Ernie and the Po’ Boys bounce back

It’s hard to keep Larry Pendleton down. The lead guitarist of Ernie and the Po’ Boys had a brain tumor removed in December and was back on the stage in mid-February. “I snapped back pretty good,” Pendleton said.

After playing for 40 years, the 56-year-old blues guitarist said it felt “great” to be playing again after his short hiatus.

Pendleton became interested in the blues while growing up in Chicago and taking in all of the musical opportunities the city has to offer. He went to see musicians on a regular basis and was inspired by their talent.

“I’ve always had music around,” explained Pendleton.

Over the years, Pendleton worked with a number of bands and eventually met up with Ernie Brown, another well-respected blues musician. Brown gained local recognition as a vocalist and harmonica player after moving to this area in the mid-1960s.

In 2002, Brown’s achievements were spotlighted with a RAMI Lifetime Achievement Award. He also carries the nickname “Sugar Lips” because of the sweet music he creates.

Pendleton and Brown started out as a duo, but enlisted the help of two other veteran performers—bassist/vocalist Victor Watts and drummer Link Leary.

Since forming about three and a half years ago, Ernie and the Po’ Boys have played numerous gigs around the area and are building a steady fan base.

Lynn Bennehoff, the group’s manager, is not surprised with their accomplishments.

“I’ve been in the music business for 20 years, and I’ve never worked with this much talent,” Bennehoff said. “It’s almost as if they were born to play together.”

Bennehoff attributes much of the band’s success to its dynamic energy and stage presence. While many blues acts focus on one specific performer, Bennehoff points out that Ernie and the Po’ Boys consciously showcase the talents of all the members and makes every endeavor a group project.

The band has earned multiple RAMI awards and is currently nominated for Best Blues Band. Pendleton said the group is hoping to take home the honor once again this year. He also mentioned that another of their goals is to be signed by a major record label.

You can catch Ernie and the Po’ Boys at Thunder Bay Grille (7652 E. State St.) every Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight.

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