Joel Da Silva came to blues in the Chicago bars he worked in as a teenage bar-back. That’s where he bumped into legends including Junior Wells, Magic Slim, A.C. Reed and Rod Piazza. Well, he didn’t just “bump” into the them; he would pick them up at the airport and deliver them to their hotel.
“Or I would get them barbeque or whatever they wanted,” said Da Silva.
The stories and advice he got in return were more than payback.
“They would see me playing my guitar in the back (of the bar),” said Da Silva. “They would show me how they did their things, and little advice they would give. I had a conversation with A.C. Reed on the club he wanted to open. Magic Slim let me sit in. Junior Wells … his stories were amazing. That was a very fortunate time in my life to learn from them first-hand.”
Distilling the advice received or solicited from these legends, Da Silva said perseverance was the common thread. That it was important to keep going, even when the energy tank is empty.
“I remember Ronnie Earl telling me when I first started, ‘If there’s anything free, you take it,’” laughed Da Silva before turning more serious. “He said, ‘Never stop playing, and never give up.’ I also toured with Grady Champion. He said, ‘Play like there’s a million people in the audience, even if there’s only one or two. Because you never know whose soul you will touch.’”
The Rockford-born guitarist/vocalist/songwriter has himself now touched thousands of fans under a number of monikers, including as a solo artist and Joel Da Silva and the Midnight Howl. In earlier years, he was part of the funky, surf-rock outfit The Hep Cat Boo Daddies. That eclectic mix of blues, rock, R&B, and rockabilly is his comfort zone.
“To me, it’s all blues,” said Da Silva. “Just like Muddy Waters used to say, ‘Blues is my roots.’ To me, it’s all blues.”
Da Silva said he's seeing more and more young people attracted to the music that has borne fruit as rock and roll, R&B and nearly all forms of American music.
“The Blues Foundation (in Memphis) has helped a lot with that. There are blues camps everywhere. We just did two festivals in Canada. Both instances we have had a younger band perform before us or be involved in the festival in some way. So the youth movement is so much stronger than it was before,” said Da Silva.
He then recalled a tour with the Hep Cat Boo Daddies when they opened for B.B. King. Though he was now a touring veteran himself, Da Silva said he still learns from legends.
“After every show, it doesn’t matter how many people wanted to meet B.B. King, there could be a line out the door for an hour or two, he took his time and talked to everybody and signed whatever they wanted. He was so nice. It just goes to show that it’s YOU GUYS that are making the difference to us,” said Da Silva.
Da Silva makes two central Illinois appearances this week. He plays Pop’s Place in Decatur July 16 and The Alamo in Springfield July 17 before traveling to Chicago to play Buddy Guy’s Legends on July 18.
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