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Ellen McIlwaine

Category : Calgary Bluesfest, Midwinter Bluesfest, Women In Blues
Oct 1, 2020 at 9:22 PM MDT

Ellen McIlwaine headlines Midwinter Bluesfest 2019 at Gasoline Alley at Heritage Park.


Ellen McIlwaine was born in Tennessee and moved with adoptive missionary parents to Japan when she was only two. Exposed to everything from Japanese Folk and Classical Music, American Rhythm & Blues greats like Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair on Japanese radio, as well as the Grand Ole Opry and European Classical Music on American Armed Forces Radio, while growing up in an International Community of families from India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, she was playing "World Music" before it was called World Music!

After starting out on Acoustic Guitar in Atlanta Georgia while attending Art School, she moved to Greenwich Village in 1966, opening for many Blues Greats, and getting to know Odetta, Richie Havens, Mississippi John Hurt & Jimi Hendrix to name but a few. Moving to Woodstock NY in1968 and recording Fear Itself with her group of the same name, but going solo again in 1970, She gained cult status through her two Polydor albums "Honky Tonk Angel" 1972 and "We the People" 1973. These were followed by "The Guitar Album", a compilation of all the guitar players on Polydor in 1974: Link Wray, Rory Gallagher, John McLaughlin, Roy Buchannan et al. Ellen was the only female player.

Her career has soared since then with multiple international accolades.


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