COLUMBUS — Columbus Public Library is known for bringing in special speakers, authors and artists to inspire and teach the public.

On Wednesday, the invited guest took listeners on a musical tour of blues history.

As part of his “Shades of Blue” tour, Joey Leone and his band stopped by the local library for a performance.

Between sets ranging from 1940s blues to 1980s jazz fusion, Leone presented a history lesson on the musical style while sharing a bit about his own life.

“See my fingers here?” Leone said. “They’re going to walk up and down the neck of my guitar. And they’re going to talk to you. And tell you some stories. Hopefully they’ll help you feel something, too.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Leone now lives in Vermont where his current band originated. Although he moved to Vermont, Leone took his Brooklyn accent with him.

“I’ve played with Joe Perry from Aerosmith, John Popper and Wilson Pickett — just to name a few," he said. "But the best advice I’d give anyone on how to act around famous people is to pretend they aren’t famous.”

Leone joined his first band in 1970 and formed his own group the next year. Over the years, he said, the notable musicians he was able to work with gave him credibility as an artist.

The current members of his band are drummer Darro “Sparkie” Spencer and Amito Hoshino on bass.

“Amito here is brand new to this country,” Leone said. “He came here a few years ago right from Tokyo and has really proven himself to the band as a phenomenal bass player. As for Sparkie, if you’re going to be a 40-something man and still go by Sparkie, then there must be something wrong with you.”

As the journey through the decades progressed, interesting historical facts were shared with the crowd.

“People think that the blues started in the 1920s,” Leone said. “But that’s not close to being true. The blues music was first recorded in the '20s, but the roots were grown way before then.”

He explained that the creators of the genre were second-generation African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves.

A memory of a certain concert Leone attended in his youth was also incorporated into the concert.

“Back in the day, I went with my dad to see a certain man from Tupelo, Mississippi,” Leone said.

As Leone told his story, he repeated a rockabilly bassline that sounded familiar. The crowd wiggled in their seats as they listened in anticipation.

“The band came out and just played this line,” Leone said. “They didn’t say a word, but the music kept getting louder. It was really building up our anticipation. We were all kind of going crazy. Of course, the person we were waiting on to get to the stage was Elvis Presley.”

In addition to performing music, Leone has dabbled in other aspects of the entertainment industry. He has produced several local and national commercials for Clairol, USA Today, Nickelodeon and Pontiac and also worked with producer Tony Bruno.


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