Music Maker Relief Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of the Blues gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs. Our blog is dedicated to keeping the conversation about these artists alive & thriving.

Freeman Vines’ Guitars Get a New Life: Part 1

One evening last fall, Tim Duffy, my wife and I were chatting at an event featuring bluesman John Dee Holeman. I mentioned that I liked to build, troubleshoot and repair electric guitars, and Tim told me about Freeman Vines, a self-taught luthier from Eastern, NC, who had come to the attention of Music Makers in the past year. They were helping him out with his rent and diabetes medication and he had a treasure trove of guitars that he had built or was in the process of building, but that he had been unable to maintain or complete due to his illness. Tim told me that they were falling into disrepair and that he and Freeman were interested in seeing them restored to playable condition.


For me, this was something of a dream come true, to be a guitar tech to traditional musicians who represented the blues and roots music heritage of the South. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to help out and the following week drove up to Hillsborough to see what I could do. Well, Tim took me down into the “Grotto,” a cavernous storage building that could easily have served as a wine cave. He started taking guitars down off the racks and pointing out others that were leaning against the wall, showing me some of the unique things that Freeman had done, both in the design of the body shapes and in the collection of parts and materials. You see, Freeman is not just a creative and independent luthier, he is a repurposer and scavenger extraordinaire. There were Fender parts, Danelectro parts, 1960’s-vintage Teisco pickups, Gibson bridges, bodies made from table tops and things I could not identify without further research. And he had mixed and matched these objects to create his own unique sights and sounds. Before I knew if, I was driving home with some dozen or so instruments to start work on.

I started disassembling these puppies one at a time, inspecting and cleaning as I went. It quickly occurred to me that in replacing nonfunctional or missing parts, it would not do for me to start purchasing new parts that would stand out like a sore thumb and would violate one of the basic principles of Freeman’s method. After consulting with Tim, we decided I should try to find and install used parts wherever possible to be faithful to Freeman’s legacy. Well, have you ever tried to find 2 saddles to replace the missing ones on a vintage Accutune tremolo bridge (which Freeman had locked in place in his own unique fashion)? Or find a 1966 double rocker switch from a Teisco Spectrum guitar? Tuners for the various guitar necks were less of an issue, as Freeman had mixed and matched them with all manner of parts. Still, I had to try to do this with reliable used parts at low cost.



With all of these guitars, my first steps were to disassemble and inspect them, cleaning the switches, volume and tone controls and treating the moving parts, such as tuners, with dry silicone or Teflon lubricants. I tested each of the controls and the pickups for electrical continuity and measured the outputs to see whether they were fully functional and how they matched up with one another. After replacing missing or broken parts and repairing others, fixing or replacing broken wiring, I strung each one up, adjusted the string height and intonation, and fired them up on my amplifier to see if they worked and how they sounded. While I cleaned up each instrument as best I could and removed rust and dirt where I could, we agreed that it was important not to change the appearance or original function of any of these guitars, so as to preserve Freeman’s original designs and execution. In searching for parts to repair or complete the instruments, I would sometimes strike gold, as when I found a sack of Fender-style volume and control knobs (many of the guitars were missing knobs and switch tips) for about 15 cents apiece. Other times, I had to search high and low for a direct replacement or something that would approximate one.


Each of these guitars has its own distinctive voice and playing characteristics and it has been a learning experience for me to see how he has assembled, set up and wired these various guitars in unusual but fully functional ways.

Diggin’: Sam Frazier, Jr. – Cabbage Man

When we first met Sam Frazier, Jr. and recording some of his songs he told us that one of his favorite Country Music tunes he wrote is about cabbage. We asked him to explain and he started to told that one of his favorite meals was a fried cabbage sandwich and that makes him a Cabbage Man. In the song Sam acknowledges that his love for cabbage was due to being born into poverty, a cabbage sandwich being one of the cheapest meals you could get. For years, Sam was a Charlie Pride impersonator in Las Vegas. You can surely hear that country twang from those years on Cabbage Man!

This is from our recent food themed release Biscuits For Your Outside Man.

