ELLEN MCILWAINE -
Ellen McIlwaine was born in Tennessee and moved with adoptive missionary parents
to Japan when she was only two. Exposed to everything from Japanese Folk and
Classical Music, American Rhythm & Blues greats like Ray Charles, Fats Domino
and Professor Longhair on Japanese radio, as well as the Grand Ole Opry and
European Classical Music on American Armed Forces Radio, while growing up in an
International Community of families from India, Pakistan, the Middle East,
Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, she was playing "World Music" before it was
called World Music!
After starting out on Acoustic Guitar in Atlanta Georgia while attending Art
School, she moved to Greenwich Village in 1966, opening for many Blues Greats,
and getting to know Odetta, Richie Havens, Mississippi John Hurt & Jimi Hendrix
to name but a few. Moving to Woodstock NY in 1968 and recording Fear Itself with
her group of the same name, but going solo again in 1970, she gained cult status
through her two Polydor albums "Honky Tonk Angel" 1972 and "We the People" 1973.
These were followed by "The Guitar Album", a compilation of all the guitar
players on Polydor in 1974: Link Wray, Rory Gallagher, John McLaughlin, Roy
Buchannan et al. Ellen was the only female player.
In Montreal 1975 she recorded "The Real Ellen McIlwaine" with members of the
Ville Emard Blues Band and in 1978 "Ellen McIlwaine" came out on United Artists
featuring the beautifully written tunes of Rawn McKinnon and Alan Gerber but
with none of Ellen's guitar or musical input. By the end of that year she had
begun to venture into the realm of Electric Guitar with the Guild Solid Body
given to her by Guild Guitars. In 1980 she began touring with a bassist and
drummer as an Electric Power Trio and in 1982 "Everybody Needs It" was released
featuring Jack Bruce on bass & vocals, Paul Wertico on drums. She toured
Australia in 1980 & '84 as part of Honky Tonk Angel Productions with Margret
RoadKnight, and in 1987 recorded "Looking For Trouble" in Toronto where she took
up residence, absorbing the Reggae influences of Toots & the Maytals and various
other Jamaican acts coming through Toronto. Also in 1987 she became a permanent
resident of Canada, continuing to play the thriving Blues Club Circuit and
Canadian Music Festivals and touring with Guitar Hero Johnny Winter in 1990.
In 1997 Ellen created a live musical score for the Tom Cone play "True Mummy",
drawing on Egyptian and Lebanese traditional dance music and the inspiration of
the great Pakistani singer Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It distilled itself into
her popular original "Egyptian Blues". She completed two film scores, one in
Germany about the history of rockets and one in Canada called "Confessions of a
Snake Killer", and appears on the "Celebration of Blues" Collector Series for
Stony Plain Records. She also makes guest appearances on various other artists'
In 1998 she was featured in the Bravo documentary "A Slide Through Time" and in
1999 she played the Women in (e)motion Festival in Bremen Germany with Leo
Valvassori on bass and Randall Coryell on drums. Their performance was recorded
live and released that year as "Women in (e)motion/Ellen McIlwaine. In 2000
"Spontaneous Combustion" was released by the same label, featuring Taj Mahal on
two cuts and his Rhythm Ambassadors, Bill Rich and Kester Smith on bass and
drums. Ellen toured toured Germany, Switzerland & Austria several times with Taj
Mahal & his Hawaiian Blues group, as well as solo and with Bill & Kester's
In 2001 she collaborated with Japanese Electronica Wizard, Shinichi Osawa of
Mondo Grosso on "Don't Let Go" for which she wrote the melody and words. Then in
2002 after Yukihiro Fukutomi's re-mix of Ellen's "Born Under a Bad Sign", and
despite a throat infection, "Live at Yellow" was recorded in Tokyo with Bill and
Kester again, and Kayoko Kimura on saxophone. Both were released on Soul Source/Polydor/Universal/Japan.
She toured solo with DJ Ken Yanai of Soul Source as part of the DJ show at Dance
Clubs across Japan. In 2003 she again took up her battered Acoustic Guitar to
tour New Zealand and Australia on the bill once again with chanteuse
extrordinare, old friend Magret RoadKnight. She wrote and performed the lyrics &
melody for "Reflections" featured on Robb Scott's "Afro Odessey". In 2004 she
began a collaboration with the great tabla player Cassius Khan, touring Canadian
Music Festivals & Theatres with the new material. Ellen recorded "Mystic Bridge"
featuring Cassius along with Linsey Wellman on soprano sax and Amika Kushwaha on
harmoniums and released it in 2007 on her own label Ellen McIlwaine Music. That
same year she appeared with Robbin Thompson, formerly of Bruce Springsteen's
band, rollicking together through Robbin's "Where You've Never Been (The Zhong
Song)" featured on his latest album "just a blur in the rearview".
In 2008 & 2009 & 2010 she toured with Patty Larkin's La Guitara ensemble in the
US & in Canada with Sue Foley's Guitar Women, also appearing solo at various US
& Canadian Venues & Festivals. Working on her autobiography, touring &
experimenting with new material keeps Ellen very busy. Life is good!