Joe Bonamassa is not only keeping the blues alive, but helping keep the music business alive.

The internationally acclaimed 45-year-old guitar wizard and singer-songwriter is returning to Davenport’s Adler Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 9. It’s part of his 22-date fall tour, which kicks off tonight (Nov. 1) in Springfield, Mo., including two-night stands at The Chicago Theater, Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre and Seattle’s Paramount Theatre.

“Time Clocks” is Bonamassa’s 25th No. 1 blues album on Billboard, billed as his “most raw, rocking album yet.”

The cover of 2021’s “Time Clocks.”

A review of the fall 2021 disc at Rock & Blues Muse said:

“Time after time, he puts out great albums, not just because of his wizardry on guitar and soulful, often striking vocals and songwriting, but because he challenges himself and his fans with each new venture.”

The review said the new one is “no different, a thrilling, expansive and moody record that’s big on production.”

Produced by Kevin Shirley and mixed by the legendary Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones), the album “smacks of reflection, anguish and insight,” the review says. “Infused with big sound, effects and cinematic nuances, Time Clocks reflects Bonamassa’s undeniable brilliance and mastery of craft.”

The blues great is a New York state native who opened for the legendary B.B. King when he was only 12 years old and has since played alongside such artists as Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, John Lee Hooker, Warren Haynes, Steve Winwood, Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy, among others. B.B. King might not have guessed it at the time, but that 12-year-old prodigy would go on to become an industry powerhouse.

Glad to be back

Bonamassa said in a recent interview he’s just thrilled to get back to touring, which was interrupted for artists worldwide by COVID in 2020.

Bonamassa is a 45-year-old native of upstate New York (photo credit: Eleanor Jane)

“It’s nice to get back and the social interactions are starting to become more normal,” he said, noting he’s played concerts back to full capacity since August 2021, and done 120 shows so far. “It feels more like it was.”

Bonamassa is back on track this year to do as many shows as normal – usually 110-120 concerts over 200 days on the road, he said.

“The break was obviously a punch in the face for everybody,” he said of 2020 COVID shutdowns. “It’s very difficult to go from a pace that intense for that many years, to nothing. It was just a brick wall. But every time I get to stand on stage in front of people, I’m satisfied. It’s a privilege to do this. It’s an honor and privilege.”

Bonamassa’s “Royal Tea” was recorded in January 2020, before COVID. “At the time, nobody had any idea that a gigantic steel door was going to shut on everyone,” he said. “It feels so good, it was gonna be a great year, a great decade, and then that’s what happened.”

The “Royal Tea” album marked Bonamassa’s third Grammy nomination, and was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London.

In 2020, Bonamassa delivered a groundbreaking live performance from the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, where he played Royal Tea in its entirety to over tens of thousands of people across the globe via livestream, recording the full set for the live concert film and album Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From The Ryman, released in 2021.

He said he’s worked at Abbey Road about half dozen times, including once with the London Philharmonic and another time with drummer Ginger Baker (co-founder of the rock band Cream).

In February 2021, he did a follow-up at The Hit Factory in New York City, which is “Time Clocks,” released last fall.

Of the record, American Songwriter opined: “Bonamassa pushes into fresh territory while staying within a blues-based framework,” and “there is more than enough proof in this sprawling set that Bonamassa doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels or take his star status in the blues-rock genre for granted.”

Of the title track, Guitar World wrote: “Though emotive, vibrato masterclass solos definitely give the people what they want, [the song’s] highlight comes in the form of a downright tasty, straight-from-Nashville opening riff.”       

Generous with money, time

Bonamassa’s music education non-profit Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation includes the Fueling Musicians Program, which supports touring musicians unable to make a living due to the global pandemic.

Photo credit: Kit Wood

To date, he’s raised and given out $700,000 for hundreds of working musicians, whose livelihood was devastated by COVID.

“We had to do something; I’m in a fortunate position – even with the shutdown, I could still pay my light bill,” Bonamassa said. “We just got together and started raising money for a good cause.”

“It went to all genres – heavy metal, blues, hip-hop, we didn’t care,” Bonamassa said. “We’re called Keeping the Blues Alive, but it’s more like keeping music alive. Everybody was fighting for their survival.”

