Blues at the Arch – Jontavious Willis
The Gateway Arch Park Foundation concert series Blues at the Arch, presented by Emerson, returns for its sixth year as a series of online shows, with new performances every Friday in August. This popular end-of-summer celebration pays tribute to St. Louis’ storied blues history and showcases the talents of local and national artists. Blues at the Arch is produced by Gateway Arch Park Foundation in partnership with the National Blues Museum and National Park Service.
Every generation or so a young bluesman bursts onto the scene. Someone who sends a jolt through blues lovers. Someone who has mastered the craft for sure, but who also has the blues deep down in his heart and soul.
At the age of 22, bluesman Jontavious Willis may be the one.
“That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Taj Mahal said after inviting Jontavious to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the twenty-first century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.”
Hailing from Greenville, Ga., Jontavious grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters and was hooked. That’s when he set his course on the blues. All types — Delta, Piedmont, Texas, gospel. As a fingerpicker, flat-picker and slide player. On guitar, harmonica, banjo and cigar box.
And four years later he was playing on Taj Mahal’s stage.
Currently Jontavious is finishing his studies at Columbus State University, majoring in sociology. But on most weekends you can find him playing a small house show, up on the main stage or posting music videos for his friends and fans around the world.