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Tinker members treated to ‘great’ show by blues guitarist

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- What started out as a fan letter from a young blues guitarist 14 months ago, recently turned into a golden opportunity for some Team Tinker personnel to see Joe Bonamassa, one of the greatest blues and rock guitarists in the world. That's the story according to Lt. Col. Jim Hinds of the 552nd Training Squadron anyway.

"My 13-year old son, CJ, has been a Blues guitar fan since he was 10, and he really latched on to Joe's playing style, so he decided to write him a letter," Colonel Hinds said.

The colonel said he and his son were surprised to hear back from Mr. Bonamassa's management within hours. The letter led to an offer to meet Mr. Bonamassa in person in Tulsa in February 2011 and included free tickets to the concert for military personnel and their families.

"We weren't able to take advantage of it last year," Colonel Hinds said. "But, when the opportunity for a meet and greet and free tickets came up again this year, we were able to capitalize on it."

Colonel Hinds relayed the offer to his squadron first sergeant, Master Sgt. Brian Brewer, who then sent an email to all of the first sergeants across the base. Colonel Hinds said the tickets were all accounted for within 10 minutes of the email going out. "I never envisioned myself being a ticket agent," he said, "but it was worth it. Joe has some great DVDs, but they cannot replace seeing him live. He's a true example of the American ideal of what you can achieve through hard work and dedication."

According to the military attendees, Mr. Bonamassa delivered.

"Having been a fan of Joe for a while, but never seeing him in concert, I was completely floored," said Staff Sgt. Joe Chignola, 552nd Operations Support Squadron. "That was the best concert I've been to -- and I've been to plenty -- in my life, bar none."
Capt. Matt Allan of the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron said the energy and intensity of the music made two and half hours seem like 20 minutes.

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Shupert, 552nd Maintenance Squadron, used his tickets to surprise his 18 and 14 year old daughters. "They both loved it and are already asking to go and see him again," he said.

Airman 1st Class David Stocks said he was impressed at how Mr. Bonamassa could get so many different sounds from the different Gibson guitars "But then I was stunned at his acoustic set," Airman Stocks said. "It was just incredible. He played for a solid two and half hours. I'm not sure that he's all human."

Lt. Col. Jennifer Barnard, 76th CMXG, who attended with her husband, said the show was entertaining and fun. "Dave and I are inclined to agree with his website," she said, "the greatest living blues guitarist that you've never heard of."

Mr. Bonamassa has supported the military by donating proceeds from merchandise sales to the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as providing complimentary seats such as in this instance. Last December in Austin, Texas, Mr. Bonamassa's continued support was honored through the presentation of a United States flag that was carried aboard an E-3 Sentry aircraft over Iraq on Veterans Day 2011, along with a certificate of authenticity.

"I'm just glad to be able to do what I can for the great people who serve our country," Mr. Bonamassa said.

Mr. Bonamassa began playing guitar at the age of 4, and he opened shows for BB King at 12. He has played with several guitar greats including Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Robert Cray, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. Mr. Bonamassa travels to Oklahoma City approximately every two years, and his next scheduled event in the state will be Nov. 1 in Tulsa.