By Steve Hubrecht

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Chicago Blues Hall of Fame guitar slinger Michael Charles is returning to the Columbia Valley for another free concert. 

Charles will play the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery this coming weekend. It’s the third stop in Radium in the last 12 months for the Australian-born bluesman, and he admits he’s taken a shine to the small town charm of the place.

“They keep asking me back and I have to say, I love coming,” Charles told the Pioneer. “The audience is always enthusiastic and I see a lot of familiar faces.”

The hard-touring musician had been set for a show in Radium back in 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic struck and forced him to cancel. When the pandemic finally subsided, Radium was one of his first destinations when he did back-to-back free concerts in May 2022. He then returned for a Thanksgiving show in September 2022.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career and when I tour I get to play in some pretty big venues. But I still love playing in the smaller clubs and pubs in the small towns. You can’t forget your roots. That’s where it all started for me, in small towns,” said Charles.

One of the things Charles likes most about playing in small venues, such as the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery, is being able to simply walk off the stage when the show is done and mingle with the crowd.

“It’s very intimate, and I think that’s important,” he said. “People in small towns sometimes will drive two or three hours to see a band in a city. So when musicians come to them, they are often very welcoming. I’ve always found that, and I really like it.”

Charles grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and began playing guitar at the age of four or five. His dad had a guitar, and Charles wanted to mimic his dad. Charles first learned to play Elvis and the Beatles because that’s what he heard on the transistor radio. Eventually he got into the blues.

He became an accomplished blues musician, known throughout Australia. Then in the early 1990s Charles got an invitation from renowned blues guitarist Buddy Guy to come to Chicago. “That’s the kind of invitation you don’t say ‘no’ to,” he said. That gig became an extended stay. The ‘stay’ kept extending until Charles became an American citizen. 

“It’s funny, you never know where life is going to take you,” he said.

Charles took to the Chicago blues scene like a duck to water, and the Chicago blues scene took to Charles; after two decades in the Windy City he was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in October 2015.  

“It was surreal. Getting into the Hall of Fame was never something I expected, so it’s a huge honour,” he said.

But there’s more to Charles than the blues. A few weeks ago he released his own version of country legend Glen Campell’s ‘Wichita Lineman.’ As a result, Charles has now been booked to perform at the Glen Campbell Museum in Nashville in May.

Then this summer Charles will do a performing residency on a tall ship in Lake Michigan. 

“I’ve never done something like this before,” he said. “It will be very interesting to be out on the water, on a tall ship, playing Chicago blues with the Chicago lakefront as a backdrop.”

The free concert at the Horsethief is on Sunday, April 30 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Call the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery at 250-347-6400 for more details.