Modesto-based blues group Poorhouse Millionaires has won the privilege of opening for blues legend B.B. King at the Gallo Center for the Arts on Feb. 25.
Music lovers who attend the show might see a striking resemblance between the Millionaires and another Modesto blues band, Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame. With good reason.
“In a lot of ways, it’s the same band, but we play different music on different instruments,” said Earl Matthews, who fronts both bands. The reason Matthews and his fellow musicians entered as Poorhouse Millionaires rather than their better-known incarnation is that the contest was for acoustic acts, which the Cryin’ Shame is not.
According to its submission, Poorhouse Millionaires is a “roots and blues band from Modesto (that has) been playing together for a little over two years.” Rounding out the Millionaires are guitarist Eli Lester and bassist Randall Niemann, both regulars in the Cryin’ Shame, and harmonica player Nathan Ignacio, who also frequently sits in with the group, Matthews said.
The Gallo Center and The Bee sponsored the “Open for a Legend” contest. Fifteen local acoustic blues acts offered submissions of 30-second videos, and more than 1,700 votes were cast during the two-week voting period.
The top vote-getters were sent to B.B. King’s management, who made the final decision. Poorhouse Millionaires will perform a roughly 20-minute set at the Gallo Center’s Mary Stuart Rogers Theater on Feb. 25.
One commenter on the group’s submission said: “They are tight, soulful and versatile, with plenty of heart! You either close your eyes and let the music turn you into a foot-stomping bobble head or get up and dance.”
To watch the group’s 30-second clip, click here.