Physical –

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— Corn Lewis

Eddie Tigner Needs Your Help!


On August 11, Music Maker’s longtime partner artist and original Inkspot, Eddie Tigner turns 90.

In a recent discussion with Eddie we asked him about how his house was doing. When we got down to it, there was a significant list of concerns that need to be addressed: safety railings for the bathroom, a wiring issue has left several rooms without working light fixtures, undergirding needs repair causing a roach problem, and bad pipes are making the bathtub inoperable.

This is all too common for many seniors, who are trying to maintain their sense of pride and independence against mounting obstacles. Dealing with health issues while living on a limited and fixed income makes home ownership a sizable and taxing responsibility for aging seniors. The average senior adult receiving Social Security Income gets just $433 each month – hardly enough to get by. Often they are forced to choose between feeding themselves, making it to the doctor, or making much needed home repairs.

Music Maker is currently working with Eddie to address his housing needs.Your support allows Music Maker to partner with artists like Eddie and work though complex issues on a case-by-case basis, making sure that Eddie can keep playing the music that we all love to hear.

Make Your Tax Deductible Contribution Today!


Diggin’: Alabama Slim – I Love My Guitar


Alabama Slim plays Deep Blues. Originally from Vance, AL but Slim has lived in New Orleans since the late 60s. Standing tall at around 6’7″ and always wearing a pinstripe suit, Slim’s guitar style is influenced by his slender build. Sparse lead guitar on top of a walking bass line sets the tone for I Love My Guitar. The tune is about the love a musician can have for one’s instrument and the need to play. This need is so great that Alabama Slim warns women not to get too caught up their relationship because he can really only love one thing – his guitar.

Diggin’: Pat Sky – Many A Mile

Last week we introduced new Music Maker Recipient artist, Pat Sky. So this week we are Diggin’ on his classic “traveling” song, Many A Mile. Many A Mile was covered in many of the most prominent folk clubs during the 60s and 70s, and if you listen to the song you can hear why. His constant fingerpicking accompanied by a lilting lonely voice makes for one amazing folk song.


— Corn Lewis

Artist Spotlight: Albert White

Albert White began playing guitar in the late ‘50s with his legendary uncle, Piano Red, and his group “Dr. Feelgood & the Interns. Since then, Albert has performed with Joe Tex, The Tams, Ray Charles and many such artists during his 50 year tenure as a Blues and R&B musician. Albert still devotes himself to music, performing with his old band member Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and recording Music Maker CDs, including his solo album, The Soul of the Blues.


Support Artists Like Albert White Today!

UPDATE: Ironing Board Sam Is On the Mend!


In October 2015, just as Big Legal Mess was set to release Ironing Board Sam’s “Super Spirit,” Sam suffered a stroke that left him hospitalized for the better part of the following two months. He began rehab and moved to Montgomery, AL to be closer to his daughter who has been managing his care. The stroke was a difficult set back at a time when his career reprise was demonstrating its fullest potential. Sam heard the completed record from his hospital bed. Even through the heartbreaking set back he was able to muster a smile and feel the satisfaction of a vision seen to its completion.

Last week, Sam called in to report that his progress is steady, he is walking with the assistance of a cane, looking like a blues statesman. He was also thrilled to report that he would soon be getting his license back and would be able to drive himself to his outpatient therapy sessions he attends three times a week. He said he is grateful for Music Maker’s support which has been helping him stay up on his bills and expenses and hopes to soon return to his music. His optimism and courage are trademarks of his personality and his offbeat, remarkable career in music and entertainment. He is truly an inspiration and we hope you join us is wishing him a speedy and full recovery.

You can help support artist like Ironing Board Sam today!

Diggin’: Harvey Arnold – Love Her With a Feeling


Harvey Dalton Arnold is one of the musicians that we are lucky to have local to the Music Maker office, so we see him often! Harvey is a part of the Music Maker Blues Revue, often playing electric bass alongside drummer Bubba Norwood to form an indomitable rhythm section.

