Tony Holiday and the Soul Service

Sun. Sep 12, 2021 at 5:00pm EDT
21 and Over
Price: $10.00
21 and Over
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Price: $10.00
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Tony Holiday and the Soul Service

Sportsmen's Tavern


Tony Holiday and the Soul Service

Sun. Sept. 12 @ 5 pm


Tony Holiday | Blues / Soul / Memphis (


Front porches hold a special significance for Tony Holiday.

Not only does he enjoy the cozy informality of making music on them, he’s done some

outstanding recording on those porches too. Studios simply aren’t a necessity for the blues

harmonica wailer when he’s ready to lay some sounds down for posterity. He just meets his

friends on their front porches, sets up his portable recording equipment, and gets down to

business without the constraints of being inside a professional studio environment. And he has

some pretty impressive friends, too.

“Alan Lomax was a big inspiration of mine,” says Tony. “I grew up on bluegrass music. I

grew up with a lot of porch pickers. When I heard that story of Buddy Guy taking a piece of wire

out of a screen door and nailing it to the porch and plucking on it, that was his first little idea to

play music. And I realized, ‘Wow, the blues is really back on the porch too!’ The porch is kind

of the place where families used to go to cool off at the end of the day, get to know each other,

play music together.”

Not long before the pandemic brought everything to a crunching halt, Tony visited a

cross-section of his network of blues friends and made the exciting recordings showcased on

Tony Holiday’s Porch Sessions, Vol. 2, his new all-star CD on Blue Heart Records. Blues

veterans that include gritty Chicago belter Willie Buck, harpist Richard “Rip Lee” Pryor (son of

the legendary Snooky Pryor), the impossible-to-categorize Watermelon Slim, and West Coast

harp ace Mark Hummel are each spotlighted on a song apiece. So are next-generation standouts

Jon Lawton, Ben Rice, A.J. Fullerton, Rae Gordon, the acclaimed band Southern Avenue, and

harpist JD Taylor, who co-produced the set with Holiday.

Only one performer has the distinct honor of having two songs on the disc: the legendary

Bobby Rush. Full disclosure: his recordings weren’t done on his front porch, and a boisterous

crowd was on hand for the proceedings.

“I facilitated that through Barbara Newman, the former president of the Blues

Foundation,” says Tony. “They were celebrating Bobby for something that I can’t recall now,

some big thing he did. Anyway, she knew about the porch sessions, and she had come to one and

when that was going on, she said, ‘Why don’t you come down? We’re going to do this on the

front stoop of the Blues Foundation!’ And it ended up being too rainy or windy, so we moved it

inside. A lot of people came to see him, so that was kind of a special one.”

Porch Sessions Vol. 2 also features the perpetually amazing Windy City guitarist Lurrie

Bell, who contributes a compelling revival of “Every Day I Have The Blues.” “He came to

Memphis to receive an award at the BMAs, so I caught him while he was in town,” remembers

Holiday. “Lurrie was great. He had Mark Hummel on harmonica.” Tony plays harp on the album

too, but only sparingly. “I’m on a handful of tracks,” he says. “I’m on ‘She’s Tough’ with Victor

Wainwright, ‘Bad Bad Girl’ with Johnny Burgin. A lot of times, there were harmonica players

already there.”

One beloved performer on the album remains especially close to Holiday’s heart:

harmonica wizard James Harman, who passed away on May 23. “He was my mentor and my

friend,” says Tony, who raised $50,000 for James when he fell ill with cancer. “He meant a lot to

me, man. The album is dedicated to him.” Harman’s “Going To Court 2” stands as one of the

many highlights on Porch Sessions Vol. 2.

As the title implies, Tony’s new CD is a follow-up to his 2019 CD Porch Sessions for

Vizztone, which was nominated for a Blues Blast Award in the Live Album category. That

release also found Holiday surrounded by a highly impressive cadre of blues talent; in addition to

Harman, guitarists John Primer and Kid Ramos and harpists Charlie Musselwhite, John Nemeth,

Mitch Kashmar, and Bob Corritore were among its featured stars.

