Museum chapel concert brings the blues to the beach


Acclaimed blues guitarist James Armstrong had them dancing in the aisles Nov. 14, when the California-based musician performed at the Beaches Museum & History Park as part of its Chapel Concert Series.

Armstrong set the tone for the evening when he made his entrance by strolling up the center aisle of the historic chapel, playing his guitar while accompanied by his band, already on stage. But while that band includes members from Chicago and St. Louis, Armstrong made it clear he was no stranger to a beach community.

“I grew up in Santa Monica, California,” he told the capacity crowd. “I’m the only blues man who ever surfed.”

Taking full advantage of the chapel’s superb acoustics, Armstrong performed a number of original songs interspersed with anecdotes and stories about their composition. His song “Bank of Love,” for example, was inspired by a beautiful teller Armstrong spied one day while waiting in line at the bank. Another tune not yet recorded was written on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop when he thought he’d forgotten his new wife’s birthday.

And the humorous ballad “Grandma’s Got a New Friend” recounts Armstrong’s attempts to win over his wife’s granddaughter when the couple began dating.

Armstrong also paid musical tribute to a number of blues greats, including John Lee Hooker.

“I knew John – he was very reserved,” he said. “He was very quiet – he never smiled – but he was a master at what he did.”

He also honored the late B. B. King. “There are so many artists around the world that he inspired.”

Armstrong’s blues concert was the penultimate offering in this concert series, which will conclude Dec. 19 with 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. performances of “Celtic Christmas.” Tickets may be purchased online at

“The museum is just one of the wonderful assets of our community,” said concert series committee member Tim Ellis. “The folks there are doing a fantastic job of preserving our history and heritage for the community.”