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.
Monthly archive June, 2013

Center for Documentary Studies: Lakota John and Kin

The first time that I saw Lakota John play was at the Fall edition of Shakori Hills, a local music festival that’s held out in the middle of nowhere, North Carolina. He was on stage in a tent in the middle of the day, but a crowd had already gathered. When he started playing, I was knocked flat by the sounds coming out of his guitar and out of his mouth – the kid’s got talent, and I can see his passion for the music when he plays.

Corinne wrote a bit about the Locklears for our blog not too long ago – here’s a nice accompaniment, the final major piece from our collaboration with students from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. If you’re in Chapel Hill, make sure to go out to Southern Village tonight and catch the Locklears at Roots and Leaves!


Bon Voyage to year-long interns

Simon and Raphael with Captain Luke

Raphael and Simon with Captain Luke and Ironing Board Sam

Last week we said bon voyage to our two French interns, Raphaël and Simon, who have been with us since last October.  As they head back to France and University, they carry with them the many experiences and great training they received playing with Ironing Board Sam, Captain Luke, John Dee Holeman and others. They visited many homebound artists throughout the South. They also logged countless hours in our archive, and we thought it right to catalog a bit of the amazing work they completed while with us.

Simon Arcache, a third year student from Sciences Po Toulouse, France, set to work on the photo archive. He spent over 200 hours meticulously scanning 700 photographs in multiple formats. He spent an additional 40 hours with Tim, tagging and ranking a total of 70,000 images. The digital photography archive is now conditioned for sharing with the Southern Folklife Collection in the Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill.

(Be sure to check out the Timothy Duffy collection!)

The great attention to detail required to get high quality photo scans gave Simon the opportunity to study the photography we have in our collection closely. The experience inspired Simon to pick up a camera and begin shooting photos himself. He learned black and white photographic processes and wound up returning to France with several cameras, a box of film and an enlarger, replacing clothes in his luggage. The photo archive takes a smidge over 1 TB of space and contains 1779 pictures of Ironing Board Sam alone.

Raphaël Evrard, also a third year student from Sciences Po Toulouse, France, trolled through and organized our expansive audio archive. In his first three months at Music Maker, Raphaël completed digitizing and databasing all of Tim’s digital audiotapes, a project that’s been going on since 2003. Comprised of 80,372 individual tracks spanning 1,922 recording sessions, it would take almost 2,000 hours to listen to it beginning to end, or about 83 days.

The collection will now be housed by the Southern Folklife Collection in the Wilson library at UNC Chapel Hill where scholars and students can access the collection from anywhere in the world. While digitizing and organizing the Music Maker catalog, Raphaël began mastering sound engineering through recording 6 projects including the forthcoming Lakota John and Kin record, Shelton Powe’s upcoming release and several others.

Through their hard work and passion, Raphaël and Simon left a mark on Music Maker that won’t soon fade. Thanks guys!


Shots from the Music Maker Grotto: Dom Flemons, Justin Robinson and Nashid Abdul-Khaaliq

Long time friend, Music Maker supporter and ace photographer Mark Austin says, “its really pretty simple,” before he proceeds to blow our minds.

It’s Saturday morning or a Wednesday afternoon and we are standing in the Music Maker Grotto studio. Mark is adjusting and angling high power flash bulbs and giant reflective white boards while Tim sets up the 8 x10 camera and Whitney, Thomas and I take his instructions, locate film backs and generally hustle in every direction.

“The human eye wants to see light originating from one source,” Mark says, “overlapping shadows don’t make sense, it’s like a world with two Suns.” Ok, that makes sense, I think to myself. With that the lesson is over. Justin sits in the modeling chair and as we capture some digital shots, we look back at the computer screen to see beautiful image, one after the other pop up on the screen. Thrilling!

Since painted black, the grotto studio has become the perfect controlled lighting setting. In short order, we have had several very productive shoots. Here are some top picks from the past few sessions.

