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.
Music Maker is a small organization that does big things. As a result, the bond that Music Maker’s small team share with one another and our talented artists is strong and deep. We are saddened to announce that Corinne Everett Belch, Music Maker’s Communications and Development Coordinator for the past five years, is relocating to New Bern, NC with her husband. Music Maker’s staff and artists will miss Corinne dearly.
Jessica Roy recently joined Music Maker as Advancement Coordinator. Jessica was formerly the Community Engagement Fellow for the United Way of the Greater Triangle and received a BA in Anthropology and Biology from UNC Chapel Hill. Music Maker is thrilled to have Jessica on the team!
Music Maker is always looking for new ways to give music fans access to our vast catalog. Our catalog features recordings of the many legendary artists we have worked with over the years. Their music is part of the fabric of our society and deserves to be heard. Being a small non-profit that also functions as an independent record label makes it difficult for us to compete with major record labels that have full access to digital distribution.
In celebration of Black History Month, I’ve been listening to the Music Maker catalog nonstop, going through tons of incredible material. Today I stumbled upon Ben Payton; what a voice! You can literally feel the grit of his words pour out of the speakers. Cradling a slower rhythm in “You Lost a Good Man Baby,” there’s ample space to enjoy Payton’s guitar creep around his lyrics of loss. Like many bluesmen though, there’s always hope, and Payton seamlessly transitions from sadness into optimism towards a new future love. “You Lost a Good Man Baby” tells a story, and speaks to love, life, and loss in a way that underlines the simple fact that no matter what, life always goes on.
Mary joined Music Maker this week as our new Giving Coordinator. With more than 20 years as a development and communications professional with North Carolina nonprofits, Mary is looking forward to applying her experience toward building relationships and support for Music Maker Relief Foundation. Most recently, Mary served as Director of Marketing and Communications at United Way of North Carolina, the membership organization serving North Carolina United Ways. Previously, she served as Director of the North Carolina State Employees Combined Campaign and as Institutional Advancement staff at Shodor Education Foundation in Durham. She is a University of Kentucky graduate with a BA in editorial journalism. She and her family have enjoyed living in Hillsborough since moving to the area from Wilmington, NC in 2001. We’re thrilled to have her on our team!
Made famous by Hank Williams, a sad song of unrequited love. Wedding bells are ringing in the chapel/ but wedding bells with never ring for me. These lyrics fit right into the canon of country music, a song that contrasts beautiful imagery with the damning facts of life. AND it’s about as good a blues as ever was written. Preston Fulp’s falsetto delivery and sweet arrangement on the guitar make you bob your head while asking yourself if it’s right to bob your head to such a sad song.
Here are the official lyrics, Preston has taken some liberties.
I have the invitation that you sent me
You wanted me to see you change your name
I couldn’t stand to see you wed another
But dear I hope you’re happy just the same
Wedding bells are ringing in the chapel
That should be ringing out for you and me
Down the aisle with someone else you’re walking
Those wedding bells will never ring for me
I planned a little cottage in the valley
I even bought a little band of gold
I thought some day I’d place it on your finger
But now the future looks so dark and cold
Wedding bells are ringing in the chapel
I hear the children laughing out with glee
At home alone I hang my head in sorrow
Those wedding bells will never ring for me
I fancy that I see a bunch of roses
A blossom from an orange tree in your hair
And while the organ plays I love you truly
Please let me pretend that I am there
Wedding bells are ringing in the chapel
Ever since the day you set me free
I knew someday that you would wed another
But wedding bells will never ring for me.
One of the best parts about working with Music Maker is being able to put faces to songs after meeting artists in person for the first time. I’ve seen Little Pink Anderson perform here and there, and I’m always drawn to the songs he does that stray away from his more traditional blues ballads. The song below, “Walk With Me”, an acapella dedication to Pink’s sister, journeys through a strong vocal build, and finishes with a hymn style resolve. It’s a song from a portion of Pink’s catalog thats a bit more somber than his usual collection, but I think it might be closer to Pink’s own individual journey. You can definitely feel a deep presence on this one.
Jontavious struck the last note of “Big Road Blues” and both Boo Hanks and Jontavious burst out laughing. A musical connection has a beautiful way of closing an age gap of 70+ years. Here they were in Boo’s living room, just two passionate musicians trading songs and stories, quizzing each other on blues history.
Jontavious Willis, 19 years old, from Greenville, Georgia is a natural musician. His guitar remains in conversation with his smooth tenor throughout each song, so natural it feels like hearing a familiar song for the first time. He’s entirely self taught. A couple weeks ago Jontavious called the Music Maker office and said that he had been watching all of the youtube videos we have posted and that he would love to come visit some of the artists we work with. So, we planned a visit. As we rode up to Boo’s place from Hillsborough, Jontavious told us that he has watched every Music Maker video on youtube at least twice. With ungoverned excitement, he listed off his favorites and proceeded to rattle off dates and bios. He stopped to apologize for his enthusiasm.
Boo Hanks was the first blues musician Jontavious had ever met, and he couldn’t hide his joy.
This was an historic moment. When it was time to go, we had to pry them apart.
