A few months ago, Bobby "Blackhat" Walters took our region's traffic headaches and did what comes naturally to a blues man — he put them in a song.
Written and recorded quickly and released in late April, "HRBT Blues" debuted on Paul Shugrue's show on WHRV-FM 89.5 and began to find a home on local radio stations. Especially at drive time.
"As soon as I walk into a place these days, someone comes up and asks if I'm going to sing that song," Walters said. "You can't believe how many people tell me how it came on the radio while they were stuck in traffic or stuck in the tunnel. I had no inclination that it would gain as much traction as it did."
He will be playing it on Saturday evening, just a few miles from the titular Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, when he and his band headline a blues night at the Downtown Hampton Block Party.
The block party will start at about 6 p.m. and will feature an opening set from another Peninsula blues band, Blues on Fire, fronted by guitarist-vocalist Danny Lubertazzi.
Walters said he and his band enjoy playing outdoor festivals, which tend to have a tighter format than a club gig with multiple sets.
"That really allows you to focus in on your favorite songs, and the songs you know your audience responds to," Walters said. "You also get to see a wide variety of people that you don't always see in the clubs — families, even grandmothers and grandfathers. It's a really good crowd."
Walters and his band expect to be in the recording studio soon working on a new album. He expects to play a couple of the new songs at the block party on Saturday night.
"I've been trying some of them out at open mic nights," he said. "That's a good place to work on them. You can try a song slower or faster or with different musicians and find out what works. They're getting into the shape I want them in."
His guitarist, West Point native Tom Euler, recently won the Sea Level Singer-Songwriter Festival Emerging Artist Competition and is working on an EP with his trio. Walters said he is trying to persuade Euler to play one or two of his own songs as part of Saturday night's set.
Shortly after Walters recorded "HRBT Blues," he composed another new tune – "Bay Days Blues," lamenting the cancellation of this year's Bay Days festival in Hampton due to budgetary issues. Walters had organized a lineup of Hampton Roads blues musicians for a big show that was scheduled to conclude the festival on Sunday, Sept. 13.
But those blues got some good news this week, when Bay Days president Chuck Leavines announced that the Walters' blues show would go on — same date, but moved to the Kaufman Theater at Norfolk's Chrysler Museum of Art.
"Bobby came to us and asked if there was any way to make the show still happen," Leavines said. "Fortunately, we were able to get it done, and it's going to be a great show."
In addition to Walters, the show will feature more than a dozen Hampton Roads blues musicians, ranging from young players such as Cole and Logan Layman and Zack Salsberry, to veterans such as Ron Fetner, Lathan "Pudgee" Hill, Paul Urban, Herbie Desseyn and J.D. Silvia.
Tickets to the show at the Chrysler Museum will be $20, and they will be available at Walters' show at the Hampton Block Party on Saturday night.
Holtzclaw can be reached by phone at 757-028-6479. Follow his entertainment blog at dailypress.com/popcorn.
Want to go?
What: Downtown Hampton Block Party, featuring the Bobby "Blackhat" Walters Band and Blues on Fire
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Downtown Hampton, near the intersection of King and Queen streets