Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo is celebrating his 50th birthday with a show at the Port Theatre on March 16. (Photo courtesy Andrew Dodd)

Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo celebrates 50th birthday at the Port Theatre

Gogo will be joined by old friends and special guests

Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo is celebrating his 50th birthday with some help from his friends

“It’s kind of freaking me out,” Gogo said of reaching the half-century mark. “I was always the young guy in the scene and now I’m going to be 50, but at least I’m still around.”

On March 16, two days before his actual birthday, Festival Nanaimo presents David Gogo’s 50th Birthday Blues Bash at the Port Theatre. The concert will be hosted by longtime music broadcaster Terry David Mulligan and include performances by acoustic blues finger-style guitarist Ken Hamm, boogie-woogie pianist David Vest, 11-year-old blues guitarist Liam Docherty, who calls himself the Red-Headed Blues Boy, and surprise guests.

Mulligan has been a supporter of Gogo’s work for more than 30 years, first featuring him on the music television program Much West in the late-’80s. Gogo met Hamm, a former Cedar resident, when he was 14 years old and said Hamm served as a “lending library,” exposing him to acoustic blues players through his vast tape cassette collection. Vest originally hails from Birmingham, Ala., and now lives in Victoria. Gogo likens him to ’50s rock ‘n’ roll pianist Jerry Lee Lewis.

Gogo said when he was younger he was lucky to get to play with some of his heroes, and inviting Docherty is a way to pay it forward.

Gogo first got his start playing in Nanaimo bars at the age of 16. He said he wouldn’t have been surprised if someone had told him back then that he’d still be up there on stage at the age of 50.

“I was always into the blues and a lot of the blues guys, even when I started, they were old. Guys like John Lee Hooker and B.B. King were well on their way…” Gogo said. “The last time I opened for B.B. King was in Nanaimo. He was 89 years old. It was less than a year before he passed away. It’s just something that we all do and you don’t stop doing it.”

Gogo has since gone on “countless” tours and released 15 CDs including last year’s 17 Vultures, which he calls his best one yet. The birthday show will also serve as the launch of the album’s vinyl release.

At this point, Gogo said he just wants to keep doing what he does and continue to improve.

“I’m lucky that I play a genre of music where you tend to get better with age and experience,” he said. “In blues years, I’m still just a youngster.”

WHAT’S ON … Festival Nanaimo presents David Gogo’s 50th Birthday Blues Bash at the Port Theatre on March 16 at 7:30 p.m. Adults tickets $38 and $44 depending on seating, $18 for students. Available at the box office.

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