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Feb. 12, 2004 – Three stateside blues bands that are familiar to fans in the Virgin Islands will take to the stage in the Port of $ale Mall parking lot on Sunday for a Presidents Day Jam that organizers hope will become an annual event.
Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers, Deborah Coleman and the Thrillseekers and "Queen of Boogie Woogie" Wendy DeWitt will perform between 6 and 10 p.m.
And, Rich Karecki, manager of the sponsoring Offshore Bar and Cyber Café, says there'll be an afterparty in the bar with music by the Jeff Miniweather Trio.
Thackery has been playing professionally for three decades and doing so in the Virgin Islands for two. His music blends blues/rock, urban blues, acoustic blues and "a splash of contemporary zydeco," according to a biography.
In 1972, he and harmonica player Mark Wenner formed the Nighthawks, which became one of the most popular blues groups in the country; he stayed with the group 'til 1987. His first album with the Drivers, the 1992 "Empty Arms Motel," wowed critics and became one of the top blues titles of the year. Their latest, "True Stories," came out last spring. Thackery says his idea of a good audience is one that's on its feet dancing.
Coleman, a Virginia-based guitarist, songwriter and leader singer in her band, has been nominated a number of times for W.C. Handy Awards — the Grammys of the blues biz — and is up again this year for Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year. In 2001, she won the Orville Gibson Award for Best Female Blues Guitarist, presented by the Gibson Guitar people.
Her voice, mostly low in register, ranges from gritty growl to husky smile to a sweetness that's both smoked and honey-cured. Her most recent CD, "Soul Be It!", is her first one recorded live, in 2002 at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, Calif.
DeWitt is a San Francisco Bay Area singer/piano player/songwriter into "deep blues and boogie" who has previously toured in the Virgin Islands. According to a fan who has a Web site devoted to her, she "is a melodic miracle worker — from blues to rock and roll and back to boogie woogie, those magic fingers blur like hummingbird wings and move the most jaded of souls to sweet appreciation."
She has six albums in release, the most recent a traditional-style boogie/blues CD featuring songs by her favorite influences as well as her own writing.
Charlie Campbell on St. Croix is bringing the artists to the territory for both Sunday's jam and the return of his once-annual St. Croix Blues and Heritage Festival, which is set for Saturday right next door to the annual Agriculture and Food Fair.
Food and beverages will be sold at the Port of $ale concert, he said, and the audience accommodation format calls for "festival seating," which means "bring lawn chairs or a blanket."
There will be three outdoor bars, Karecki added, and Harbor Club will be open and serving Cajun/Creole food.
"We're talking about trying to make the jam an annual event," Karecki said. "Some bands come down every year, and we're talking about this being the 'first annual.' I'm definitely taking notes and trying to get everything down to where it can happen."
Noting that his predecessor at Offshore had put together a couple of concerts in the parking lot, Karecki added: "This is probably one of the few venues on the island that can have an event like this."
Admission to the Presidents Day Jam is $15, with youngsters under the age of 12 admitted free, Karecki said. Tickets may be purchased in advance at GNC Endurance Sports at Port of $ale Mall, Modern Music in Nisky Center, and Burrito Bay Deli in American Yacht Harbor. They'll also be sold on site Sunday afternoon. Gates open at 5 p.m.
By arrangement with The West Indian Co., parking will be available in Havensight Mall, Karecki said.
He also said DeWitt will be performing around the island for the remainder of the month, including bookings at the Offshore Bar for 9 p.m. shows (with no cover) on Feb. 17 and 28.

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