool to have a show that was all Christmas music, but obscure – and some not so obscure – but all tunes by blues artists.”
Lionhart did his homework.
“I did some research and I selected about 22 really cool tunes and we wrote a couple of originals for it as well.
“The tunes are mainly from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ‘50s and ’60s. There are some swing tunes by Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner; there’s some B.B. King, Eric Clapton, some Koko Taylor, Etta James…”
Uncle Wiggly played the show last year to 380 people at the Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria. After performing it in Courtenay, Sidney, Gibsons, Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo and Vancouver, the seven-stop 2015 tour will end Dec. 20 at the Alix Goolden.
The Vancouver date is at Blue Frog Studios, described by Lionhart as “in-studio theatre, which is very like an Austin City Limits thing, and they’re going to tape a full show.”
Lionhart hopes that will become an Uncle Wiggly live CD.
“The single biggest comment we get after the shows, and we’ve had standing ovations at most of them … they say it’s the most refreshing Christmas show they’ve ever seen.”
By the way, in case you’re wondering, the band’s name comes from a 1950s children’s book that featured a rabbit named Uncle Wiggly Long Ears.
Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band performs Nov. 27 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay as part of the Sid’s Blue Circle Series. For details and tickets, phone 250-338-2430 or visit the Sid box office at 442 Cliffe Ave.