On September 24th, the eighth annual Les Fest will be held at the Alexandria Zoo starting at 6:30pm. This event commemorates 34 years of dedicated zoo leadership by former zoo director Leslie “Les” Whitt, remembers Les’ dream for the Alexandria Zoo, and of course, celebrates our great zoo that will be 90 years young next year!
In addition to the zoo and wildlife, Les Whitt had another great love–music, especially the blues. This year will be a very special remembrance as the James Boogaloo Bolden Blues Band plays a tribute to the King of the Blues. For over thirty years, James Bolden was trumpet player and band leader for the B.B. King Blues Band. James Boogaloo Bolden Blues Band is a powerhouse of fantastic musicians with the dynamic James Bolden leading the group. What enriches this performance for so many of us is the fact that James Bolden was one of Les’ friends.
When Les was in his twenties, there was a call for help from Mayor Charles Evers of Fayette, Mississippi, who needed a Hammond B3 organ with Leslie speakers for the B.B. King Blues Band’s appearance in Fayette. The B.B. King Mississippi tours included the Medgar Evers Memorial Homecoming celebration with stirring performances by the Mississippi Mass Choir. Medgar Evers, brother of the Mayor, was a civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1963 in Jackson. From this, a long history with the B.B. King Blues Band began for Les Whitt. Traveling with B.B. King and his band each summer in Mississippi was something that Les always looked forward to. He did not plan to play in the band, but rather to be a roadie and stagehand for his friends. Les had done this earlier in his life when he worked for an entertainment booking company.
Each year, time was set aside in June for his “real vacation”. In the beginning, the tours were long, sometimes up to two weeks on the road, but as time passed, the circuit shortened. As Les’ children got older, the time in June became a Whitt family tradition as well. The last fifteen years (up until Les’ passing in 2008), B.B. King and his musicians only spent between 3 to 7 days on the highways and back roads of Mississippi. The venues were wide-ranging, from very rural stages, backstreet bars, and rodeo arenas to the most elegant theaters and performing arts centers. The venue didn’t matter because B.B.’s unmistakable bluesy voice and unique style of playing his sweet Lucille was the same for all audiences. B.B. King took the music to the people of his home state and Les Whitt absorbed every minute of it!
Almost every year, Les invited a friend or two to join him and experience the Homecoming Tour. They usually had to work the gigs with him, but they also got to meet and enjoy some incredible talent–Bobby Blue Bland, Little Milton, Bobby Rush, Gregg Allman, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Taylor, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Tyrone Davis, Wolfman Jack, Albert King and many, many others. What will make LES FEST 2015 spectacular are all the past experiences rolled into one fabulous performance on stage as the James Boogaloo Bolden Blues Band plays a tribute to two friends, B.B. King and Les Whitt.
Food and drink from eight local restaurants and caterers, a wild silent auction, and of course, our fantastic zoo and its residents will complete the evening. Admission tickets are on sale for $20.00 and may be purchased online, at the Zoo, or at the gate on September 24th. Food and drink tickets will be sold at the event. To check out the menu from the eight vendors, visit our website at www.thealexandriazoo.com.
For more information, call (318) 441-6810 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.