Charlie Musselwhite will perform at the fourth First Winter Blast | ParkRecord.com
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Charlie Musselwhite will perform at the fourth First Winter Blast

Four years ago, the Egyptian Theatre debuted the First Winter Blast.

Attendees dressed in white and silver, danced to the music of Sin City Soul and enjoyed food and libations catered by the Montage Deer Valley.

Unlike other annual galas, the First Winter Blast is more of a party than a fundraiser for the Egyptian Theatre.

"We didn’t want this to be a stuffy fundraiser," explained theater manager Randy Barton. "It’s just a bash. This is a knock-down, exhaust-yourself, fun evening with all the trimmings."

This year’s First Winter Blast, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Montage Deer Valley, will feature a five-course dinner, an open bar and a silent auction.

"It’s just a small silent auction so there aren’t a lot of items," Barton said. "But there are high-end items such as packages for stays at local, five-star hotels, dining, golf and activities."

Throughout the years, the event has featured such artists as Melissa Manchester and the Lowrider Band.

This year’s music will be performed by Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite.

Barton, who founded Mountain Town Stages, which eventually became Mountain Town Music, a nonprofit that produces concerts throughout the county during the summer, said booking Musselwhite was a dream come true.

"I had been trying to get Charlie for years, and this was one of those moments when it all worked out," Barton said. "His timing and our timing came together. Also since the First Winter Blast is a high-end event, we are able to pay him pretty well. So to have him play for 200 people dressed in white and silver is a coup.

"He’s up there in the Top 5 of the nation’s blues players in my opinion," Barton said. "He’s played with everyone but he, himself, has that San Francisco blues element nailed."

Musselwhite said he was looking forward to his return to Park City.

"I haven’t been to Park City for years," the blues musician said during a phone call to The Park Record. "I used to play there at some bar. I don’t remember the name, but it was back in the 1980s."

The show at the Montage will feature a collection of old and new songs, Musselwhite promised.

"The performances are always a surprise," he laughed. "I do get a lot of requests and I like to fulfill those if I can, and we always have new tunes coming a long, so we want to play some of those, too."

Regardless of the material, Musselwhite’s main goal is to enjoy himself.

"We like to have fun," he said. "If the band is having fun on stage, then the audience can’t help but have fun."

The other goal is to make the sets interesting.

"We know we can’t sit down and play what everyone wants to hear, so we might as well play songs we enjoy," he said with another laugh. "That way, at least somebody’s going to like it."

Musselwhite picked up the harmonica when he was a kid living in Memphis, Tennessee.

"I always liked the sound of the harmonica and there’s really nothing else like it," he said. "There was always one laying around and I was familiar with how it worked. You just blow and draw. It’s more like a toy."

Musselwhite also learned to play the guitar, and a move to Chicago changed his life.

"When I got there, I was playing guitar and harmonica and there were a ton of guitarists, but not a lot of harmonica players," he said. "When people found I played and they liked what I was doing, I started getting offers for gigs."

Musselwhite liked playing, but didn’t consider music as a fulltime job.

"I just loved the music and that’s why I played, but once they started offering me money, that really did get me focused," he chuckled.

Throughout his 45-year career, he has played with James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Tom Waits, Kim Wilson and more recently, Ben Harper and Cyndi Lauper. All of those projects has helped him leave his mark on blues music.

He has 28 Blues Music Awards, formerly known as the W.C. Handy Awards, a Grammy Award for his work with Ben Harper on the 2011 album "Get Up!" and many nominations.

Musselwhite is also a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker Honoree, to name a few.

"I think getting a Grammy was a high point, because you are voted on by your peers. It’s not like a popularity contest," Musselwhite said. "So if people in the business are voting for you, that’s pretty prestigious."

The Blues Music Awards are other accolades are close to his heart.

"These are held in Memphis and those have special meanings to me to get something like that where I was raised," Musselwhite said. "I remember those streets and all those guys I learned from who were singing on the corners and talking to me about the recording sessions they were involved in."

Still, the recognition is just a byproduct of his passion.

"If none of those awards ever happened, I would still be playing and doing what I do," Musselwhite said. "I appreciate [the recognition]," he said. "They were all surprises and I’m glad people like what I do. If I worked down at a factory or something like that, I would still be playing music. I was just lucky to have a career in it."

Barton said he purposely selected Nov. 1 for the Big Winter Blast.

"When we talked to Montage to host it, we asked if we could specifically get that night because it’s the night we turn the clocks back and we all get an extra hour to celebrate," he said. "This is also the perfect time of the year to think about snow and our winter season. Although this is the fourth time we’ve done this, we still call it the First Winter Blast, because what the name means is the first big party of the winter."

The Egyptian Theatre’s First Winter Blast will be held Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Montage Deer Valley. The party will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $250 per person. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.


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