PHIL Lambell looks through the line-up for the 22nd Darlington Rhythm 'n' Blues Festival, one of the North-East's biggest fee live music events

FORMER Whitesnake guitarist and songwriter Bernie Marsden and his band are the headline act at this year's 22nd Darlington Rhythm 'n' Blues Festival on Sunday.

The Eddie Martin Band and the Teresa Watson Band will provide main stage support while 20 acts will perform in 13 town centre pubs and bars on the festival fringe.

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Having been in bands since the 60s, including a spell in UFO while just into his 20s, Marsden formed Whitesnake with former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale, and guitarist Micky Moody in 1978.

There was a strong rumour that he formed Whitesnake after turning down a chance to be the guitarist in Wings with Paul McCartney.

Marsden played on the first seven Whitesnake albums and wrote or co-wrote some of the band's best-known songs, including Here I Go Again and Fool For Your Lovin'.

In recent years Marsden has toured with Company of Snakes, M3 (Marsden, Moody and Murry), and with Elkie Brooks. His most recent CD was 2014's Shine.

London-born Eddie Martin brings his bluesy trio to the main stage. He is described by Radio 2 blues show presenter Paul Jones as "absolutely superb" and has played in Memphis and Clarksdale, Mississippi – one of the spiritual homes of delta blues – in the course of a 30-year career.

The Teresa Watson Band is a Newcastle-based five-piece who have become firm favourites at venues around the North-East.

The festival is organised by Darlington R 'n' B Club and Gasto Promotions in partnership with Darlington Borough Council – which funds the outdoor part – and has become a key date of Darlington’s events calendar.

This year will be the 22nd year of what has become one of the biggest free live music events in the North-East. It was estimated 6,000 people were in the Market Square and the venues at last year's festival.

Mike Prendergast, speaking for the R 'n' B club and his own Gasto Promotions, says there is a bit of a theme to booking the headliner for the festival. He said: "This is a free festival, so not everyone coming along would necessarily recognise, or be that interested in, a pure blues band headlining.

"To make the event more appealing to most fans, the headline band is generally a well-known name from the past who started out playing rhythm 'n' blues but then developed their own music style and became famous in their own right."

So past headliners have included legends from the British blues boom of the 60s and 70s such as The Animals, The Yardbirds, Chris Farlowe, The Pretty Things, Spencer Davis Group, Andy Fairweather Lowe ( of Amen Corner), Mungo Jerry, and the Mick Ralphs Band (Bad Company).

Many of the acts playing the fringe venues are from the North-East. Mike Prendergast said: "There is a currently a very healthy live music scene in Darlington and the North-East in general, proving that local bands certainly have a big part to play at the festival.

We believe this is the correct way to develop the event for future generations to enjoy.

"There is live music at this festival that will not only interest the avid blues fans, but also the occasional live music fan who likes different genres of music, but still appreciates good music played well.

"The team behind the event set their standards high – and they don't intend to let them drop."

FESTIVAL PROGRAMME

MAIN STAGE: MARKET SQUARE

Teresa Watson Band (1-2pm), Eddie Martin Band (2.30-3.30pm), BERNIE MARSDEN BAND (4-5.20pm).

FRINGE

DOLPHIN CENTRE

The Hookahs (1.45-3.30pm), Tim Green Band (5-6.45pm).

BOOT AND SHOE

Chris James and Martin Fletcher (2.30-4.15pm)

HOLE IN THE WALL

Miles Gilderdale Band (2.30-4.15pm)

VOODOO CAFE

Trevor Sewell (3-4.30pm), Auld Mans Baccie (5.30-7pm), Alex Fawcett Band (8-9.30pm)

THE PENNYWEIGHT

Midnite Blue (2-3.45pm), The Regals (5.15-7pm), Borken Levee (8-9.45pm)

THE QUAYS

Lee Bates and Billy Newton (5-6.45pm)

HOSKINS

Hot Coal Blues Band (6-7.45pm)

THE OLD ENGLISH GENTLEMAN

How Askew Band (6-7.45pm)

THE WOOLEN MILL

Andy Power Band (7-8.45pm)

AVALON

Andy Gunn Band (8.30-10.15pm)

THE QUAKER HOUSE

Blues Water (2-4pm), The Boneshakers (5-7pm), Dan Burnett Band (8.30-10.30pm)

JOE'S BAR

Sundance plays Hendrix (6-7.45pm)

BAR NUMBER ONE

Erik & The Vikings (7-8.45pm)