By Steve Hubrecht 

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It’s another blast of the blues in Radium Hot Springs.

Chicago Blues Hall of Fame guitarist and singer Michael Charles has made a name in the Columbia Valley in recent years with his free concerts at the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery.

He’s back again later this month for another free show, coinciding with a critical milestone in his career. The show at the Horsethief is part of a cross-continent 40th anniversary tour for Charles.

His career began in Australia, where he was born; he grew up listening to Elvis and the Beatles. 

Charles learned to play guitar because his father was a musician and there was always a guitar lying around the house. He learned early rock songs because that was the only music that came in on the transistor radio. From rock, he got into blues music.

When he was just nine years old he formed his first band and gave his first paid performance. By the time he was a teenager Charles was an accomplished musician, performing shows, corporate gigs and weddings. After playing in a series of Melbourne-based bands, he launched his solo career in 1984. 

The next five years went by in a flash, filled with tours across Australia, song writing, and recording. In 1989 Charles got his big break when he was invited to appear at famed Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy’s Legends.

“That’s the kind of invitation you don’t say ‘no’ to,” said Charles, so he hopped a plane and tremendously enjoyed the chance to play with renowned blues artists such as Junior Wells, James Cotton, Eddy ‘the Chief’ Clearwater and, of course, Buddy Guy himself. A great experience but a brief one — or so Charles thought at the time. Within days of returning to Australia, Charles went back to Chicago and began a two-year gig playing with ‘Fast Fingers’ Jimmy Dawkins.

Eventually Charles became an American citizen and carved out such a name for himself on the Windy City’s blues scene that he was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in October 2015.

He admitted to the Pioneer that “you never know where life is going to take you” but, all the same, he still thinks it’s “surreal” to be in the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.

It may be a 40th anniversary tour, but Charles isn’t slowing down; he’s got 40 releases to his name and continues to record and tour at a frenetic pace. His latest release is a single: his own take on Jimmy Web’s ‘Wichita Lineman’, made famous by country singer Glen Campell.

The Horsethief Pub and Eatery show will be the fourth stop in Radium in the last two years for the bluesman, and it’s one of his favourite places to play.

“The audience is always enthusiastic and I see a lot of familiar faces,” he said. “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 . . . it’s very intimate, and I think that’s important.”

The free concert is on Sunday, April 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. Call the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery at 250-347-6400 for more details or tickets.