In automotive circles, Steve Simon probably is best known as CEO of American Auto Auction Group, a Charleston, S.C., auction company with operations in Moncks Corner, S.C.; Jackson, Miss., and Carrollton, Texas.
But for two weeks next month, Simon will sing the blues -- or more precisely, play the blues on his sax -- and take on the role of concert producer. On April 17, he ships out to Afghanistan to put on a blues concert for U.S. troops in the war zone.
Simon has been producing the Bluzapalooza concert tour to entertain members of the U.S. military for five years. Bluzapalooza is coordinated through the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State. He says he has been a blues singer, musician and concert promoter for many years.
So he's packing his fatigues and saxophone for the two-week tour that is to include eight shows at eight military bases. Blues artists Shemekia Copeland and Moreland & Arbuckle are among the performers. Past concerts have taken Simon and crew to Iraq, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Kuwait and Egypt.
Though the concert is all about the music and having fun, some venues are dangerous. Simon says the tour often includes traveling by Black Hawk helicopter and wearing bulletproof vests. He says he came under rocket attack while performing in Iraq. At bases that don't have electricity, troops will be treated to "unplugged" concerts.
So why does he do it? It's simple, he says: "Their average age is 19 to 24 and most had never left home. We will be giving them a show that they will never forget and that will remind them of how much they are loved and prayed for by all of us."