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Smoky Hill River festival 2010 short Interview after the Jam Session.


Jimmie Lewin & the Kingtones is a powerhouse trio playing a double-dose of Chicago and Texas-style blues. The group features a vast repertoire of blues and blues/rock selections of: Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King, Albert Collins, Freddie King, Lonnie Mack, Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, and many others. Also featured are Jimmie Lewin’s own smoking’ Texas-styled, BBQ’d blues originals. Jimmie’s Stratocaster work is complemented by a rock-solid rhythm section. There is also occasional Hammond organ and piano provided by various keyboard players. You can also find the band at numerous Blues Festivals and other big events!

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Here is an article from the archives of the Salina Journal from August 2009 by Gary DeMuth

Jimmie Lewin and The Kingtones–Playing their own kind of blues

When Jimmie Lewin wants to go to a good place, all he has to do is pick up his guitar and play some blues riffs.
“It takes me out of whatever I’m going through,” he said. “It’s the feeling it makes for you. Next to my family, music is the most important thing to me.”
For more than three decades, Lewin, 60, has been playing blues and rock music in Salina and the surrounding region. For the last 15 years, he’s fronted his own band, Jimmie Lewin and the Kingtones.
The three-piece band also features bassist/vocalist Tom Cannon and drummer Erick Winebrenner, both of Salina.
The band has made a niche in the blues music scene by playing original songs combined with what Cannon called “obscure B-sides” of records by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ronnie Earl, Albert King and B.B. King.
“A lot of B-sides of records were better than the A-sides,” said Cannon, 58. “People haven’t heard them on the radio much, if at all.”
The Kingtones believe their audiences appreciate their eclectic taste in music, Cannon said.
“A lot of people we play for are glad we don’t do ‘Mustang Sally,’ or something like that,” he said. “They’ve heard those songs so much, and they want to enjoy other music.”
The Kingtones have made their reputation flying under the musical radar, building a loyal regional following for their energetic live performances.
“It’s not a mechanical approach,” Cannon said. “We have fun when we play.”
Next stop: Memphis, Tenn.
Their cult obscurity might change soon. On Aug. 2, the band competed with six other blues bands in the Wichita Blues Challenge in the city’s Old Town district.
Last year, The Kingtones took second place. This year they won the competition.
“It feels good to have a little validation,” Lewin said. “It gives us credibility to take the next level up.”
The band’s prize for their victory is a trip to Memphis, Tenn., to participate in the International Blues Challenge in January, an event that will include more than 160 blues bands from around the world.
“In our little blues community, Memphis is a big deal,” Lewin said. “We’ll be playing on Beale Street.”

Taught himself to play
Lewin, who grew up in the Plainville/Stockton area, picked up his first guitar at age 13 and taught himself how to play rock and blues music. Then, at age 17, he stopped playing for the better part of a decade.
After four years in the Navy, Lewin got married and started a family. He began to play again his late 20s, joining regional bands with names like Mod & The Rockers, Rapid Fire and Rollin’ Thunder.
“They were pretty much rock ‘n’ roll and southern rock bands,” Lewin said. “From there, I went right back into playing the blues.”
Lewin formed the first incarnation of The Kingtones in 1994 while living in Stockton.
About 10 years ago, Lewin and his family decided to move to Salina. Lewin said he liked the city and wanted to become involved with Blue Heaven Studio, a former church owned by Salinan Chad Kassem. Kassem had built an international reputation for recording works by legendary and contemporary blues musicians.
Recorded in 1999
Lewin and his band recorded a CD at the studio in 1999. As of now, it’s the only official Kingtones recording, although Lewin said the current band is working on new material for a second CD.
“It’s been 10 years,” he said. “I should have done three more in that time.”
Cannon became bassist for the band about eight years ago. Although he then was playing with a local bluegrass band, Cannon had roots in the blues. While attending Salina High School between 1967 and 1969, he was part of a rhythm & blues band called Disciples of Sound.
Bring on the big boy
Drummer Erick Winebrenner joined the band two years ago at the recommendation of his father Ed, a friend of Cannon’s.
“We were looking for a new drummer, and Ed asked us to try out his son, who he said was a talented drummer but was just playing drums with friends in his garage,” Cannon said. “Jimmie spent time schoolin’ him on the blues, and he had it right from the start.”
At 6-foot 6-inches and 350 pounds, Winebrenner also cuts an imposing figure on stage, Lewin said.
“He’s not only our drummer, he’s our bodyguard,” Lewin said with a laugh.
Winebrenner, at 27, is three decades younger than Lewin and Cannon, but he said he fits in well with the two older musicians.  “They’re veterans, and it’s easy to pick up their cues,” he said. “(Blues) is a natural style of music anyway. You’re able to improvise constantly and feel what you’re playing. It’s a lot more emotional than rock and pop.”
Keep your day job
Although the Kingtones are serious about their music, they’re also realistic. They know they can’t make a serious living playing blues music, especially in Salina, where performance outlets are few and far between, Lewin said.
All three musicians have day jobs: Lewin heads his own local construction company, Cannon has worked in maintenance for 30 years at Salina Regional Health Center, and Winebrenner is a corrections officer at the Saline County Jail.
Lewin said money has never been his motivation for playing in a band. For him, it’s always about the music.
“Music has always been the most important thing to me,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done any of this any other way. I don’t know how to do it any other way.”

{Story By GARY DEMUTH from the Salina Journal 08/13/2009}

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