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Delta rockets and Delta blues
Witchita’s Steve Stelljes is officiating NFL games this fall
BY THERESA COCCO
Wondering how rockets harmonize with the blues? Ask Chris O’Connell of Boeing in Huntington Beach, Calif. As a director for Boeing Launch Services, O’Connell negotiates contracts and pricing by day and gets down and dirty by night, playing guitar with his band, Blues BarBQ.
O’Connell has worked for the company for about 20 years, but most of his fellow employees probably don’t know about his hobby as a blues man.
A musician since childhood, O’Connell is the lead guitar player and vocalist for the Southern California–based band. The group formed about nine months ago and has performed in various Southern California venues, including The Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana, Off Campus Pub in Fullerton and Martini Blues in Huntington Beach. In an important upcoming gig, the band will open for Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., in late October. The Flyers are the 1999, 2000 and 2001 W.C. Handy award-winners for Best Blues Band of the Year, the Blues equivalent of the Grammy.
Some of O’Connell’s early guitar influences were Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Mike Bloomfield.
Beyond blues, O’Connell has played in many rock, soul, R&B, progressive, blues-rock and jazz-rock bands through the years. But because his heart is in the blues, he has come back to playing blues exclusively. His prized guitars include a 1955 Gibson ES 175, a 1973 Gibson ES 335 and a 1957 reissue Fender Stratocaster.
When asked if he would leave the world of contracts and pricing for a music career, O’Connell was quick to say that he “loves the balance” he has between the two. “It is a wonderful release being up on stage.”
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