You're forgiven, longtime Minnesota blues fans, if you didn't recognize the name PK Mayo on this year's Bayfront Blues Festival schedule.

Guarantee you know him, though. He's the artist formerly known as Paul Mayasich, an Iron Range-raised musician who has been in the business for 30-ish years, usually as part of a band fronted by someone else like Big John Dickerson or Big Walter Smith.

Friday's set in the acoustic tent at Bayfront Festival Park was among the first under the new-to-you name. Buddies in the blues biz have been shortening Mayasich to Mayo for decades, he said.

"It's easier to remember," he said. "I'm in a business where people have to remember your name."

The line of autograph seekers and merchandise purchasers went deep after the midday show, and he was greeted with a mix of favorable critiques.

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"That was the most exciting show ever," a woman told him.

"You made me cry," a man told him.

"You should've been on the main stage," another fan suggested.

The 31st annual Bayfront Blues Festival started Friday and runs through Sunday at Bayfront Festival Park. About 30 acts will play throughout the weekend, rotating between the acoustic tent and the main stage. Among the upcoming headliners: Ana Popovic, a late replacement for The Allman Betts Band, which canceled dozens of shows while Devon Allman recovers from an appendectomy, and The Kentucky Headhunters. The music starts with Mary Cutrufello at 11:30 a.m. today in the acoustic tent.

Thousands turned out for the opening day — 75-ish degrees, light breeze, sunny — and the newly branded PK Mayo, dressed in a white suit with a white hat and white shoes, was a hit. His old song "In the Arms of the Blues" drew whistles and when he segued into a guitar solo, dozens of blues-heads bounced out of their folding chairs. And when he said he had one more left in his set, there was a collective "Noooooo!"

Mayasich, at 56, agreed that 30 years into a career is a strange time to change his name.

"It's a horrible time to do it," he admitted. "Better late than never. Are you going to wait until you're 6 feet under?"

Sugaray Rayford is a performer-capital-p. The well-dressed Texan has a big soulful voice and he's a man in motion — except when he stopped everything to rev up the crowd in front of the main stage.

"Get up and shake that ass and do what you want to do," he said, reminding the crowd that they had been seated all day. "Don't make me come out there."

In the concert-goers' defense, the traditional camping chair has made great advances: padded with a journal pocket, full recline with a built-in pillow, hammock sling-style, and roofed. Still, some of the fest-ers complied and added a little shimmy and shake.

Also on Friday: Rocky Athas covered Jimi Hendrix's "Riding on the Wind" because: "It's hard not to at a show like this," he said. Later his set was interrupted by a cargo ship that passed behind the stage.

Mick Sterling introduced Ken Valdez before his set. Sterling's son Tucker Jensen had played bass with Ken Valdez's band in the past, and died after battling Hodgkin lymphoma earlier this year. He credited Valdez with giving the young musician guidance and support and education.

"I love this guy," he said before Valdez came on stage, then the two hugged.

Valdez, a longtime Twin Cities musician, dug in immediately with a set that started a little metal.

"I want to get stupid funky," he told the crowd.