A conversation with Ernie Peniston
Iowa Blues Hall of Fame member Ernie Peniston, along with his band, will perform at Ardon Creek on Friday, July 22 starting at 6:00 p.m. The concert is a fundraiser for The Muscatine County Arts Council. Tickets are on sale now at Flowers on the Avenue or Ardon Creek for only $15. You may also purchase tickets the night of at the door. This is a concert not to miss, featuring one of the most talented voices in blues. The following is a conversation between Tony Tone and Ernie ahead of this performance. Ernie has been a great friend to Vintage Sound 93.1 FM since we came on the air in January of 2013.
TT: How long have you been singing the blues?
EP: Since 1971, around that era. We were doing rock and roll, but it was pretty much the blues back then.
TT: What does the blues mean to you?
EP: It’s a way of life for me.
TT: Who inspired you?
EP: Stevie Wonder, James Brown, The Temptations, so many.
TT: Ernie, can the blues be happy?
EP: Yeah, it can be happy. It can be whatever mood you’re in—why not be happy? Why does it have to be sad all the time?
TT: I thought you were retired?
EP: Oh, I am, don’t you know? (Laughs) I never did think I’d be retired for good. I just needed a break from it. You just need to stand back sometimes and take a break. I always knew that.
TT: What was your reaction when you found out about the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame?
EP: I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting any recognition for what I’d done in the music world. I was surprised for sure.
Ernie knew Prince in the early Minneapolis days, along with Morris Day & The Time
TT: What was Prince like?
EP: He was a funny, nice guy.
TT: How is the blues different across the country?
EP: I don’t think it’s really different; everybody is reaching the same goal, playing the same music. There’s a lot of blues, probably more than folks realize out there. There are a lot of people playing the blues.
TT: Who’s your all-time favorite blues performer?
EP: Son Seals, just for the fact that I had the pleasure working with him in Chicago and got to know him. Loved his music, loved his guitar playing, and loved the man.
TT: In your free time, what do you enjoy doing?
EP: (Laughs) You know, brother; riding my motorcycle, hanging out by the river, riding around in my golf cart.
EP: Well, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never played there before. I’ve heard it’s a nice crowd and should be a good time. When you play outside, you just got that freedom of not being stuck in a bar or something like that.
TT: What’s the best part about being on stage, performing?
EP: To feel the love from the crowd and friends. To be able to play this music; you learn all the time from it. The opportunity to work with great players. The skill level is always high. Everybody always comes prepared, they do their homework. They’re not wasting my time and I’m not wasting their time. They do it for the love; they understand what I need. And just taking in all the love! Music is all about spreading love from the stage to the crowd, no matter where it happens.
TT: Where is the blues heading?
EP: Well, who knows—who knows where it is all heading. It has become very popular and has always been very popular. It don’t cost you nothing, it’s there for you to take.
TT: Last question, Ernie. Any message for your fans that have supported you over the years, both in Muscatine and the surrounding communities?
EP: Thank you. I love you all; you know that. Not only are you fans, you’re some of my dearest friends. I appreciate that. You’ve been very supportive over all these years and, lucky me, I’ve gotten some great friends from it.