Music Maker Artist Willa Mae Buckner in her younger days – all that she taught us will not be forgotten
Black History Month is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. For 20 years, Music Maker Relief Foundation has been working closely with over 300 of our nations finest African American folk musicians. Our mission often takes us to communities in America that live behind a veil of poverty and obscurity. As Guitar Gabriel told me often. “When I was a young boy, you could get lynched for looking at a white women’s knee. We have come so far since then, but we have a long way to go.”
Music Maker will celebrate this special month, with quotes and videos from our elders, reflecting on their experience. We are saddened by the loss of Dr. Burt two years ago, a freedom fighter from Birmingham, Alabama who was a true believer in non violence. We hope to keep the memories of our Silent Strings with postings of their teachings.
Thanks so much for supporting Music Maker!
Tim and David Bryant
Tim, B and I traveled just under 2,000 miles throughout the South from January 13th – 17th, visiting Drink Small, David Bryant, Little Freddie King, Alabama Slim, Guitar Slim, Jr., Guitar Lightnin’ Lee, Willie James and Leyla McCalla.
Seeing eight artists in five days was thrilling. I work in varying capacities with each of these artists with rare opportunities to see them in person. I communicate with them mostly by phone and letter, whenever we need to talk about gigs, album production, setting up a webpage or sending emergency relief.
Little Freddie King by Gregg Roth
I have been traveling to New Orleans on a regular basis since my first visit in 1981. It is the northern tip of Caribbean and it is an enchanting magical city. In 1997 I was contacted by Little Freddie King to help him with some dentures, and over the years we helped him much more, especially after Hurricane Katrina.
Aaron, B and I rolled into the Crescent City late on our third night on the road. We met up with Guitar Lightnin Lee, Guitar Slim Jr, Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King (LFK) at Jack Dempsey’s, a Seafood restaurant that I have gone for years. I would often meet up with Fats Domino there, as it was his favorite place. LFK always orders fried catfish and takes a big plate home, bragging that it would feed him for three days.
The second day on the road we got to visit David Bryant’s small home in Covington, GA.
Music Maker had worked with his mother Cora Mae Bryant for years. His grandfather, Curley Weaver, recorded in the 1930’s and was a Piedmont blues pioneer alongside the likes of Blind Willie McTell.
I had become quite close to David during his mom’s declining health; he stayed home and took care of her, and Music Maker sent monthly funds for her care. In the years since she passed, David would call a couple times a year and we would talk about old times.
We visited Drink Small today. I first met Drink in 1981 at Warren Wilson College. I used to tour with him in the early 1990s, with Guitar Gabriel. When Gabe died, I received a telegram from Drink giving me condolences. Cootie Stark, a blind bluesman and Music Maker artist, accompanied me on a visit to Drink’s home around that time. Drink introduced me to other blues artists like Albert Smith, whom we recorded. Throughout Music Maker’s 20 years, Drink and his wife Andrenna played New Years’ parties at our house in Pinnacle, visited our home in Hillsborough, and even were escorted by my brother from South Carolina to Montreal for a gig. We’ve become very close.
This spring when we were planning to visit artists with our week-long road trip, I decided we’d start with Drink. Today, coming in the door with Aaron and B, we found Drink laying far back on his couch, his eyes pointing to the ceiling.
“Tim I have had some hard times, am 82 and just got out from the hospital from surgery to my prostate. I have gone completely blind. I see only black.”
My favorite memory of being on tour with Boo Hanks was when he told me about the time he went to see Louis Jordan as a young man. I’ve known Boo since 2006 and in my mind he is a Virginia songster who has stayed in his community since he was born and played in an esoteric style of music that was born from isolation. Though I should’ve known better, this story turns that notion on its head.
Purchase Boo Hanks & Dom Flemons Album: Buffalo Junction
When you are touring from place to place, you spend a lot of time in your vehicle passing the time through doing things like reading, listening to music and on the rare occasion, talking to each other. I lean toward listening to music as much as I can and I tend to go into burst of different genres, one of them being 40’s R&B, Doo-Wop and Rock ‘n’ Roll. As I was playing some of this music, the song “Saturday Night Fish Fry” by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five came up. Boo mentioned that he had gotten to see him live.