Music Maker Relief Foundation is a 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.
Last week I packed my car to move to North Carolina and start my internship with Music Maker. The drive from New Jersey is about seven and a half hours long. I filled up the glove compartment with enough Music Maker CDs to last the ride and I hit the road. Around hour six of driving, I hit a slump – there was traffic up ahead and I was starting to get sleepy. I knew I needed a pick me up to get me through the final hour and a half, so I popped Georgia Drumbeat by James Davis into my stereo. Nothing feels quite as much like forward motion as drumbeat. His song “Go On Ahead” was the perfect motivator with it’s pumping rhythm and cruising guitar. It’s the kind of beat that sticks to you for a while. It works even better than large roadside coffee. I could have danced my way down I-85!
On Monday I arrived at Music Maker to start my internship. I got right to work helping Aaron coordinate an upcoming concert. We spent the morning on the phone with artists and I got a chance to introduce myself. Boo Hanks, Cool John Ferguson, and Big Ron Hunter all warmly welcomed me to Music Maker. Everyone seemed to agree: it is the place to be. Big Ron even offered me some valuable life advice: “Be smart. Be careful.” I will certainly do my best!
Around lunchtime, Corn called John Dee Holeman to see if we could swing by. I had been looking forward to meeting artists for weeks, so when John Dee told Corn, “We’re peeling pears. Bring a knife.” Aaron, Corn, and I hopped in the car. When we arrived, John Dee was swinging a fly swatter at one rogue fly while his girlfriend, Joan, peeled a huge pot full of pears.
After introductions and a very kind welcome both to Music Maker and to their home, Joan showed me rows of pear preserves she’d already finished and got me caught up on what I need to know now that I’m living in North Carolina. Meanwhile, John Dee joshed around with Aaron and Corn. He made a point to tell me that he’s stronger than both of them, and truth be told, if they ever decide to arm-wrestle, my money’s on John Dee.
I’m thrilled to meet and spend more time with artists as I continue on. Just from hearing how the artists admire each other and how fondly they speak about the whole gang at Music Maker, I know that I’ve arrived somewhere truly extraordinary.
Abigail is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned a BFA in Sound Design.
This month Robert Lee Coleman’struck needed an expensive repair; it was not something his gig income could cover on top of rent, food and medication. Music Maker was able to step in and provide an emergency grant through our Musician Sustenance Program, so Coleman could stay on the road. Coleman uses his truck to get to gigs, in addition to getting around town for groceries, medical appointments, and the usual things you need a car for. A broken truck would have made traveling to gigs difficult or even impossible, leaving him with no income.
Our Musician Sustenance Program is designed to work alongside our other programs such as Musical Development and Cultural Access to ensure the musicians we work with are able to concentrate on their art, while living in safety and comfort. Our musical traditions in the American South are threatened by the poverty experienced by the pioneers holding these traditions strong, and Music Maker works to alleviate this, one musician at a time.
We could not do it without you – please consider making a donation to our Annual Fund today.
Looking at Preston Fulp’s photograph you would assume that his sound would be rough and mean, but that is not the case. In fact, his sound is the exact opposite. Preston’s sweet, high voice paired with his delicate finger-style guitar brings a warm fuzzy feeling that enters through the ear and works its way down into your heart. Preston was a sawmill worker born in 1915 and unfortunately passed away in 1993. His spirit is still heard this heartfelt song.
This was one of Taj Mahal’s picks last Fall during our 20th Anniversary, which it is hard to believe was a year ago! I was reminiscing about the very special time for Music Maker and happened upon this track from Neal Pattman. I never had the opportunity to meet Neal, who passed away before I joined Music Maker, but the striking images of him in our archives and his music on rotation in our office have left a strong impression.
I love this song – “I wish I was a Catfish, swimming in the deep blue sea.” I mean, after all, what does a catfish have to worry about? (Aside from being someone’s dinner, I suppose.) Sometimes during hectic days being a Catfish sounds pretty darn great. Of course, the song is more about Neal’s breakup with a lady, but that first line always hooks me in. The laid back track is a signal from my playlist to take a break, listen and enjoy.
Sometimes at Music Maker, you go down into the music archive, close your eyes, spin around three times, point to the shelf and grab the first thing in front of you. Music Maker CD Roulette! Okay, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but the copious amounts of original recordings available in the archive can certainly be overwhelming. Today I was lucky enough to grab the Dr. Burt CD “They Call Me Dr. Burt” and happened to play the song “Clock On the Wall” first.
This song immediately starts out heavy, reminiscent of a crawling deep blues style, with a growling guitar lick. A really great contrast begins to take shape from Dr. Burt’s melodic lyrics and the heavy crunch behind his distorted guitar. The two compliment each other perfectly, and Dr. Burt’s howling style of song carries this lonesome ballad all the way home. The song practically begs you to sing along. Enjoy!
When longtime Music Maker supporter and Advisory Board member Taj Mahal heard about Jontavious, he wanted to meet the extremely talented young artist in person. We sent Jontavious to a Taj Mahal show at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, where he was able to meet one of his idols. Jontavious told us that the experience was absolutely wonderful and he was very honored to meet Mr. Taj.
L to R: Lashawn Hopson, Taj Mahal & Jontavious Willis
Here is a video of Jontavious from his visit to MM headquarters last month.
Lakota John Locklear’s take on the blues classic “Crossroads” shows that he’s not the new kid on the block- he’s a talent that is here to stay.
His proficiency is proven on tracks like this- every note, every slide brings you closer to that crossroads- late summer heat, walking down a dusty road with just a guitar in your hand and the blues in your soul.
At the tender age of 9, Lakota John picked up his first guitar, and soon after embraced the sounds of slide guitar. Joining the Music Maker family as a Next Generation Artist in 2009, he’s further solidified his place in the world of Southern traditional music. Now at 18, he’s got the heart of a tried and true bluesman, and it pours out through his gutsy vocals and skillful guitar on this track.
This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that shook a nation and changed the lives of New Orleanians forever. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed, it’s even harder to believe that New Orleans has yet to fully recover from this event. For many people living in the 9th Ward, it still seems like Katrina happened yesterday. When I traveled to New Orleans four years ago (my first visit) to assist with a documentary short on Little Freddie King, I was shocked by the state of disrepair that the Lower 9th Ward was still in. Across the street from Freddie’s house, there were still abandoned buildings with the worn-out spray painted markings that indicated how many bodies were found inside the home, a constant reminder of the true damage Katrina caused. Several Music Maker artists’ lives were drastically impacted by Katrina- Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen left New Orleans a day before the storm hit and has never returned permanently. Little Freddie King and Alabama Slim were temporary displaced, eventually returning to New Orleans after a long period of uncertainty while the city regained its necessary infrastructure. The Mighty Flood (audio below) is Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King’s account of what happened the day Katrina hit.
Major Handy, a legendary Zydeco player from Lafayette, LA had his entire livelihood jeopardized by Katrina. Major Handy’s musical income came from playing on cruise ships whose ports were located in Louisiana and were destroyed by the hurricane. Major Handy has struggled the last 10 years to rebuild the stream of gigs that he once had and is only now getting back to where he was before Katrina. Music Maker helped Major Handy get a new professional instrument and has worked with him to book new gigs, including a private event at the New Orleans Superdome shortly after it reopened.
Little Freddie King & Tim Duffy at Freddie’s home in the Lower 9th Ward
Little Freddie King and Alabama Slim both relied on playing shows at various clubs and festivals in New Orleans and