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Smokin’ blues

Sonny Rhodes a performer and competitor at this year’s BBQ bash

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By Lindsay Mackenzie

Who: Sonny Rhodes

What: Canadian National BBQ Championships

Where: Dusty’s

When: Saturday, July 31

Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door

You’d think after having his van – full of instruments, clothing and personal possessions – burnt to a crisp not once, but twice, blues legend Sonny Rhodes would be a little wary of smoke and fire.

Not so, apparently. The Texas-based slide-guitarist will not only be playing during this year’s Canadian National BBQ Championships, he’ll be competing in them.

Turns out 64-year old Rhodes hasn’t let much daunt him in life. Born in Smithville, Texas, in 1940 to a family of sharecroppers, Rhodes got his first guitar for Christmas when he was eight years old. He started playing ‘seriously’ when he was 12.

He soon realized that the cotton fields weren’t for him, so he used his guitar playing skills, along with a little inspiration from influences such as T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King to get ahead.

"I was working the cotton fields all week as a kid and I was only getting 50 cents a day. I realized that I could make way more money than that in about 15 minutes playing on the street corner," Rhodes says on his Web site.

The rest, as they say, is history.

One of only a few blues players playing the lap-steel guitar, Rhodes has over 200 recorded songs and nine albums under his belt. He tours the U.S., Canada and Europe frequently, often playing more than 250 dates per year.

He’ll arrive in Whistler after a short tour in Italy, including a stop at the Bologna Blues Festival.

The scribes at the All Music Guide describe Rhodes as being "so full of musical ideas that he is destined to inherit the seats left open by the untimely passing of blues greats like Albert King and Albert Collins."

A self-proclaimed "disciple of the blues," Rhodes and his steel guitar will testify to the Whistler congregation at the Canadian National BBQ Championships’ Saturday Night Pig Jig. He’ll be instantly recognizable should he choose to wear his trademark turban and bright red suit – appropriate attire for a blues disciple on a mission from God.

Tickets to the event are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information call Dusty’s at 604-905-2171.

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