Codi Binkley was raised in the Sonoma Valley on a steady diet of the blues. His parents, Rick and Lisa Binkley, performed and produced shows in the area for nearly two decades, and Rick was instrumental in forming and fronting the Sonoma County Blues Society.
In his own career, Codi has taken up the cause, celebrating the legacy of the blues by singing in the Whiskey Thieves, who play a funky blend of blues and rock, and by booking shows at his venue and restaurant Burgers & Vine in Sonoma.
Now Binkley is gathering an array of the talented blues players that reside in the North Bay for a new project, the Sonoma All Stars. The ensemble of old friends has jammed about in various forms throughout the years, but they make their official debut as a collective on Dec. 26 in El Verano, that little blink-and-you-miss-it town on Highway 12 near Sonoma.
“These guys are the real deal,” says Binkley. “I’m just excited to get on their caliber, put together an album and do some traveling.”
At 35, Binkley is the young man in this troupe, though he has logged more than 1,700 shows over the last 15 years.
“We’ve got guys that played Woodstock, guys that played with Norton Buffalo,” continues Binkley. “I’m just going to be a sponge.”
Binkley’s long-time friend and collaborator Junior Boogie was the first to join him in the All Stars. An acclaimed blues Harmonica player, Boogie first played with Binkley on Rock Bottom and often appears with the Whiskey Thieves, when he’s not sharing stages with Elvin Bishop or Dr John. Guitarist David Aguilar is also on board, a veteran of the scene who was named the city of Sonoma’s Treasure Artist last year, recognized for his achievements in performance.
The Sonoma All Stars also boast guitarist Rich Kirch, best known for his 13 years in the legendary John Lee Hooker’s Coast-to-Coast Blues Band. Roy Bloomfield, Alex Garcia and Bob McBain round out the troupe, and this show also features even more guests sitting in, including multi-talented performer and producer Peter “Pops” Walsh. Opening the show is another special surprise, as Codi’s folks, Rick and Lisa Binkley, return to Sonoma and perform with Savannah.
The Sonoma All Stars are all about bringing some blues back, but Binkley is also introducing some newer numbers, and the band is traversing the territory of contemporary songwriters like John Legend in an upbeat style. “We’re bringing the old in with the new,” says Binkley. “Ideally, our demographic is 25 all the way up to 75 or 80, and everyone is dancing and having a good time.”