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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2008

Shirley King headlines Toledo Blues Festival

Shirley King, daughter of blues great B.B. King, will sing at the
Toledo Blues Festival Saturday.
Shirley King, daughter of blues great B.B. King, will sing at the Toledo Blues Festival Saturday.

Shirley King doesn t just sing the blues. She moves to the music like a tiger chasing down a gazelle.

People typically stand on stage doing their thing and here I come, shaking and showing it to them, she said. I shake a mean hip. I believe in putting everything I can into it.

The daughter of blues legend B.B. King, Shirley King will headline Saturday s lineup at the Toledo Blues Festival, which will be held tomorrow through Sunday in Festival Park along the Maumee River.

King, 58, of Chicago, has been singing the blues for the last 12 years and before that made a living for two decades as a dancer.

I didn t work bars, nothing like that, only shows, she said in an interview this week. I danced at African-American social clubs. It s the black people s way of having their own party. They don t just have a band but they have singers and dancers, too, just like in the 1940s and 50s.

Gene Parker will perform at the festival Saturday.
Gene Parker will perform at the festival Saturday.

The energetic, entertaining King said that she was wearing herself out after 21 years as a dancer and was ready for a change.

I had outgrown that and I knew I couldn t go to the places as a dancer that I could as a singer, she said.

When she looked into the possibility of becoming a singer, the blues weren t exactly her first choice, she said.

Not that I don t like the blues, but a lot of African-American people don t want to sing the blues because they feel they live the blues, so we don t want to sing them too, she said.

King grew up singing in church, she said, and loves gospel music. Among her musical heroes is gospel legend Mahalia Jackson.

Oh yes, oh yes, Mahalia was an inspiration when I was growing up and exposed to a lot of gospel music, King said. But I had the Tina Turner problem: I would be moving so much the preacher would have to calm me down, this being the church. But I was just feeling the music. I wasn t trying to be disrespectful. I didn t realize my moving got such attention. Some of us got that problem.

She decided to sing the blues after ruling out other options.

I can t do country and I can t do rock. Living in Chicago, you can t make a living singing gospel. There s no market for R&B. I m not a jazz singer. So you do the blues or you go nowhere, she said.

King said that when her father saw her in concert, he was taken by her energy and showmanship. He said, My, my, honey, you are a heck of an entertainer, King recalled. And that s what the media says every time I m reviewed. I tell people, If you didn t come to have a good time, you re probably in the wrong place.

King is scheduled to perform from 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Toledo Blues Fest in Festival Park, next to the former COSI building downtown.

The lineup from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday will feature Quickness, the Griswold Band, and Five Horse Johnson; on Saturday starting at 2 p.m. will be the Gene Parker Quartet, Ron Crawdaddy Crawford and the Blues Connoisseurs, Big Blues Bob, High Country Blues Rambler, and Shirley King; on Sunday starting at 2 p.m. the festival will feature Tom Turner and Slow Burn; Chefs of Dixieland, and Voodoo Libido, followed by a blues jam. Daily admission is $5.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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