While running The Chameleon Club for 17 years, Richard Ruoff watched the scene thrive and bands like Live graduate to the big leagues. The club used to host a blues festival every winter, which Ruoff said was a top draw.
About a dozen years ago, Ruoff sold the club to spend more time with his growing family. It remains a music destination today.
And Ruoff remained a music fan. Last year, he wanted to revive and expand the blues event. The idea the first Roots and Blues Lancaster — A Festival of Music was born, but he decided to gauge interest with a Kickstarter crowdfunding page. The campaign not only exceeded its $10,000 goal in October, it also generated buzz, Ruoff said.
And, in recent years, new music venues popped up in the Red Rose City, including Millersville University's Ware Center, Federal Taphouse and Tellus360. Those venues, along with The Chameleon Club and Convention Center, will host live music during Roots and Blues Feb. 21 and 22.
"They are all within walking distance," Ruoff added.
The festival will feature nine stages and more than 50 bands. And the lineup features more than blues. Adding "roots" to the title gave Ruoff more flexibility to include folk, jazz, bluegrass, zydeco, rock and reggae.
With nearly 3,700 shows under his belt, booking acts was a cinch for Ruoff. He said he called up some of his old booking agent pals, who helped bring in talent.
The response has been big. Ruoff said that tickets are selling all around the Mid-Atlantic region and as far as Texas, England and — no joke — Transylvania.
"I wanted a really friendly festival," Ruoff said. He wanted to keep the price low. One-day admission, which allows access to all venues, is $45. That way, Ruoff said, people might take a chance on an unfamiliar act.
He said his other goal was for the festival to have a positive economic impact in Lancaster. Concertgoers have started booking hotel rooms and restaurant reservations. Between shows, they might stop into a gallery or shop.
Lancaster has a spring music festival — Launch. Ruoff designed Roots and Blues to get people downtown during the slower winter months.
"Everything is being set up to make it a big annual event," he added.
If you go
The festival: Lancaster Roots and Blues — A Festival of Music Feb. 21 and 22. Shows start between 5:30 and 6 p.m. both days. The festival will feature nine stages among five downtown venues, including the Chameleon Club and Ware Center. General admission passes are $45 each for Feb. 21 and Feb. 22. Processing fees apply. VIP and two-day passes are also available.
The bands: More than 50 national and local acts are on the lineup, including Edgar Winter, Loudon Wainwright, David Mayfield Parade, Grammy Award-winning group Brave Combo and Grammy-nominated band Heritage Blues Quintet. Local acts on the lineup include singer/songwriter Dana Alexandra and jazz saxophonist Tim Warfield, who will play with an organ band.
A few highlights from organizer Richard Ruoff: Lake Street Dive will play "The Late Show With David Letterman" right before the festival. Parker Millsap is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter from Oklahoma. Postmodern Jukebox regularly releases videos that rack up million of hits on YouTube - they make pop hits sound like '40s jazz standards. Cabinet is an Americana string band from upstate that has opened for The Allman Brothers Band.
Details and tickets: lancasterrootsandblues.com
On the road with Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter and his manager/band member Paul Nelson were somewhere in Massachusetts on the last day of January. Both seasoned musicians squeezed in a phone interview en route to a New England gig.
The band will headline Roots and Blues Lancaster -- A Festival of Music with a concert 10:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Lancaster Convention Center. Winter's brother Edgar will also play the festival Friday, Feb. 21.
Festivals have been routine for Winter since Woodstock in 1969. The band also played Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival twice in the last decade.