Hot August Blues at KenLake, Kentucky by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 9/07/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Wayne Russell heads into the Kenlake Hotel

(Memphis, Tennessee) On August 29, the Reba Russell Band traveled three and a half hours north across the Tennessee border to beautiful Kentucky Lake for the Hot August Blues Festival. The stage is literally perched a few feet from Kentucky Lake and the large outdoor amphitheater faces the lake. Lots of folks float in behind the stage and come to listen to the music in a wide assortment of boats and watercraft. This unique setting and the wonderful folks in Kentucky make this festival a rare pleasure.

Checking in to the Kenlake Hotel, we were all impressed with the wide variety of wildflowers that adorn the grounds of the hotel and resort and the lovely views from the restaurant and back patio. This is a beautiful getaway spot but do not forget that it is a dry county (this means no alcohol sales for you that have never experienced this phenomenon)so be prepared for that eventuality before you get there.

Sweet resort

The weather was beautiful as we rolled down to the stage a bit before sundown, just in time to watch the
Leonard Small Situation, a groovy Hammond B-3 driven jazz band.

Leonard Small(a/k/a Kyle Lehning) on organ, Dr. Sax (Ralph Thomas) on tenor, alto, and soprano sax, Sweet Tea (Casey Wood) on drums.

The stage hands greeted us warmly and helped us move our piles of gear to the stage. I regret that I did not get some beard-growing tips from these guys as you can see from the photos above some of them sport some real Rip Van Winkles...impressive indeed.

The lake view behind the stage was loaded with boats, barges, houseboats, ski-doos and the occasional floating water-winged dog and owner.

Wayne Russel tunes the Fender bass before a stentorian romp on the stage

Festooned in front of a wall of watercraft, Doug McMinn sharpens his sticks before the gig

Josh Roberts tunes up and then starts off the show with some dynamite slide guitar playing as Reba looks on, digging it the most. As the sun sinks slowly in the Kentucky sky, the blues fans pile in to the big auditorium for a long summer evening of electric blues.

As temperatures cool a bit after the sun sets, this wonderful crowd of blues fans hit the big dance area in front of the stage... and the band played on!

Well dressed soul singer Reba Russell belts one out for an enthusiastic crowd

Doug McMinn

Josh Roberts

After we retreated to the big sales tent at the top of the hill, we sold Cd's and those of us who can write even signed a bunch of them. The kind folks at the Hot August Blues Festival bought every CD we had to sell and I want to apologize to the folks who stood in line that did not get a cd. They are available at and I promise when we come back next time I will bring a ton more, maybe a U-haul or two full of them. We are genuinely humbled and touched at the kind reception and enthusiastic response that you fine folks gave to us and we look forward to having a chance to come back for more dancing and hollering as soon as possible.

We arose the next morning wishing we could linger a while longer, and headed back to our home base, Memphis, Tennessee. Kentucky Lake, Lake Barclay and the Land Between the Lakes are really outstanding works of art by Mother Nature and I strongly encourage you to visit this beautiful part of the world. The folks are very friendly and at the festival they even offer the rare and elusive fried gator on a stick, a favorite of my colleague Terry Lape.

More information about the Kenlake State Resort Park here:

©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms


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