– Aaron


Center for Documentary Studies: Ms. Pudding’s Social Club

Ms. Pudding’s drink house is a neighborhood gathering space where people go to meet friends, have a drink and a fried bologna sandwich. The last time I was there, the Avon lady stopped by and my new friends took a break from chatting to stock up on their makeup and antiperspirant. I might add that I am about 50 years younger than the average patron, but I felt no distance. In Ms. Puddin’s “social club” all are welcome and the overarching ethos is of fellowship and good times.

On my first visit to Ms Puddin’s, chaperoned by Captain Luke and Big Ron, we played music, told stories, had a few drinks and passed the time. We arrived at around 10:30am and the first time I looked at my watch, it read 2pm. The second time I looked down it read 5pm. The way time passed was unusual and surprising. I can’t wait to go back.

Check out this great portrait of Ms. Puddings, made by our friends at the Center for Documentary Studies:

And more about the student who produced it:

Gabriela is an international student pursuing a Masters degree at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.  An avid travel from Ecuador, Gabriela’s interest has always been peeked by cultural diversity. This class offered her the opportunity to experience a new aspect of North Carolina’s culture through the blues. She is excited to use her new skills to relay messages of environmental and cultural importance in the future.

Center for Documentary Studies: Ironing Board Sam at the Depot

Part of the privilege of working with our artists is the opportunity to broker relationships with venues that help them establish a regular and reliable source of income. For Ironing Board Sam, that means pretty regular gigs at The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, NC and The Depot in Hillsborough, NC. Since I’ve been a part of Music Maker, Sam has had these gigs as solid bedrocks that are there even when he’s not traveling to Australia or all over the US. They allow him to keep playing his music and to keep making a living doing it.

The next piece from our collaboration with the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies is another cut from the team of students that worked with Ironing Board Sam. The video features a lot of footage of Sam performing at one of his gigs at The Depot – if you’re in the area, you should definitely come check him out sometime! He actually plays tonight, 6/14, at 8:00 pm.

Message from the student who created the piece, Amy Huang:

As a second year pre-med student majoring in Biology, I have relatively little experience with multimedia documentary. Last semester was my first time taking a documentary studies class, Documenting Obesity, a decision made on almost a complete whim. However, because of the positive experience I had, I decided to take another documentary studies class. I chose to take Multimedia Documentary in particular because of its musical component. As a trained classical pianist, I had very little exposure to blues music. However, after reading about the origins of blues working with Ironing Board Sam, I have come to appreciate the genre much more. I find that the service-learning component of this class, developing a piece that promotes both the artist and the Music Maker Relief Foundation, removes students from the confines of a college campus and encourages them to interact with people they would not otherwise encounter.

Center for Documentary Studies: Captain Luke

The first time that I met Captain Luke, we were getting ready to sit in a car together for the 6-hour haul up to Washington, DC. I had this idea of him that was heavily influenced by the materials I had encountered at Music Maker: videos of him singing bass, his albums, a particularly interesting (and not very safe for work) video about drinking beer. He didn’t really disappoint; for such an unassuming figure, Captain Luke has a big presence that fills the room he’s in.

The next piece of work from our collaboration with the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies is a great portrait of an artist at home in his surroundings. It also takes us back to Winston-Salem, NC – where Music Maker began.

Check it out (skip to ~30sec):


Meet the Students:


Lorrie Guess is a Master of Art and Design candidate in the College of Design at North Carolina State University. She received a Bachelor of Art in journalism and mass communication from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a video editor and motion graphics designer. Her recent credits include MAKERS, a PBS documentary production by Ark Media and Storyville Films.


Gabriela is an international student pursuing a Masters degree at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.  An avid travel from Ecuador, Gabriela’s interest has always been peeked by cultural diversity. This class offered her the opportunity to experience a new aspect of North Carolina’s culture through the blues. She is excited to use her new skills to relay messages of environmental and cultural importance in the future.


Candice Jansen

Center for Documentary Studies: Another Portrait of Ironing Board Sam

Following last week’s group project about Ironing Board Sam, we’ve got a shorter piece cut together by just one of the students about music in Sam’s life. This video is a small part of a series of materials produced by students at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, which is a fantastic program that collaborated with us to allow Multimedia Documentary students access to local artists in an effort to further document their art and lives.



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June 2013
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