DONNA HERULA – VOCALS, ACOUSTIC, ELECTRIC AND RESONATOR GUITARS
Donna plays solo or in a duo, trio, or band depending on the venue.
As a solo player, she plays both traditional Delta and county blues, Americana, and original songs.
Musical Partners in Crime
Below are some of Donna’s duo, trio, and band partners who perform with her frequently.
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
He is a disciple of country blues legends Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake and Lightin’ Hopkins and brings harmony and sweetness to the couple’s driving rhythm. The couple has performed together at the Chicago Blues Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Bayfront Blues Festival, Woodstock Folk Festival, and the Fox Valley Music and Storytelling Festival, just to name a few. Tony plays acoustic guitar on two tracks of Donna’s new CD, Bang at the Door, and “his expressive vocals enliven five tracks, including an impressive lead vocal on a cover of Lucinda Williams’ Jackson.” – Mark Thompson, writer and reviewer for Blues Blast Magazine, Blues Music Magazine and the Chicago Blues Guide.
Tony is a talented singer, acoustic guitarist and harmonica player that performs in a duo with his wife, Donna, at concerts and blues and folk festivals, “mixing his Americana and folk influences with her passion for the blues.” – Mark Thompson
Upright Bass, Vocals
Marc’s obsession with the blues began when he first heard early recordings of John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, and Muddy Waters as a child. He’s been devoted to blues and American roots music ever since.
Marc has been playing with Donna since 2020 as part of her trio and band. He has performed internationally in blues, rockabilly, rock and roll, bluegrass, country, and gypsy jazz projects. Marc was a co-founder of the Special Consensus Bluegrass Band, and has written, produced, and performed in the theatrical event Lovesick Blues: Remembering Hank Williams. Other performances include R&B legends The Drifters; ‘50s/’60s girl group wonders The Lovettes; ‘50s rock and roll review Rosie and the Rivets; British Invasion tribute band The Neverly Brothers; Zachary Stevenson’s Buddy Holly tribute; alternative country’s Robby Fulks Band; and many others. Marc has also been in plays featuring roots music: “Jeff” award-winning Woody Guthrie’s American Song (Northlight, Briar Street Theater), Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Goodman Theater), and 3 years/over 1,200 performances in the cast of Million Dollar Quartet (Apollo Theatre).
Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Mandolin
A veteran of the Chicago music scene and a performer who is also a passionate rock ‘n roll fan, Tony Wittrock learned to love American music the way millions of us have: by tuning in to the tracks that defined the 60s British invasion, and then turning to the music made by that generation’s predecessors. After listening to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells and Chuck Berry, Tony picked up his first Teisco electric guitar and started a garage band at 14. He hasn’t slowed down since. Tony has been playing with Donna since 2020 as part of her trio and band.
A musical shape shifter who loves nothing more than to move between genres, Tony is fluent in blues, rockabilly, alt-country and rock ‘n roll. Tony has performed at a list of venues and festivals that includes Buddy Guy’s Legends, Double Door, the Hideout, American MusicFest, Red Hot Blue Canada, and Rockabilly Bombardment Austria, and shared the stage with Chicago favorites The Honey Bees, Barbara Clifford and The Shakin’ Tailfeathers, New Heartaches and The Screamin’ End.
In 2019, under the direction of Ann Filmer (Steppenwolf Theater, 16th Street Theatre), Tony and singer Anna Fermin were tapped to perform the musical soundtrack to “Lived Through This,” the theatrical adaptation of the critically praised book of the same name, which debuted at New York’s Helen Mills Theater, and most recently was a featured performance at Cindy Pritzker Auditorium in Chicago.
Harlan Lee Terson
Harlan Lee Terson has been a familiar figure on Chicago’s musical landscape for 40 years, recording and touring internationally with some of Chicago’s greatest blues artists.
He has played bass on more than forty-five recordings and jingles, two of which have been nominated for the Grammy award.
He maintains a busy performing and teaching schedule, contributing his deep, steady groove to various bands and projects.
Donna and Harlan are both teachers at the Old Town School of Folk Music, where they met. Harlan and Donna began playing together in 2018.
Kenny "Beady-Eyes" Smith
Kenny Smith was unquestionably born into blues royalty. He grew up in the same house where Muddy Waters once lived in Chicago, the home of the blues in the North. Throughout his childhood, Kenny was surrounded by Muddy and his friends, including his own father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (1936-2011). These same blues icons helped mold him into the person and drummer he is today and later in life asked him to provide his famous backbeat on some of the largest and most respected stages and recordings in the world. Kenny has played thousands of live performances to date and is a true gem amongst his peers and music lovers.
His father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, played drums for the Muddy Waters band in the early 1960’s and then again from 1968 through 1980 and was featured on all of Muddy’s Grammy-winning albums. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, one of the best known living blues drummers today, learned 99% of what he knows about drumming from his father and was also inspired by acclaimed drummers: Odie Payne, Fred Below, Earl Phillips, Ted Harvey, Louie Bellson, S.P. Leary, Francis Clay, Sam Lay, Art Blakey, Sonny Payne, Clifton James and many others who paved the way. And with those experiences, Kenny has revitalized and created new interpretations of the legendary blues drummers and modern drummers as he pushes blues drumming to new innovative and traditional styles.
Grammy Award Winner
Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith is also a world-famous, multi-award-winning blues drummer extraordinaire who in 2011 won a Grammy award for his remarkable work on Joined at The Hip with Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Kenny had the honor and privilege of contributing to that project through songwriting and drumming. He is delighted that his accomplishments and talents were recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Honored all across the globe for his exceptional achievements, Kenny won the Living Blues awards for the most outstanding musician (drums) in 2008 (shared with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith), 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2009, an album entitled “Chicago Blues: A Living History” on which Kenny recorded was nominated for a Grammy Award. This same album won Best Blues Album in 2009 by the Academie de Jazz de France. Kenny is a ten-time nominee and a 2021 winner of the Blues Music Awards for Best Drummer by the Blues Foundation. He performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008 with Koko Taylor and B.B. King during a tribute for actor Morgan Freeman. And in 2010, Kenny toured with the Taproot group and the U.S. State Department in Africa, where the group played for ambassadors, returnee/refugee camps and taught workshops to local musicians. Kenny’s also passionate about the Blues in the Schools program. He is spreading the Blues message by providing education to students both in the United States and internationally.