The Elam McKnight Band is three years in the making. Elam McKnight had settled into his regional environs of West Tennessee and set up shop after over 12 years of recording and touring nationally and internationally. Using the hub near Memphis he constructed his own Magic Lantern Studio, and aligned himself with management, a publicist, and a booking agent. But he was missing one thing he had the luxury of in Nashville: a band. “I am in a great place personally and artistically but I needed a unit to solidify the sound I was reaching for and I wanted West Tennessee boys to help me get it” says McKnight.
Enter a 62 year old Blues Man with over 45 years of experience playing juke joints and roadhouses all across the region and a rock n roll drummer with a love of 70’s Rock and Blues. After a lifetime of playing the real-deal blues in and around his native stomping grounds of Henderson, Tennessee, Dudley Harris is ready to be heard as bassist, vocalist, and sometimes guitar player for the Elam McKnight Band. He still remembers the inklings of the first sounds he hears “That old juke joint not too far from my house … man, I could hear those bands and hear the bass and the drums coming out of there when I was a little kid and that just struck me. Right then I knew that’s what I wanted to do. And now I’ve been playing them on and off pretty much my whole life.”
Joining Harris, to fill out the Elam McKnight Band rhythm section, is Jackson native and resident Rock n Roller Eddie Phillips. Steeped in the music of the West Tennessee region Phillips also has the distinction of being Carl Perkin’s mail man and playing with him and his sons. “Carl used to teach me so much, not only about music, but he was always so supportive and quick with wise advice about the industry and life in general. He was always filled with such kindness and humility. I was blessed living in a small town with him being a part of my life.”
Elam McKnight is a singer/songwriter from West Tennessee. He is an artist firmly based in the roots of his region. McKnight was surrounded by country, blues, rockabilly, and southern gospel. 70’s rock also dominated the radio airwaves. With family in Memphis he was directly exposed to the Blues in his early teens and immediately made the connection of how all the music of his region was joined. He was later shocked to learn that many early, Blues luminaries, Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williams, had lived 30 minutes from his house. “I come from what many would term America’s Musical Crossroads so to speak. The Blues guys from my area predate many of the ones people call the originators. Music is just everywhere. “ “I used to go down there with my uncle, when I was probably too young to be going down there to begin with, and there would be this old guy, Alabama Red, playing the low down stuff in the gazebo that used to sit at the beginning of Beale. I was hooked immediately. The rest of them would want to go shoot pool or look around and I would say ‘nah you guys go ahead I am gonna sit here a while and listen to Alabama.’” He scared me right off, which I have learned is a sure sign something is good musically, and he’d say “you wanna play this I can tell.” Picking up a guitar at 14 he started, in earnest, to make his own version of these sounds which reverberated in his head and chased him in his dreams. "I would wake up every morning with some song stuck in my head. Still do."
McKnight’s solo debut, 2003’s Braid My Hair, was hailed by critics as a breath of fresh air in the sometimes-stale climate that is predictable “bar band” blues, while his second album, 2005’s The Last Country Store, found a spot on many blues charts internationally and in America. McKnight’s 2007’s Supa Good earned notoriety when the opening track, “Devil Minded Woman,” was voted by fans as the Best Blues Song in the Musician's Atlas sponsored 7th Annual Independent Music Awards. In 2011 McKnight released Zombie Nation with Universal Music Group and his newest musical partner Bob Bogdal. The album featured the exceptional musicianship of Grammy award winning Tom Hambridge. Zombie Nation received immediate critical acclaim for its hell bent insistence and feet planted deeply in a blues groove all the while testing the genre's limits. The album topped many year-end "best of” charts and received radio airplay worldwide. McKnight has toured the US and Europe.
He has opened for or shared billing with many of music's legends, luminaries, and rising stars including Jonny Lang, Little Milton, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, BB King, Ana Popovic, Jimbo Mathus, The North Mississippi Allstars, Bobby Rush, Elvin Bishop, Delbert McClinton, and many others.
The Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival is set for Thursday through Saturday, August 23-25 at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, Kentucky. Discount tickets are available at KenlakeBlues.com
Charities which will benefit from this year's Hot August Blues Festival include The Shriners, who will be operating festival shuttles with all tips and proceeds going to the Shriners' Childrens' Hospitals, and the Knights of Columbus.