This March, Tim and our interns from France, Simon and Raphael, headed on a trip to Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans, Lafayette and Middlesex, NC to visit with artists. They visited with Eddie Tigner, Dr. Burt, Adolphus Bell, Alabama Slim,Little Freddie King, Leyla McCalla,Guitar Lightnin’ Lee, Major Handy and Algia Mae Hinton.
Raphael, Simon and Tim drove out from the MM offices on a Friday, March 22 to get to Birmingham, AL. They were not planning to stop in Atlanta, but unfortunately traffic had other plans. Deadlocked at 5pm, they got off the highway for some dinner and met up with Eddie Tigner. Eddie, a keyboardist who has toured all over the world with Music Maker, was in good spirits and doing well.
On Saturday morning, Tim and the interns paid a visit to Dr. Burt in Birmingham, AL. He was preparing for his trip to Australia to tour with the MM Revue. A trip like that is a wonderful opportunity for Dr. Burt, a bluesman and former civil rights activist who studied under Coretta Scott King. Dr. Burt is one of the warmest people you’ll ever meet, and gigs like the Australia tour provide not only much needed income, but new audiences for his music.
Adolphus Bell also lives in Birmingham, and Tim introduced Simon and Raphael to him that day. Adolphus was living out of his van when he first began a partnership with MMRF; after working with our Musical Development program he built a thriving career. However, for the past several years Adolphus has been battling lung cancer. Currently he is just beginning to walk again and get back on his feet. He is still not up to recording or performing, severely limiting his income. MMRF ensures his safety and comfort with a monthly stipend through our Musician Sustenance program.
After a stop in Jackson, Mississippi, it was off to New Orleans to visit with Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King. They met up with the two at a bar in the French Quarter, along with MM Next Generation Artist Leyla McCalla and Guitar Lightnin’ Lee.
Slim is ready to tour again, and asked for MMRF’s help in booking him more gigs. We’re going to work with him to increase his touring, as he only had a few gigs this year. One strategy would be to record him a new album, which we’re looking into. Little Freddie King and Guitar Lightin’ Lee are both booking their own gigs now; assistance from MMRF enabled them to increase their presence in New Orleans and are now representatives for Music Maker’s work.
The group continued to Lafayette, where they met Major Handy at his body shop. They listened to him play accordion, accompanied by his wife on the washboard, and talked about how MMRF can help this legendary Zydeco artist. Major Handy told them he and wife Frances had been hit hard by Katrina, and to make ends meet they had to drop their health insurance. Immediately after, Frances was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and she is still suffering from the effects of the treatment she was able to get. Tim connected them with the NOLA Musicians Clinic where she can receive quality medical care, and we granted Major Handy a new accordion and CDs to sell at performances to help increase his income.
It had been several years since Tim visited Algia Mae Hinton in person. At one time, Algia Mae was among the youngest artists MMRF worked with, now, in her advanced age, she is in a wheelchair and cannot play the instruments she once did. She still tries though, and had Tim re-string her guitar and banjo. Tim complied, and then played the guitar while she sang. Her voice, and her wits, are as strong as ever. In her retirement, Music Maker provides her with a monthly stipend to ensure her basic needs are met. Tim tried to say “goodbye” for three hours – he will come back soon. There’s nothing like hearing Algia Mae sing “Cook cornbread for your husband and biscuits for your outside man” live, after all.