Karen Tyler

Karen Tyler
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"Getting to make CDs that people enjoy, playing festivals, meeting your heroes, winning a contest or two and getting the occasional "You go girl!" from the blues world? If thatís what the blues is all about, then let me have Ďem." Thatís Karen Tylerís motto and a good one for one of the best acoustic blues artists around these days. Karen Tyler is the winner of the 2003 Monterey Bay Blues Festivalís Battle of the Bands and a California Arts Council Touring Artist and she is a unique and exciting acoustic blues artist. Real Blues Magazine had this to say about Ms. Tyler in issue #29, 2005. "Karen has proven once again that sheís one of the worldís top female blues artists and easily the greatest North American songstressÖIt doesnít get any better." Such praise hasnít come without a lot of hard work and intense dedication on Karenís part. Karen began her blues career in Central California blues bands and fronted those bands with a mighty voice and a candy apple red, 1969 telecaster for many years. But upon moving to Texas in the early nineties, Karen began concentrating strictly on acoustic blues. She began writing feature articles for Austin Blues Monthly in 1994 choosing to highlight the lives and careers of Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, Lightniní Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb and Blind Lemon Jefferson. For several years Karen listened to nothing but these exceptional, vintage blues recordings by her heroes and in doing so steeped herself in the genre. Karenís intense focus on the Piedmont, Memphis and Texas styles of acoustic blues paid off as She began to be invited to play the festivals that honored her heroes. Karenís first big blues festival was the Blind Willie McTell International Blues Festival in Thompson, Georgia, followed shortly thereafter by the Blind Lemon Jefferson Festival in Wortham Texas and the Navasota Blues Festival in honor of Mance Lipscomb also in Texas. In 1998, Karen moved back to the Central California coast and in a few months found herself opening for John Lee Hooker at the Mid-State Fair. Karen tells of her meeting with the Shaman of the blues in a short story entitled "The Sweetest Lie." Upon meeting Mr. Hooker backstage after the show he asked her to come and sit by him. He asked where Karen was from and she told him that she now lived in Paso Robles but had recently moved there from Austin, Texas. Mr. Hooker said, "Oh yes. I knew Iíd heard of you from those folks down at Antoneís." This was indeed a sweet attempt at putting a nervous Karen at ease in the presence of such greatness. Of course Karen didnít say anything until after the show when she confessed to a local journalist that the only way she could get into Antoneís was by paying the cover charge. Antoneís may be "The Home of the Blues," just not the acoustic blues as it turns out. Mr. Hookerís generosity didnít end there. When said local journalist interviewed him after the show, he spent several minutes singing Karenís praises. It wasnít long after that the Mr. Hooker passed away, but Karen will always be grateful for a sweet memory of a truly great man and for that sweet, sweet lie. That same year, Karen recorded her "Alone & Blue" CD. The CD was met with critical acclaim and has received airplay all over the world. To date it has outsold her band CDs three times over. Karen continued to perform as an acoustic solo and toured extensively in the Northwest and Southwestern United States. She also kept up her Texas ties as well as performing at the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas. Karen also fronted her own four-piece band mixing both acoustic and electric styles. The band played primarily at winery events and community concerts, but on a lark, Karen decided to enter the band in the Monterey Bay Blues Festivalís Battle of the Bands. Karen was shocked when they called her name as the winner that day in November. That June Karen performed on the main stage and one of the side stages at the festival and got to rub elbows with the likes of Charlie Musslewhite and Al Green. "It was like a dream come true." Karen says of the experience. The win in Monterey really set Karen on the path to an exciting and successful career in the blues. These days Ms. Tyler has returned to her acoustic roots and is currently preparing to go into the studio with songs for another solo CD. As Karen prepares to go to Memphis in February 2007 to compete in the International Blues Challenge, she is excited and grateful again for an opportunity to be seen and heard in such a bright and positive light. "Everyone that gets to go to Memphis and compete is a winner and Iím just glad to be one of them." Tyler says. Of course to her fans, Karen has been a winner for some time and weíre all rooting for her with big hopes and plentiful prayers. (Biography written by Lisa Smith, San Luis Obispo Blues Society.)
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