Blues & Americana Live in Sussex

I was pleased to see two super bands playing in our local Civic Centre earlier this month.  They were BAD INFLUENCE, who have been one of the leading acts on the UK blues scene for many years and CONNOLLY HAYES, billed as an exciting emerging act.

Both bands take a bow


Bad Influence features the husband & wife team Val & Richard Hayes with Connolly Hayes featuring their daughter, Jess Hayes.  Jess was seen late last year getting four chair turns on The Voice on TV and she was quite brilliant with her incredible blues voice.

I was surprised, however, to find that Bad Influence, despite all their years on the circuit and their seniority, played first, effectively supporting the Connolly Hayes Band.  Or perhaps we’d call it a ‘double-header.’  Bands often work that way and switch between who goes first and second on different nights.

Bad Influence

I’d been looking forward to Bad Influence as they’d been recommended to me.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The four-piece hit the stage with a ZZ Top blues groove crossed with Sass Jordan. Val fronted on vocals and ever so cool playing rhythm guitar, glass-like blonde hair reflecting the stage lights. Not since Ian Astbury (The Cult) have I witnessed anyone using hair to such good effect.

More than once, Val mentioned being a huge Bonnie Raitt fan so it was no surprise that there were BR songs and influences.  There was some really tasty guitar from husband, Richard, and Peter Stroud on Bass provided effective backing vocals.  But, for me, it was Val’s vocals that were mesmerising.  She has the voice I think I have in my head – ha!

The band played songs from various albums, most notably ‘Carousel,’ and threw in a curve-ball with a cover of Dion’s Runaway, given the Bad Influence treatment.

It was a full-on, high energy gig which left me quite satisfied by the finale before I remembered we had another band to come.

The Connolly Hayes Band

The Connolly Hayes Band weren’t what I expected at all.  Had Jess Hayes not been related to Bad Influence as she is, I wonder whether they would have deemed the two bands’ styles to be totally compatible.  Their set veered toward Americana with a stand-out number being Bob Seger’s ‘Hollywood Nights,’ an obvious choice that suited Connolly’s guitar and vocals.  Connolly is Frankie Connolly, who plays a mean guitar but also sings.  I understand he has quite the pedigree so it felt more like the lead vocals were being shared between him and Jess.

Because Frankie plays guitar AND sings, whereas Jess just sings, I didn’t think she was allowed to be as effective as she could have been through much of the gig. I wanted to hear more numbers that would showcase Jess’s fantastic voice but she seemed relegated to backing singer at times, even though she was standing front and centre stage.

Mother & Daughter sharing the stage for an encore

Overall, though, it was a night of real talent with superb musicianship.  Graham Pope really has an eye for talent and all the gigs he promotes are worth attending.

Here’s a rundown of what he has coming up…

Friday 6 September – Crowborough Community Centre

Aynsley Lister has been at the top of the Blues scene for over two decades, billed as one of the most exciting contemporary Blues guitarists around today. Known not only for his exceptional guitar playing, he is also a highly regarded songwriter whose passion for music crosses genres, effortlessly combining blues, soul, Americana, rock and sometimes even pop elements. On this tour, Aynsley presents his new studio album “Along For The Ride”, released on November 11th 2022 via his own label.

Watch here    Book tickets here


VERONICA SBERGIA & MAX DE BERNARDI (with support from Ben Tyzack/Nigel Bagge/Eddie Armer)
Friday 20 September – Uckfield Civic Centre

Veronica Sbergia & Max De Bernardi :Well-known musicians in the international blues scene, respected in their own right individually, together, Max and Veronica, they are truly something special. With just their voices and a few acoustic instruments, this delightful duo has assembled an extraordinary repertoire of American Roots music from Country and Folk, to Ragtime and Swing, from Gospel to Blues and vice versa.

Watch here      Book tickets here


SAINTS & SINNERS (featuring the Spikedrivers and Fran McGillivray & Mike Burke
Friday 4 October – Uckfield Civic Centre

Inspired by all the rich influences of the blues and gospel legacy, Ben Tyzack, Constance Redgrave and Maurice McElroy from the Spikedrivers with Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke present Saints & Sinners, a concert exploring the space and harmony between spiritual music and ‘the devil’s blues’

Watch here      Book tickets here


IAN SIEGAL (with support from David Migden & Joe Gibson)
Wednesday 6 November –  Uckfield Civic Centre

lan Siegal’s most recent studio album Stone by Stone is a celebration of collaboration with the muscle of Siegal’s voice standing front and centre. Recorded in Southern California’s Grow Vision Studios with production team Greta Valenti and Robin Davey (Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, The Hoax) the songs are raw, intimate, and assured.

Watch here     Book tickets here


Friday 22 November – Uckfield Civic Centre

Martyn Joseph is a completely unique and mind-blowing artist. Take everything you think you know about singer songwriters and rip it up. For one man and a guitar he creates a performance with a huge far-reaching sound that is energetic, compelling, and passionate. Be it to two hundred people or twenty thousand, he blows the crowd away night after night.

Watch here     Book tickets here


If you’d like to hear about everything Graham Pope promotes as he books the gigs, get on his mailing list.
Email him at or give him a call on 07947275684.

We’ll see you at a gig soon.


  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

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