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Guitarist has far-out goal: first blues musician in space

Guitarist Tinsley Ellis has set a pretty high goal for himself.

"I want to be the first blues musician to play in space," Ellis said during a phone call from Chicago. "And to do that, I need to keep my ear to the tracks and pay attention - when they start letting musicians in space, I'll make some phone calls."Ellis has always been an ambitious guitarist - and all of his career goals, up to now, have been realized. "My first goal was to support myself by playing the music I wanted to play. I've been doing that since the '70s.

"The next goal I had was to take my music to all 50 states. I was able to do that when I went to Alaska and Hawaii this past year.

"I'm constantly changing my goals every year," Ellis said. "So I figured I'd make one that might take a little time."

The gung-ho Ellis will bring his music once more to Salt Lake City, this time at the Dead Goat Saloon Monday, Oct. 20. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Ellis became obsessed with music as a boy while getting into such British Invasion bands as the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

Ellis was a young boy when he first saw the Fab Four on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964.

"I saw the girls screaming and convinced my parents to rent me a guitar," Ellis said. "I took a few lessons and decided to do my own thing. Then I got interested in their roots, which lead me to the blues and Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King."

In fact, it was King who gave Ellis that extra push to begin his music career. "I was front row center at a B.B. King concert. He broke a string and handed it to me. I still have it with me. As a matter of fact, it's about 25 feet away from me right now."

Through the years, Ellis has developed a large following and has played with some of his blues heroes on stage, including the Allman Brothers, Otis Rush, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy.

"Those highlights are some of the rewards of my job," Ellis said. "As for challenges, I think the biggest was trying to gain acceptance in the blues community."