“And $1,500 moved the needle for some folks – it helped keep the wolves from the door,” he said of individual grants.

The foundation has been going over 10 years, originally designed to help school music programs, and they still do.

“To me, it’s all about how kids see music,” Bonamassa said. “Let’s help ‘em out. That’s the definition of what a philanthropic organization is.”

He doesn’t intermingle with the Blues Foundation, which he says does equally great work, sponsoring the International Blues Challenge. He’s judged a few of them over the years.

“It’s one of the few times of year you can actually hear blues music in Memphis, Tennessee,” Bonamassa said.

“Live From Nerdville”

While waiting for the green light to tour, Bonamassa launched his video interview series “Live From Nerdville,” now gearing up for its third season, where he has interviewed a wide array of guests ranging from renowned musicians, industry leaders and legendary entertainers, including Dion, Paul Stanley, John Oates, Brad Paisley, Jeff Garlin, Ben Folds and Peter Frampton as the 50th episode featured guest.

In July 2020, Bonamassa interviewed Paul Stanley of KISS.

“Live From Nerdville” is broadcast to over 5 million fans on Bonamassa’s social channels, as well as on all podcast platforms.

Bonamassa had a radio show on Sirius for years, but started interviewing people remotely in 2020. He had everyone from Paul Stanley to Brad Paisley, SE Cupp from CNN.

“I just picked up my phone and said, ‘Hey, you wanna be on the show?’” he said in the recent interview.

He recorded an average of once a week, and that has waned as he’s back touring.

“Because I’ve been interviewed so much, I feel I do a decent interview,” Bonamassa said. “It’s just a conversation between musicians, that’s how I’ve always operated.”

Among his favorite guests was comedian Jeff Garlin, who he said completely takes over, as well as Harry Shearer and Paul Shaffer. Bonamassa is a huge “Simpsons” fan, so Shearer was a special treat.

“It’s talented people doing things that they’re great at,” he said of his interview subjects. “It was a fun experience to interview people outside the guitar. I’ve been doing this for 40 years, but to get into the comedian side of it, the broadcasting side of it, it’s interesting to me because it’s all an extension of the entertainment business.”

“Whether you’re on TV telling jokes, or playing blues guitar, it’s all an extension of that,” Bonamassa said.

In June 2020, Bonamassa interviewed John Oates of Hall & Oates.

Of his musical guests, he said it was great to talk with Todd Rundgren and Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. Their “We’re an American Band” (1973, produced by Rundgren) is “one of the most iconic American rock anthems of all time,” Bonamassa said.

“Todd is a brilliant producer and really had his finger on the pulse of the music business at the time,” he said. “You always hear, it’s the right song at the right time, produced by the right person.”

Also fundraising at sea

One of the Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation’s largest fundraisers, Bonamassa hosts a bi-annual (twice a year) music festival cruise “Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea,” selling out the last six years since its inception.

“Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea VIII” sets sail from Miami, Florida on March 13, going from Miami to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

The live music cruises sail typically through the Mediterranean and a Caribbean one, started in 2014.

They are back to normal cruising schedule (usually February/March and late summer). The next one, already sold out, they have Little Feat. Bonamassa has included Peter Frampton, Keb Mo, among many great artists.

Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive Records has released albums for many artists, including musical icon Dion’s Blues With Friends, Chicago Queen of Guitar Joanna Connor’s 4801 South Indiana Avenue and Joanne Shaw Taylor’s Blues From The Heart Live. All three albums debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Blues Charts, while Blues Without You from Larry McCray debuted at No. 2.

His life was documented in the “Guitar Man” film, released in the winter of 2020. Bonamassa pulls back the curtain on his incredible career, allowing us to see his remarkable musical achievements and pioneering style. Featuring behind the scenes interviews and live concert footage showcasing some of the biggest names in music.

Collectively, Bonamassa has over 40 albums to date with studio and live recordings, collaborative albums with blues sensation Beth Hart and his adventurous side projects: Black Country Communion and Rock Candy Funk Party.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. Nov. 9 Adler show are $42 to $202, available HERE. For more information, visit the artist’s website.