At our recent Freight Train Blues series in Carrboro, our headlining artist suddenly became ill. While Harvey was only expecting to play bass that night, he stepped in as the front man and delivered an amazing performance without skipping a beat. I was completely wowed by the show! Here is a short little tune from Harvey’s solo album, Outlaw.

— Jessica


Introducing Pat Sky: A Folk Music Legend


While I was attending the Folklore graduate program at UNC in 1989, I was introduced to folk musician, Pat Sky. Born in Georgia and raised in Louisiana, Pat and his guitar headed north in the 60s, where he was held in high regard as one of the great songwriters that emerged from Greenwich Village folk boom. Pat has seen all the ups and downs a musical career can offer and forewarned me of everything I would come to encounter in the proceeding 25 years of work in the music industry.
A close contemporary of Dave Van Ronk, Pat’s early albums were well received. Pat was known for his collaborations with Buffy Saint Marie, Eric Anderson and for producing blues singer Mississippi John Hurt’s album for Vanguard. Pat’s wistful and lonesome “Many A Mile” is a folk classic recorded by Pat and many others. BY the time the 70s rolled around, Pat was becoming disillusioned with the music business and politics. He turned a satirical eye to his songwriting and released the controversial ’Songs that Made America Famous.” Eventually, Pat’s interest turned to Irish music and he founded Green Linet Records in 1973. Pat became a recognized expert in playing and building uillean pipes. He published several books on the subject and performed for many years with his wife Cathy.
Now retired at 72, Pat has been experiencing some health complications. Fortunately, Music Maker can provide support through our Sustenance Program to help out. Pat is a significant artist that helped shape the landscape of American Music and should not be forgotten.

— Tim Duffy

Diggin’: Eddie Tigner – A Train

If you’ve ever driven through downtown Hillsborough, NC you might’ve noticed that there are several signs reflecting the historical significance of past residents. One of those signs denotes the fact that Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s musical partner and the man credited with writing the early American Jazz classic, Take the A Train, was raised in Hillsborough for part of his life.  Eddie Tigner’s version of this tune is a classic an innovative interpretation on A Train, with the addition of amplified harmonica the tune gets a more bluesy feel. Sometimes I put this one on my car stereo as I drive through downtown wondering if this great song was inspired by Strayhorn’s time in Hillsborough.


Eddie Tigner joined the ranks of the Music Maker Relief Foundation’s artists in 1998. Music Maker has helped Eddie obtain a passport, provided him with grants for prescription medicine, and gifted him with a keyboard. In addition, Eddie has toured with the Music Maker Blues Revue throughout Europe and the United States, recorded his albums Route 66 and Slippin’ In, and been featured in the book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America (2004) and the Music Maker documentary Toot Blues.


You can help support artists like Eddie Tigner – here

— Corn Lewis

Listener’s Circle: Tapping the Deep Well Of American Music

Help Save Our American Roots – Sign Up Today!

GGheadphonesJoin us in the Listener’s Circle and get exclusive releases curated by the MM staff every other month. You can preview last April’s Listener’s Circle below to see what it’s like!

By donating $30 monthly, you not only join this exclusive society of Roots music devotees, you ensure Music Maker can continue the work we do to sustain and preserve Our Roots.

Sign Up – here





Of Grills and Thrills: Postcard from Bernice, LA


Big Bertha, Magdalena, Theresa, Melvina; names tossed around with such affection you’d think they were referring to wives, lovers or children. Nope. BBQs. Bernice, Louisiana (pop. 1,648) has as many grills as it has rooftops. They take their grilling seriously.

A few weeks ago, Music Maker visited Bernice to shoot some music videos with Music Maker’s newest partner artist and one of its proud residents, Robert Finley. In advance of our visit, Communications Coordinator, Corn Lewis, discussed hosting a cookout for one of our shoots. Robert said there was no need to make any calls, as soon as the BBQ was lit, people would trickle in from every direction.

Early Saturday morning, Robert’s neighbor and closest confidant, Sherman, AKA Minnie, showed up wearing an apron and began to wash and prepare the 80lb box of chicken  thighs we picked up the night before. He stood over the sink, peeling skin and rinsing, stopping occasionally to sip from his beer.


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