Any mention of the Live Oak Music Festival is going to conjure images of summer, camping, hippies and music.
The annual three-day benefit for public radio station KCBX, now in its 23rd year, will also feature arts and crafts booths, barn dances and storytelling.
But, really, it’s all about the music. With genres ranging from gypsy and reggae to Celtic and Brazilian, the festival, held in Santa Barbara County, aims to appeal to a variety of music listeners with the kind of music you might hear on public radio.
Here are some highlights of this year’s lineup:
Staples’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career began when her guitar-playing father, Roebuck Staples, invited his children — Mavis, Cleotha and Pervis — to perform with him in front of his church. Later, they became the Staples Singers, a Stax-signed soul act backed by the Stax house band Booker T & the MG’s. Staples went on to perform gospel as a solo act, yet she’s always had rock cred, recently recording with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.
Front man Toots Hibbert isn’t just another reggae singer — he’s a reggae singer with soul. The man who created the word “reggae” is known for his raspy, Otis Redding-like vocals and catchy tunes that have been covered by a variety of artists. “Pressure Drop” has been covered by the Clash and Jack Johnson, “Monkey Man” by Amy Winehouse and “54-46 That’s My Number” by Sublime. Oh — and he’s friends with The Rolling Stones.
In 1960, future Tornado Freddy Fender was gaining fame as the “Mexican Elvis” when he was convicted of marijuana possession (one joint) and sentenced to five years in Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. After three years he was paroled by then-governor Jimmie Davis, author of “You Are My Sunshine,” but his stalled music career led him to take on work as a mechanic. By the mid- 1970s he’d made a comeback, becoming a successful country act with a string of hits. When his solo career ran its course, he formed the Tex-Mex supergroup the Texas Tornados with Dough Sahm, Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers. Both Fender and Sahm have since passed away, but Sahm’s son, Shawn, has taken the torch and launched a new path for the Tornados.
While this husband-and-wife team were both veteran musicians when they met, they put off performing together for years once their two daughters were born. Moore decided to take a day job, focusing less on music. Meanwhile, O’Brien took to the road with her brother Tim, performing Americana music. But once their children were grown, husband and wife had a musical reunion. Their latest album, “Saints & Sinners,” includes covers of lesser known songs by Harry Nilsson, Richard Thompson and George Harrison.
There’s no one in the band named Jenny; that’s just a play off the name Waylon Jennings. (Oddly enough, some Wailin’ Jennys concert goers actually thought they had bought tickets to see Waylon Jennings — even after the country star had died.) Never confused with outlaws, The Jennys are a trio of harmonizing sirens who delve into alt country, pop, blues and rock. The Jennys formed for what was supposed to be a one-time performance at a little guitar shop in Canada.
After his family moved to Nashville to make it in the music business, Mayfield and his father took a job at a machine shop, where they both sang together during the graveyard shift. Unable to crack the Nashville scene, the family later returned to Ohio, but Mayfield wouldn’t be gone long. Eventually, the bassist/ guitarist/mandolinist got a gig with country artist Andy Griggs, performing several gigs at the Grand Ole Opry. Later, while touring with his sister, Jessica Lea Mayfield, he met the Avett Brothers, who would later add vocals to Mayfield’s folk rock solo work.
It didn’t take long for Hull to make use of the Christmas gift she received from her grandmother. She began playing that mandolin at age 8, was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry with Alison Krauss at 11 and landed a record deal at 13. But as high school graduation neared, she had to halt her fast-moving career when she accepted a prestigious Presidential Scholarship for the Berklee School of Music.