FAIRFIELD — A heavy dose of feel-good blues is on tap Saturday at Winterhawk Winery, as Big Cat Tolefree and the Hipnotics return.
Big Cat is the nickname for Eldridge Tolefree. The name sounds like a good fit for the 6-foot-3-inch Tolefree. “I’ve always been taller and bigger,” he said.
The bigger part has recently changed as he’s shed more than 170 pounds in the past few years. Instead of filling a plate with food, he now opts to fill a coffee cup. And he’s given up soda and carbonated water while cutting back on wine consumption.
While he’s slimmed down considerably, Tolefree said his shows aim to make everyone feel comfortable with their own skin, from size 1 to 21.
Tolefree does a variety of gigs, from nightclubs to weddings and concerts to festivals. He doesn’t really prefer one over the other, calling each “kind of like my babies.”
He doesn’t rely on a set list. Songs are chosen by “whatever the crowd needs at the moment.”
His father was the first voice he heard singing that wasn’t on a record. He recalled thinking music sounded like people were speaking in rhythm.
Tolefree doesn’t consider himself a singer, but an entertainer.
“People give you the energy based on what they are into,” he said of the music.
B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” and Junior Walker and the All-Stars’ “Shotgun” are crowd favorites.
As for requests, Tolefree has a policy when it comes to Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.” The person requesting the song is asked to write “Mustang Sally” on the back of a $100 bill and send it up to the stage.
“No one takes me up on that,” Tolefree laughed.
His style of singing blends sexy blues and soul.
“It seems to motivate people to relax and feel good,” he said. ‘There’s tons of energy to it.”
He noted there is a downside to the blues and much of it is grounded in reality.
“I choose to sing the stuff that makes people feel good and want to dance and celebrate life,” he said.
“I’ve been around blues and soul all my life and never got the energy of a negative thing. It’s hard for me to portray,” he said.
While Tolefree has traveled the world, doing as many as 300 shows a year, there’s one stop he wants to make: Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago.
“I’d get a good feeling going inside,” he said.
Tolefree is married to singer Tia Carroll, who has also performed at Winterhawk. Musically, the couple have their own careers and don’t do too many shows together, Tolefree said.
He’s performed as a backup singer for Luther Vandross, Gladys Knight and Ray Charles. Tolefree has been honored by the Bay Area Blues Society several times, including an award for New Blues Artist of the Year in 2005.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.