L to R: Willie Scandlyn (rhythm guitar), Arthur Neilson (guitar), Shemekia Copeland (vocals),
Morris Roberts (drums), Kevin Jenkins (bass)
Arthur Neilson,- Guitar
Arthur Neilson born and raised in New York City, taught himself to play guitar on an electric Teisco Del Rey at age fifteen. After purchasing a Harmony acoustic, he honed his folk repertoire and finger picking skills. Then, one night, he heard Albert King. Arthur got goosebumps from his head to his toes, and has been hooked on the blues ever since. Arthur developed his dynamic guitar style by playing along with every blues record that he could find.
With a longing to play the blues, but unable to find the right situation, Arthur worked in rock & roll bands (he also loves Chuck Berry). Then, in the early seventies, he responded to an ad in the Village Voice, seeking a blues guitarist. He then formed the “A Train Blues Band” with Felix Cabrera. This propelled him into the burgeoning New York blues scene, which gave Arthur the opportunity to back up the late Victoria Spivey and jam with James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin.
In 1979, Arthur caught the attention of the band Blue Angel with his rootsy, aggressive guitar playing. After joining Blue Angel, they recorded an album for Polydor, which garnered much critical acclaim. Cyndi Lauper was the lead singer of the band.
In the eighties and through the nineties, Arthur’s phone was always ringing, as his guitar work was in much demand. Not only was he playing the blues, but rock & roll, rockabilly, and country too. In fact, at one point, he was gigging in seven bands, including “Oxford Blues”, “Kid Java”, “Felix and The Havanas” and “The Guitar Guys from Hell”.
Some memorable moments were working with guitar great, Otis Rush, as well as Ronnie Spector, Benny Mardones and The Commitments.
Arthur was schooled in New York City bars and clubs, such as Dan Lynch Blues Bar, Lone Star Cafe, Manny’s Car Wash and Tramps. This has led to sharing the stage with many of his influences, most notably B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton, and Albert King, who upon hearing Arthur said, “That boy sure can play!”
In 1998, Shemekia Copeland found Arthur to be the guitar player that she was looking for to complete her touring band. Arthur has been performing with her across the globe and can be heard on her latest record, “Wicked”.
Recently, Popa Chubby asked Arthur to be part of his New York City Blues record. Arthur contributed four of his songs, including the track “Fenderbender” which showcases his intense fretwork.
Willie Scandlyn – Rhythm Guitar
Originally from San Diego, California, Willie now resides in Portland, Oregon. He started playing guitar at age 14, and began playing in working bands at age 15. Willie recalls, “My love of music came from my grandfather, who would take me to Southern Baptist churches during my summer visits, experiencing black gospel music. I then heard Mississippi John Hurt on a local LA folk FM station, and was hooked on the blues!”
In the early 80’s, Willie began working with one of the Coaster’s groups on the west coast, where he met Terry Evans. He has now been working and recording with Terry for over 20 years. This association afforded Willie the opportunity to record with Ry Cooder on Puttin’ It Down, one of Terry’s releases.
Willie’s main guitar influences are Albert Collins, Albert King, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, and Mike Bloomfield, to name a few. And Willie adds, “One of my new favorite guitarists is Arthur Neilson!”
Kevin Jenkins – Bass Guitar
Originally from Boston MA, Kevin moved to New York City while still a teenager to pursue his dream of being a professional musician.
Kevin has worked with Cyndi Lauper, Taylor Dayne, Roberta Flack, Maxwell, Enrique Iglesias, Alana Davis and numerous other New York city singer/songwriters. He toured extensively with all the above and recorded with Cyndi, Taylor, Maxwell, Black 47, and Holly Palmer.
Kevin has appear with some of the artists noted above on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Johnny Carson, The American Music Awards, The Late Show with David Letterman, Soul Train, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and numerous other specials and awards shows.
Morris Roberts – Drums
Mo Roberts’ focused and “in-the-pocket” drumming has firmly established him in New York City’s music scene, and he is looking forward to drumming around the world in 2012 with Shemekia.
Mo’s 25 years of professional drumming feature a variety of styles and musical performances. His most recent recording and performance credits include work with Sony (Red) artist and producer Tomas Doncker, Columbia Records songstress Nikki Jean, singer Heather Powell, the Tangiers Blues Band, and international performance artist Marla Mase. He has also recorded with the Mark Pender Band (Conan O’Brien show), trombonist Clark Gayton (Bruce Springsteen/Levon Helm), and Octone Records artist Michael Tolcher and has performed live with The Mike Longo Big Band and Paul Shapiro’s Ribs and Brisket Revue.
Before joining Shemekia, his work included the Big Apple Circus, the Meridian Arts Ensemble, singer Freddie Jackson, the Boy’s Choir of Harlem, and the award-winning children’s music group Hot Peas and Butter. He also toured with Jennifer Holiday (“Dreamgirls”) and performed onstage in the bands for Broadway’s “Smokey Joe’s Café” and the off-Broadway hit “Altar Boyz.” Prior to his Broadway performances, he toured worldwide with reggae artists The Toasters, Papa Jube, Freddie McGregor, and Capleton.
Originally from Carbondale, IL, he studied with John Kasica from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and then attended the Berklee College of Music. His percussion studies continued in New York with jazz legend Peter Erskine, famed studio drummer Gary Chester, and Chris Lamb of the New York Philharmonic.