“The first volume, I was on most of the tracks. This one, I didn’t see the importance of

me playing on every track,” notes Holiday. “I’ve just been traveling around the country the last

five years or so, recording bluesmen and women on their porches. It didn’t end with the first

volume. It just had more life in it. The project had more life, so we kept going.”

In between the two Porch Sessions collections, Holiday released Soul Service, a more

conventionally recorded album featuring Tony as its sole front man that was done at Zebra

Ranch in Coldwater, Mississippi (he calls that 2020 Vizztone CD “my pandemic record”). “I

used some of John Nemeth’s band,” says Tony. “I had my own band, and John Nemeth helped

me. We wrote a song together, and then Ori Naftaly from Southern Avenue actually reached out

to me and he produced me. Ori has been such a big supporter, and very humble, and helped me.”

Nemeth has been crucial to Tony’s musical development over the years. First off, he

inadvertently inspired Holiday to switch instruments when Tony was still living in his original

hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah and playing guitar. “I didn’t start playing the harmonica until

I was 29,” he reveals.

“I was washing dishes in a barbecue joint, and I really wasn’t playing live. This was

when I was about 25. John Nemeth came through town. I’d never heard—well, I’d seen his

pictures around. Anyway, I just remember the sound coming through. And I’m a butcher over

there at the barbecue shop, so my apron has blood on it. I’m not really supposed to come out into

the area where they’re playing music, but I couldn’t help it. So I kind of walked down the hall

and peeked my head around the corner to see what that sound was. And it was him playing the

harmonica. You know, I sold my guitar the next day. I’ve never played it since.”

Just as importantly, Nemeth swayed Holiday and his guitarist, Landon Stone, to relocate

to Memphis in 2018. “Memphis is a super-magical town,” says Tony. “I never even considered

it. I never thought I could. I never thought I would be allowed. I don’t know what it takes for you

to be welcomed to Memphis, but John Nemeth was always so kind about having us stop by his

house when we passed through town, and while we were on the porch one night, he was just

sitting there smoking cigars and drinking brandy. He told us that we really should move here. It’s

such a great town. And he kind of convinced us to make the move, so we pulled the trigger.”

When he was 13, Tony’s mother introduced him to a Best of B.B. King CD that provided

him with his entrée to the blues. “She used to go to the library a lot, and she’d bring home

music,” says Holiday. “I just popped it in, and then that’s when everything kind of changed.”

At 16, Tony got his first guitar. “My mom bought it for me to keep me out of trouble, and

it didn’t work. So five years later, after I got out of trouble, I started playing a little bit in my

early 20s. I joined a band. I was just the guitar player in a band at first. And then when that band

broke up, I didn’t want to quit. I just started my own. That was a band called Blue Root. Jordan

Young, he just placed third place on The Voice, him and I started that band.” Tony also played

with a band called the Velvetones in Salt Lake City.

Even at the height of the pandemic, Tony found a way to keep the porch vibe happening.

“I was doing virtual porch sessions,” he says. Now that things are opening back up, his itinerary

looks a lot more like it used to. “I was playing Beale Street a lot before the pandemic. Then

during the pandemic, I kind of rearranged my show, took a step back. So I haven’t been eager to

book any local stuff. I’m still working on my new show right now,” he says. “I have a band in

Memphis called the Soul Service. I just travel under my name right now. I’m not on tour with

that band. I’m on tour with several bands, just pickup bands.”

Whether he’s making recordings on someone’s front porch, lighting up Beale Street with

his own band, or bringing his soulful vocals and blazing harmonica to destinations nationwide,

Tony Holiday remains a dedicated blues disciple.


“I’ve been on the road for ten years,” he says. “It’s only gotten better.”


Coming to see the show from out of town? Sportsmens guests receive 20% discount.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Downtown

601 Main St

Buffalo NY 14203


All rooms are king suites with sofabed;   free hot breakfast buffet;  TGI Friday's in the hotel offers 20% discount to guests.


Special 20% off Holiday Inn Express

              & Suites Downtown Booking Link


Please Note that the artists have a 3 hour window to complete the show. This does not mean the performance will be 3 hours in length.



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Venue Details
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Sportsmens Tavern 326 Amherst Street
Buffalo, NY 14207