In 2006, an unknown Piedmont Blues guitarist joined Music Maker. Now a blues legend, Boo Hanks would not have been known to Music Maker or the world without the efforts of volunteer Tony Young.
On that fateful day in 2006, Tony went to pick up Boo Hanks from his house, then turned around to head for Hillsborough. They arrived at the old Music Maker headquarters where Tony introduced Boo to Tim Duffy and Dom Flemons, who were waiting there for him. After a few words they sat down and started recording what would become Pickin’ Low Cotton, Boo’s first Music Maker release and also his passport to a new life as a renowned country blues guitarist. He has since performed as far as Belgium and in prestigious venues such as the Lincoln Center in New York.
Tony has long been Boo’s biggest fan and a huge help. Tony carries Boo to nearly all of his gigs in his Chevrolet Celebrity Sedan. A few days ago, at 350,000 miles, it kicked the bucket. Tony reached out to let us know he is casting his net wide to look for his next car. He is on a fixed income and has limited funds to work with, so he is looking for a killer deal. We are so grateful to Tony for the many hours of driving he has put in to help Boo in his career, he is a true friend.
Please forward any leads you may have to email@example.com and we will pass them along to Tony. Thanks!
Dave McGrew has spent his life following the harvest as a fruit picker; Lemons, apples, cherries, mangoes, avocados, strawberries, grapes – you name it. His hands have likely been on your fruit. He has also been one of the most die-hard Music Maker supporters and Partners from the beginning. He has helped build two Music Maker headquarters and shared time with countless artists; one of his closest relationships was with Cootie Stark. When Dave was visiting during the Music Maker Homecoming, he told us he had written a song for Cootie and we promptly sat down to record it. We recorded two versions, one with a full band and one with just Tim and Dave. Each take saw Dave overcome with emotion singing through big tears telling Cootie how he’s coming to see him. I have spent entire days listening to this song on repeat, a meditation on brotherly love and longing, unusual and heart-wrenching- enjoy.
Big Ron Hunter was the first artist I met through Music Maker, and I was eager to get to know his music after getting a chance to meet him. We met while MMRF’s Founder, Tim Duffy, was taking a tintype of the Bluesman. Looking at an image of his own genuine smile, Ron confirmed what we were all thinking: “That’s really me. That’s the real me.”
I landed on ‘Through My Eyes’ for this week’s Diggin’, a well-worn ballad with all the touches of time-tested love.
A Winston-Salem, N.C. native and Music Maker artist since 2007, Big Ron brings his own style to acoustic blues and this track is no exception. Ron’s persona and smile exude a kind wisdom, and this track is flowing with that same milk and honey. Skillful guitar blends with Ron’s rich and soothing vocals, resulting in a song that’s perfectly fitting for a slow summer afternoon.
Take a listen and get to know the world’s happiest Bluesman!
Jenny Hicks is our public relations intern for Summer 2015. An avid music enthusiast, Jenny grew up surrounded by a myriad of musical styles and developed a love for finding new artists, new albums and new genres to admire. She is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied Communication and Public Relations. Before coming to Music Maker, she worked with Alamance for Freedom and the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation, where she found a love for nonprofit work. Jenny lives in Mebane, N.C., with a few too many cats and spends her free time collecting vinyl, watching Netflix or hiking with friends.
Dom Flemons (right) performing at the Newport Folk Festival in 2012.
Last year, I traveled to New Orleans with Ironing Board Sam to help with his performance at JazzFest. While checking into the hotel I noticed a short man with a cane and a golfing cap standing by the desk, smiling, while he waited for his traveling party to check in. I immediately recognized this man as George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz and Newport Folk Festivals. George Wein invented the modern music festival and shaped the musical experience for the entire world. I instantly turned to Ironing Board Sam and said, “You should meet this man.” I introduced the two and told Mr. Wein that Sam would be playing at JazzFest this year. Sam and Mr. Wein discussed how excited they were to be in New Orleans. Unfortunately, Mr. Wein’s traveling party finished checking in and they needed to get settled, so the conversation was quite brief, but nonetheless incredible to witness.
It is such an incredible honor for Music Maker to play this historic and still highly relevant festival. Everyone at the office is just buzzing with excitement. The Como Mamas, Ironing Board Sam, Boo Hanks, Ardie Dean, Nashid Abdul and Albert White will all be part of this Music Maker Blues Revue with special guest performer/host Dom Flemons!
This is a beautiful gospel song that Guitar Gabriel composed the night his mother passed. It asks the question, Do You Know What it Means to Have a Friend? “A friend will tell you, just what to do, turnaround, they’ll turn their back on you.”
My 25 years with Captain Luke reminds me that I do know what it means to have a friend. Since my 20s, Captain has been the one I turned to talk about everything; my family, the business we built together, other MM artists. Captain himself over the years has been a friend to hundred of music lovers.
This track is from our first album, Guitar Gabriel & Brothers in the Kitchen (Toot Blues on the website.) Captain and I were the “brothers in the kitchen,” and I spent a lot of time with him in his kitchen as he build his tin can ash trays, cooked biscuits, and shared many a beer.
So enjoy this track, as we all remember Captain Luke this week, it seemed appropriate to pull out this song sung by his great friend.