Remembering the ‘Pearl’ of the blues

Vernon singer Cathy-Ann Wells is back in town and is performing as Janis Joplin in a tribute that is part of the Vernon Winter Carnival Blues Festival, Saturday, Feb. 9. - submitted
Vernon singer Cathy-Ann Wells is back in town and is performing as Janis Joplin in a tribute that is part of the Vernon Winter Carnival Blues Festival, Saturday, Feb. 9.
— image credit: submitted

On Jan. 19, one of the greatest blues revivalist singers of her time, Janis Joplin, would have been 70 years old.

Gone at the tender age of 27 from a drug overdose, Joplin was and is still known as the queen of rock and psychedelic soul. From Piece of My Heart, with her band Big Brother and the Holding Company, to Cry Baby, Mercedes Benz and Me and Bobby McGee, off her seminal Pearl album, Joplin could belt out a song like no other.

Vernon’s Cathy-Ann Wells would be the first to agree on Joplin’s influence, felt today through female singers such as Melissa Etheridge, Joss Stone and Bonnie Raitt to name a few.

In fact, Wells channels Joplin through her tribute act, Just About Janis.

A cruise-ship performer, who has been sailing the seas the past few years and is about to head out again on the brand new Norwegian Breakaway from New York City, Wells is now back in town to not only organize this year’s fourth annual Vernon Winter Carnival Blues Festival, taking place Saturday at the Vernon Recreation Centre, she will be donning her best boa and bell bottoms to perform as Joplin at the event.

“This is a must-see show for any fans of Janis, psychedelic blues, or the ‘60s,” said Wells, adding the other festival performers should appeal to all music tastes. “The lineup of talent keeps getting better each year and 2013 is no different... With all this great music we will be needing a very large dance floor and one offered up at the Vernon Rec Centre is the largest in town, so be sure to wear your dancing shoes.”

Wells realized her talent to impersonate Joplin by accident.

It was while pursuing her career as a vocalist that she assembled a troupe of 10 entertainers and produced Dem Crazy Blues, a dinner theatre paying tribute to the female blues artists of the past century. In the show, Wells played Joplin to a T, and since then has been asked time and again to “do Janis.”

Wells now thrills crowds with her gut wrenching renditions of Ball and Chain, Summertime, Mercedes Benz, Another Piece of my Heart, Me and Bobby McGee, among other Joplin favourites. Making the performance even more appealing, Wells has paid attention to every detail from costumes to moves and mannerisms.

Even before impersonating Joplin, Wells was no stranger to the stage. Since moving to the Okanagan from Toronto more than two decades ago, she has made a name for herself as both a jazz and blues singer, performing with just about every recognized musician in the valley and beyond.

She is best known for her powerhouse vocals in blues band PHAT Betty, and has opened for the likes of ZZ Top, Crash Test Dummies, Trooper, Jeff Healey, Doug and the Slugs and others.

Along with Wells’ Just About Janis tribute,  other acts taking the stage at the Winter Carnival Blues Festival are Vernon blues guitar aficionado Les Copeland and his band, Vancouver’s Harpdog Brown and Yukon Slim, and Kelowna’s Half a Quorum. Closing the show is The Groove Machine, an eight-piece R&B and funk band.

“We have added even more vendors to this year’s mini festival, including food booths and artisans, and we’ve added a toonie table this year where you can purchase pizza, buttered popcorn, water and soft drinks all for only $2 each,” said Wells.

Doors to the Rec Centre auditorium open Saturday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. and music begins at 6:30 p.m. and goes until 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $28, available at the Vernon Winter Carnival office and the East Side Liquor Co. You can also reserve them online at www.vernonwintercarnival.com or over the phone at 250-545-2236.



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