"The new album
is a terrific recording with an eclectic mix of songs performed
on vintage cigar box guitars, dobros, acoustics... as a
one-man-band. In a Spartan setting, you get an intimate ambiance
marvel of a single artist controlling the rhythm, chordal, and
melodic statement, all with one heartbeat... you've gotta love
Vintage instruments are his specialty!
of Sweet Willie and the Tea Bones:
Song Samples from the demo
(not the final CD):
"This is the brace U of M-Ann Arbor Hospital designed that I used till God gave
me back my hand"
shared the stage with acts as diverse as Styx, Ten Years After, Canned Heat,
Roger Miller, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Larry McCray, Steven Page (Bare Naked
Ladies), and many, many more. He has performed at venues from Key West to
Canada. Whether on Delta-style bottleneck slide steel, 6 and 12-string acoustic,
cigar box, diddly bow, or electric guitars, ukulele, harmonica, or keyboards,
either solo as a “one-man-band” or as "Sweet Willie and the Tea Bones", his
shows are guaranteed crowd pleasers.
Willie's roots are in the hills of northern lower Michigan, home to Amish
communities and farmers who migrated to the city for jobs at the new
horseless-carriage factories early in the 20th century. Willie's grandparents settled
in that icon of
today's great depression: Flint, Michigan.
Sweet Willie and the
He began playing guitar as a teenager and in the 1980's released one
record with the punk rock band "Toll".
In the 90's he had a commercial success as front man for the blues/rock
show band "Cidy Zoo". Their "Something for Everyone" release, included the
single "Talk Louder", the classical crossover instrumental "25 Strings", and the
popular "Buick City Blues". All three received airplay. "Talk Louder" eventually
charted at #15 on the AAA charts. After that success, the band went on hiatus
for several years and Willie found other work as an artist
and actor. Cidy Zoo
eventually released a new single titled "Waitin' On You".
Then an accident left Willie's left
Sweet Willie Tea ~
Delta Blues man!
Though he never missed a performance date, Willie depended on a brace to hold his fingers in place on the guitar as he learned to
play the piano and harmonica. After a long year as a one-handed musician his arm
slowly began to mend and Willie was able to "relearn" how to handle the guitar. That
sobering year of uncertainty inspired Willie to "never take a moment of life or
music for granted".
He decided to focus exclusively on
recording and playing the blues.
In 2009, a chance meeting in the Key West airport with a musician/luthier who had
two "cigar box" guitars led to Willie's discovery of a musical genre
he'd never explored. It opened up the gates to the simple, hypnotic melodies of
early American music and it's primitive instruments.
He had found his musical
at the London International BluesFest
To recreate the tradition of the original blues minstrels of early America, Willie began
performing as a "one-man-band" in the style of his inspiration and
fellow Flint resident the late "Dr. (Isaiah) Ross: The Harmonica Boss". Willie
uses vintage instruments like the diddly-bow, cigar box guitar, and dobro while singing and accompanying
himself on percussion and the Mississippi saxophone (harmonica). That format allowed him the freedom to
experiment in ways that were not possible in the more traditional blues/rock
The unexpected popularity of the home-made demo of his unique
one-man-band style, brought him back to the studio to complete his
album of original and traditional "Americana" music.
Willie says, "You can help me by please buying a copy of the CD, even if you
already have a copy of the demo. Then I can get out to more venues; get to places to offer the
music to new fans, and keep this kind of authentic American music alive."
You liked the
demo? Well the new record sees some songs re-recorded, all newly mastered, and is a great improvement over
hastily recorded demo. It's a better recording and
original songs, and re-creations and re-interpretations of some of the the
greatest blues and Americana music.
at the Windsor Blues Festival
While he still performs with the band "Cidy Zoo"
and with "The Tea Bones", Sweet Willie
can most often be found performing traditional blues and original songs as a
"one-man-band". Willie's shows feature historical facts about the instruments
including turn-of-the-century cigar box guitars, dobros, diddly bows, a variety
of other acoustic guitars, plus harmonica and, of course, his unique
Click here to listen
to a rough take of 10 Seconds More:
Tea, the blues educator!
Willie's custom-made 3-String Cigar Box guitar. and yes
it's really made from a cigar box and it is a smokin'
Schools Supporting Educational Outreach
Willie can also perform an "educational" blues review show featuring selections
performed in chronological order and accompanied with facts and trivia about the
artists and their material. It begins with pieces performed on vintage
instruments starting with the earliest recordings of Robert Johnson and Jimmie
Rodgers, classics by Sonny Boy Williamson, Rufus Thomas, and Tin Pan singers like
Fats Waller. The show moves on to the transitional Chicago Blues of Muddy Waters
and Albert King, country blues from the likes of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson,
continuing through the Memphis sounds of B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown,
and ending with the blues derivative sounds of artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan
and contemporary Detroit style blues artists such as Larry McCray, with Willie's
own style and material poured into the mix.
With an extensive background in Second City style improv theatre as both a
director and performer, Willie brings lots of audience participation, good
humor, and energy to engagements as he plays homage in his own way to the roots
of American music.
Offering 30 minute, 45 minute, 1 hour and 2 hour sets as well as being able to
provide an entire evening's entertainment in a club or special occasion setting,
Willie's shows are "scalable" for any size venue. He has opened for national
acts as well as worked in the smallest clubs and on street corners. He provides
his own complete sound and light support and technicians (if needed) for venues
up to 1,000 persons indoors or outdoors, or provides only back line gear and
works with your "front of house" crew.
about booking Cidy Zoo or Sweet Willie Tea, please call: