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Friday, February 2, 2018

Local blues singer Sandy Atkinson keeps busy

Sandy Atkinson (photo provided by Sandy Atkinson)
Since the age of four, Sandy Atkinson has been singing. She actually doesn't remember it, but her mom tells her about a time the family was on a cruise ship and Atkinson stole the show singing at the time Elvis' popular "Blue Suede Shoes. "It was at the time when Elvis was king. I guess I was never shy," said Atkinson. After that her mom had her signing at church on stage. And she's still singing and performing 61 years later at the age of 65.

In her early teens she remembers discovering the Blues. This was in the 60's when she bought her first album called "Cheap Thrills" by Janis Joplan. She started singing at home and in church. On her 14 birthday her mom bought her a guitar and that's when she started writing songs.

Atkinson said her parents were instrumental in her love for music. They liked diverse styles form Fats Domino to Hank Williams Sr. Her parents didn't play any instruments, but remembers her dad always saying he played a mean radio.

As time went on Atkinson started playing for private parties and eventually landed her first paid gig at a local club in Clemson, South Carolina in 1987. She played there for awhile and in 1994, she moved to Florida and now lives in Largo. She started recording in 1995. Her band at that time was called One Night Stand.

In 1999, Atkinson recorded her first cd called "Why Baby Why." This was produced by David "Rock Bottom" York known in the Tampa Bay area as the godfather of blues. Atkinson said she met up with him and before making any albums toured with him as his bus driver/roadie in Norway. "It was a great experience. One of my greatest memories was the Hell Blue's Festival in Norway. It's a famous festival there. I booked a tour the following year."

Atkinson has also done a lot of charity events locally raising money for SPCA, Autism P
Speaks, Children's Home Society of Florida, domestic violence shelters, Natural Resources Defense Council and others. "I do enjoy giving back." She also has been a speaker at elementary schools as part of the Blues in the Schools.

Since booking her first tour, Atkinson has released 6 more cd's and is currently working on her next release. "Actually what I'm doing now is a project with live cuts. I am also working on releasing new stuff ." In the past she has opened for artists including Sue Foley, Chris Duarte, Tinsley Ellis and shared the stage with Bob Margolin.

She still does manage to play several times a year at the House of Blues in Orlando and at local festivals like the Ribfest in St. Petersburg, Dunedin Blues Fest and Clearwater Seafood Fest and International Blues Challenge in Tennessee. "I like festivals because lots of people who love the music. You get lost in the music with others. You can't buy that kind of stuff."
Her band today is called Sandy Atkinson & the True Loves. "It's a blues rock band. I decided on that name going along the theme of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers." Her band includes a seasoned group of professionals including Cannon Quinn, Dean Germain and Ben Sudano.

Atkinson said she loved growing up in the 50's and 60's. "I grew up when music was great. Lots of real instruments." Those who inspired Atkinson are Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles and Bonnie Raitt. "Rait did everything, she could write, sing and play a mean slide guitar."

Being a performer in the Tampa Bay area Atkinson said she is amazed at the musicians here. Atkinson will play and write as long as she can. "It's like a sickness and just fun especially when I have great musicians to work with. I enjoy it! Maybe we'll never be superstars, but we love what we do."

Atkinson's next event will be with the "Women of Song" group on May 3. The venue has not been set yet. You can find out more about that event and listen to some of Atkinson's songs on her website at

Sandy Atkinson (photo provided by Sandy Atkinson)

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