Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
One of the magical things about living along the Emerald Coast is you just never know who you are going to meet. However, the real thrill comes when you get to hear something special.
December 11th at the Buddha Lounge in Blue Mountain was one of those thrills. Against deep red walls and trays of sushi, Chris Simmons sat in with a group of seasoned local musicians unleashing guitar driven blues for our listening pleasure.
Chris Simmons might not be a household name but he has shared the stage with the likes of Elton John and just completed a five year touring stint with the legendary Leon Russell.
With plans to release a new record this Spring tentatively named ‘Chris Simmons and the Royal Blues’ and a potential global tour behind it, Simmons is putting in the road hours needed to get noticed by blues fans everywhere.
“If you listen to the first record and the second record, you can tell that the first record is really straight up blues. Then, the second record is mostly blues with others flavors. I think the next record still will be blues, with a few extra things in there. I just want to try different things, I don’t want to necessarily be ‘just’ a blues artist,” explains Simmons.
He lists one of his biggest influences as Eric Clapton. Citing the way Clapton moves from genre to genre with each album release, never pigeon-hold to a singular musical identity.
In a career dotted with astounding people and milestones that most artists would be envious of, it was Simmons’ time with Russell that has left the biggest impact. “It took a while to realize that I was actually playing with Leon Russell,” states Simmons. “It was a big deal to be a part of. I got to be a part of it for five years. It was a real thrill to be able to play with him.”
Simmons came away from his time with Russell with more than just fond memories, he was gifted a red guitar that has quite a history of it’s own. Originally owned by Freddie King, then given to Russell, and now in Simmons’ capable hands.
“I felt super honored that he asked me if I wanted it, that he offered to give it to me,” says Simmons of the gift from Russell. “I got to play it with him for four years; he gave it to me after I’d been with him for about an year. It’s real special to have been played by Freddie, owned by Leon, and then given to me.”
Simmons has even given thought of how to continue the guitar’s tradition, “Maybe if my son wants to play guitar when he gets older, I’ll get to give it to him. But if he doesn’t, then maybe I’ll drop it at the Hall of Fame or give it to someone else down the road.”
He places an importance on connecting with concert goers, something Simmons says he wished he understood earlier in his career. “I learned that any person you meet that might enjoy listening to your music are just as important to your career and your success as any music executive, lawyer, or manager who is in the music business. It is fans, people who buy CDs and go to venues, who make what I do possible.”
Praising both the musicians he shared the stage with at Buddha Lounge and the audience, he called the night, “A treat, an honor, and a lot of fun. I hope to be able to do that regularly through the rest of my career. Just meet new guys and play music.”
Simmons hopes to return to the area with his full band in the early Summer.
See more photos of the night on my Facebook.