Tinsley Ellis

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Tinsley Ellis
Background information
Birth nameTinsley Ellis
Born (1957-06-04) June 4, 1957 (age 66)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States[1]
GenresBlues rock, hard rock, southern rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Guitar, Vocals
Years active1975–present
LabelsAlligator, Capricorn, Telarc,

Tinsley Ellis (born June 4, 1957) is an American blues and rock musician, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, and grew up in South Florida. According to Billboard, "nobody has released more consistently excellent blues albums than Atlanta's Tinsley Ellis. He sings like a man possessed and wields a mean lead guitar."[2]

Rolling Stone said, "On assertive originals and standards by the likes of Jimmy Reed and Junior Wells, Atlanta's Tinsley Ellis unleashes feral blues guitar. Nonstop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor's edge…his eloquence dazzles…he also achieves pyrotechnics that rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton."[3]


His love for electric blues grew by listening to British Invasion bands such as the Yardbirds, the Animals, Cream, and the Rolling Stones.[1] Ellis has stated that the first guitar playing he heard were songs like "Dirty Water" by The Standells, and "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers, but that he then "got into the real stuff" like Freddie King.[4] Inspired by a live appearance by B.B. King, where King broke a guitar string and gave it to a 15-year-old Ellis - which Ellis claims to still have in his possession to this day - he was determined to become a blues guitarist. In 1975, he played with the Haygood Band while attending Emory University near Atlanta. Two years later, already an accomplished musician, he returned to Atlanta and joined his first professional blues band, the Alley Cats, a group that included Preston Hubbard of the Fabulous Thunderbirds.[1] Ellis graduated from Emory in 1979 with a degree in history. In 1981, he formed the Heartfixers, with the singer and harmonica player Chicago Bob Nelson.[5] The group recorded three albums for the small Landslide record label, one with the singer, Nappy Brown before breaking up in 1988.[5] The same year, Ellis signed a recording contract with Chicago's Alligator Records.[5]

His debut solo album on Alligator Records, Georgia Blue, was released in 1988.[1] It received mixed-to-poor reviews.[6] Alligator then reissued two earlier albums, Cool On It and Tore Up (on which the Heartfixers backed Nappy Brown). Ellis' next four releases were Fanning the Flames (1989), Trouble Time (1992), Storm Warning (1994), and Fire It Up (1997).[1] Artists including Peter Buck (of R.E.M.), Derek Trucks, and Chuck Leavell joined him in the studio. He worked with the record producers, Eddy Offord and Tom Dowd.

Ellis' reputation and media coverage continued to grow. He appeared on NBC-TV Sports during the network's 1996 Summer Olympics coverage.

Ellis shifted to Capricorn Records in 2000 and released Kingpin. In 2002 he joined Telarc Records, producing two CDs: Hell or High Water and The Hard Way. All the while Ellis never stopped touring. "A musician never got famous by staying home," Ellis says.[citation needed] Ellis claims to have performed live, at least once, in all 50 of the United States.[citation needed]

He returned to Alligator Records in 2005 with the live album, Live! Highwayman. In 2007 he released the studio album, Moment of Truth, followed in 2009 with Speak No Evil.[1] Ellis continues to tour over 150 nights a year around the world.[citation needed]

He has shared stages with Warren Haynes, Widespread Panic, the Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Thackery, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy.[citation needed]

In early 2013, Ellis was a part of the 'Blues at the Crossroads 2' tour which celebrated the music of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. The tour also included Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, James Cotton, Bob Margolin and Jody Williams.[citation needed]

Also in 2013, Ellis launched his own label, Heartfixer Music, and has since released several albums: the all instrumental Get It!, Midnight Blue, Tough Love and, in 2016, Red Clay Soul.

In 2014, Ellis was a guest performer on Eli Cook's album, Primitive Son.[7]

In 2017, Ellis launched a new side project called Tinsley Ellis Blues Is Dead, in which he performs the blues and R&B songs recorded by Grateful Dead and other Fillmore era acts.[who?]

Commenting on Ellis's album, Ice Cream in Hell, AllMusic stated "On Ice Cream in Hell, Ellis' songwriting and singing finally match the prowess in his playing, and we are all richer for it."[8]

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Ellis was "determined to grow as a songwriter," according to AllMusic; he is stated to have written 200 songs in just a year and a half. The resulting album, Devil May Care, released in January 2022, was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.[9]



  • 1996 – A Celebration of Blues: The New Breed


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Biography by Steve Huey". AllMusic. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  2. ^ "Billboard review". Billboard. New York. June 26, 2007.
  3. ^ Evans, Paul (October 6, 1994). "Storm Warning". Rolling Stone.[dead link]
  4. ^ "Tinsley Ellis interview at Antone's Record Shop, 1994". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 109–110. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  6. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/georgia-blue-mw0000201265
  7. ^ "Primitive Son - Eli Cook | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  8. ^ Thom Jurek (January 31, 2020). "Ice Cream in Hell - Tinsley Ellis | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  9. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/devil-may-care-mw0003608653
  10. ^ "Tinsley Ellis Albums and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 14, 2022.

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