Singing the blues at Yogi Bear


Michael Charles brings six decades of music to the stage

By BRANDON LaCHANCE

Staff writer

AMBOY – When Michael Charles was invited by Buddy Guy to play the blues in Chicago, the Australian musician told his management, ‘There is nothing to think about, let’s just do it.’

Fast forward from 1989 to 2022, Charles had the same demeanor when he was asked to play from 7:30-10:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the O’Connell’s Yogi Bear RV Resort (970 Green Wing Road, Amboy) during Blues, Bears & BBQ.

“I was at Yogi Bear Park last year. It was just as things were starting to pick up again after the pandemic (Covid-19),” Charles said. “It was one of those early coming back from the pandemic shows that we used sort of like a dress rehearsal. It was cool to get back to performing and pull it together again and Yogi was one of those springboards for us.

“Now, we’re back in full swing and it’s nice to return to Yogi Bear Park so we can do a show where we’re a little more ready than the first time I was there.”

Charles, who has been Grammy elected 10 times and is a member of the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, remembered playing at Yogi quite vividly.

Actually, it’s a performance his friends, family, and fans have heard before as well.

“The name of the park says it all. I was on the stage doing my thing and the next moment, I feel a tap on my back, I turned around, and it was Yogi Bear himself,” Charles said. “That was one of the most unique things I ever experienced on stage.

“It represents the park. It was all fun. It’s one of those stories that will pop up when we’re touring. We talk about certain places or things that happened at certain venues, and the Yogi Bear Park comes up and we have a chuckle. It usually goes, ‘How about that time Yogi Bear came on stage with us?’”

The Australian picked up the guitar for the first time when he 5 or 6 years old.

When he picked the instrument up, he was following in his father’s footsteps as he was a stringer veteran who eventually taught Charles the basic chords and passed on the love of music.

“My dad (Sam Charles) loved country music. I started playing country-type songs and licks. As I was getting older and listening to the radio, I remember when the Beatles came out,” Charles said. “I remember when John Fogarty was Credence (Credence Clear Water Revival). Eric Clapton was with Cream. The Rolling Stones were the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley.

“There is this long list of awesome musicians that were all blues-based musicians. They were all influenced by the blues. These guys influencing me, I was learning the blues and didn’t even realize I was learning the blues.”

Now known as a blues musician, Charles revels in the fact he played the instrument his father did, plays similar riffs as his idols, and has an identifiable resume and discography.

To him, it all makes sense.

Playing the guitar and performing at show like the one 7:30-10:30 p.m., Aug. 13 at Yogi Bear RV Park in Amboy is all he wants to do.

“I don’t remember not holding a guitar or not playing. I’ve been doing it for so long,” Charles said. “I’ve had a guitar in my hands for a good 60 years or so, and I hope to keep playing for another 60 years.

“My guitar playing is my occupation, my hobby, my habit, the evolution of who I am. I can’t think of a time that I won’t be playing a guitar.”

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