AUBURN – Midwestern bluesman James Solberg has been paying his musical dues for three decades. A close friend to blues legend Luther Allison, Solberg gained national attention when he joined Allison’s band in 1975. For 30 years, this gifted guitarist and vocalist has toured and recorded with some of the blues’ brightest stars, and he’s also enjoyed a highly successful solo career.

Solberg will perform at the Midnight Blues Club and Restaurant Sunday, June 19, as part of the club’s 2005 Sunday Night Blues Series.

Born in 1951, Solberg learned to play the banjo, violin and guitar at an early age. His real musical career started in the mid 1960s while performing in rock ‘n’ roll cover bands around the Midwest. When he turned 15, he left high school and headed for Chicago – birthplace of the blues. One of his first friends in the Windy City was the great Eddie Taylor, who showed him a lot of tricks on guitar. While in Chicago, Solberg played with Johnny Young, Big Walter Horton, Jimmy Reed and Taylor himself.

In the early 1970s, he moved to Milwaukee and formed a blues band with Jon Paris, former bass player for Johnny Winter. Allison, who happened to live in Milwaukee, would regularly attend the Monday night jams held at the Brothers Lounge where Solberg was playing. The blues giant was impressed by the band, and soon Solberg was opening for Allison on the college “showcase” circuit.

When Allison invited Solberg to join his band in 1975, it was the start of something big. The two formed a close friendship while touring together for four years and making five albums. “Nightlife,” “Luther Allison – The Motown Years,” “Live at Montreaux,” “Live in Paris” and “Luther Allison Live,” all received positive reviews and put Solberg on the map.

From 1979 until 1981, Solberg toured with “Short Stuff,” a band well known in the Midwest. The group included Junior Brantley of Fabulous Thunderbirds fame and harmonica virtuoso Jim Liban. Following this stint, Solberg decided to take a five-year hiatus from music. A longtime motorcycle enthusiast, he took a job at a Harley-Davidson dealership and began designing and fabricating his own parts.

After five years of this “rest,” Solberg went back on the road in 1986 with The Nighthawks and Elvin Bishop. In late 1987, he formed the James Solberg Band, with Robb Stupka on drums, Mike Vlahakis on keyboards and Ken Faltinson on bass. Later on, this tightly knit bunch became the touring and recording group Luther Allison and the James Solberg Band.

From 1987 through 1993, Solberg enjoyed a successful run that included appearances with every major blues act on the road. In the last 12 years, he has continued that strong run with electrifying performances at clubs and festivals around the nation.

Solberg has two prestigious W.C. Handy Awards for “Blues Band of the Year” to his credit. His most recent solo album, “Real Time,” hit store shelves in January 2004 and drew positive reviews around the blues community.

Tickets for all Sunday Night Blues Series shows are $15, and all ages are welcome. For more information, log on to www.3clubs.com.


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