Blues Man Johnny Nicholas to Tour with Honoka‘a’s Dragon Jazz Band

January 14, 2018, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated September 8, 4:10 PM
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Blues musician Johnny Nicholas and his all-star band, Hell Bent, from Austin Texas, will perform three shows on Hawai‘i Island, along with the young musicians of the Honoka‘a High School Dragon Jazz Band, at Hilo Palace Theatre, Honoka‘a People’s Theatre and Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona, Friday through Sunday, Jan. 26 to 28, 2018.

Led by Gary Washburn, music director of Grammy Foundation award-winning Honoka‘a High School, the Dragon Jazz Band is a select group of students who’ve proven themselves as strong performers, and ready for a professional music experience.

Gary Washburn and the Honoka‘a Jazz Band. PC: Sarah Anderson

“The involvement of Gary’s very talented group of kids is a collaboration that has provided for a very exciting show and a tremendous learning experience for the fledgling Honoka‘a musicians,” said Nicholas, who has been involved in similar educational projects in Texas over the last 20 years. “It is amazing to see what kids can do when they get involved and excited by musical stimulus and exposure of this nature and professional level.”

Nicholas and Hell Bent are no strangers to Hawai‘i, having toured under their own name, and backed up Delbert McClinton and Marcia Ball. Nicholas, described as one of the premier blues and roots music interpreters and artists alive today, has performed with blues legends such as BB King, Big Walter Horton and Johnny Shines, as well as a stint with Asleep At the Wheel. He was one of the lead singers, writers and multi-instrumentalist in the band when they won their first of many Grammy Awards.


“The opportunity to tour and perform with Johnny Nicolas and Hellbent offers many educational opportunities not normally offered in the high school education system,” said Washburn.


“Students work with and experience the real professional tour and road expectations and responsibilities. Setting up, sound checking, rehearsing while ‘on the road’ and interacting with professional musicians offers a great mentoring opportunity,” Washburn continued. “When touring with Johnny and his band members in 2015, I witnessed his band members willingly tutor the young musicians to help improve their musicianship, inspire developing improvisational skills, and have fun the same time.”

Little Lady Band. Photo by Sarah Anderson

This year’s concert series will feature a new, all-female horn section, The Little Lady Band, including Terri Connors and Jeanne Altura on trumpet, Mollie Green on trombone, and Zhanelyn Cacho on tenor saxophone.

As an additional bonus at the Hilo Palace, popular saxophonist Randy Skaggs and his band, Soul on a Roll, will play a 30-minute set prior to the Dragon Jazz Band.


Concert Schedule: Johnny Nicholas and Hell Bent, with the Dragon Jazz Band


  • Friday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m., Hilo Palace Theatre. $25 general admission, $35 side reserved and $45 center reserved.
  • Saturday, Jan. 27, 7 p.m., Honoka’a People’s Theatre. $25 general admission and $35 preferred seating.
  • Sunday, Jan. 28, 4–7 p.m., Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. $20 online in advance and $25 at the door.

Tickets available at the concert venues. For more information, click here.

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