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.
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The Kerosene That Saved Willa Mae (and her snakes)

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In the winter of 1995, I discovered how a simple gift can be the difference between life and death for our elderly artists. In that year, there was a terrible ice storm in Winston-Salem, NC and many parts of town were without electricity. The first day after the storm MM artist Willa Mae Buckner, who lived in an old drafty house, was struggling to keep herself and her two giant pythons alive with blankets. The news reported that there might be outages for some days yet, and I knew we had to do something for our artists.

I called my friend John Creech, an early supporter of Music Maker. Driving was very hazardous, so with John along one of us could push the car when we got stuck. We headed down to the hardware store and got Willa Mae and another artist, Mr. Q, kerosene heaters and 5 gallons of kerosene. When we arrived at Mr. Q’s after some difficulty navigating the icy roads, we found he had been trying to drag an old wood stove into the house, and was happy to see we had brought him a safe source of heat.Willa Mae was also happy to see us, though she was more concerned about keeping her pet snakes warm.  

That night the temperature dropped severely and power was still not restored. The next afternoon while checking on Willa Mae, I noticed an ambulance parked in front of her neighbor’s house. Willa Mae was noticeably shaken, she told me the woman next door also had not heat and had frozen to death.

The realization that the simple gift of a heater and kerosene might have saved Willa Mae’s life gave me the inspiration to formally create Music Maker’s Sustenance Program, to help artists in need, who often have nowhere else to turn. This winter, we will help many artists purchase heating oil to keep them safe and warm. Help us do this, and make your year end gift today!

- Tim Duffy

Photos from the Como Mamas’ Apollo Debut!

Como Mamas head to their Apollo debut

Como Mamas head to their Apollo debut

 

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Remembering George Daniels

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When we learned that George Daniels had passed away last month, I thought back to my first meeting with him. I went to look for George Daniels in 1995 as I was re-tracing the trail of the great folklorist and blues researcher George Mitchell, who had discovered many great blues artists in Georgia and Alabama. George Daniels became a long-time friend of Music Maker; we helped him every month for medicine for nearly 20 years. As I only got to visit him a few times, I never spent the amount of time with him as his friend, the great folklorist/writer Fred Fussell, did. Fred wrote this piece and I present it here as it really gives you an idea of the wonderful man George Daniels was. He is sorely missed here at Music Maker.

-       Tim Duffy

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Video Diggin’: Alabama Slim’s “Come On and Rock With Me Baby”


We’ve been working hard to edit and post video from the Homecoming Celebration – and this clip of Alabama Slim performing is one of the first we finished. In this video, Slim is performing at our exhibit launch and performance* at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC.

I love to see Alabama Slim perform, but it’s rare that I get a chance, as he’s not often up here in NC. That night, Slim was on his game, bringing the crowd to their feet to dance in the aisles and, at the very least, assist with percussion by tapping their toes. It is a great, classic tune, and Slim’s stage presence just jumps off the screen. You can see why he has such a loyal following in New Orleans!

We were so thrilled Slim could be there for our Homecoming Weekend! Enjoy the video.

- Corinne

 

*Support for We Are the Music Makers! exhibit and launch event provided in part by the NC Humanities Council, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Orange County Arts Commission, Catherine Elkins and Cathead Vodka.

We Are the Music Makers at B.B. King Museum!

bbkingTim Duffy and BB King in 1995

I met B.B. King in 1995 at Ocean Way Studio in Los Angeles, CA when he was recording with the Rolling Stones. I showed him photographs and played him our first CD from Music Maker, A Living Past. He immediately embraced our mission and introduced me to all the incredible musicians on his duets record, Deuces Wild. He even used the photos I took during the sessions on his CD. Nearly 20 years later, B.B. has the greatest museum of the blues in the world, and they are hosting our We Are the Music Makers! exhibit, which opened there on October 23rd. It is the greatest honor in my career to have our show at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, MS – where visitors will experience the stories and songs of the musicians we have been working with for 20 years.

God Bless you B, you are truly the greatest!

- Tim

Diggin’: Albert White’s “Dr. Feelgood”

 

Albert White  - Atlanta, GiorgiaPhoto by Jimmy Williams

Listen: Dr. Feelgood

This track was on our Listener’s Circle #6, which I was listening to the other day as we were printing this month’s Listener’s Circle CDs. Albert White is a Music Maker artist I have seen many times live – the first time, I saw him perform in London, which was the first time I’d seen the MMRF Blues Revue show. It was just after I started at Music Maker, and my husband and I headed overseas to visit our Goddaughter. The Blues Revue was touring Europe, and it coincided with our trip dates, so we headed to Shepherd’s Green to see them! We got well and truly lost attempting to find the venue, but it was worth it (of course.) The show was wonderful, and Albert White was one of the many highlights – hosting the show, introducing each artist and getting everyone out of their seats each number.

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Diggin’: Lucy’s Voodoo

Lee Gates BW

Listen: Lucy’s Voodoo

When you see images of Lee Gates around the Music Maker office, you know you’re looking at a real deal, tried and true bluesman. The guy is over six feet tall, yolked up, and usually dressed in overalls. Granted, I’ve only seen photos of Lee, but I’ve heard he’s a real character in person.
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Diggin’: Bring It On Down to My House Honey

Little Pink Anderson

Listen: Bring It On Down to My House Honey

Little Pink Anderson’s “Bring It On Down to My House Honey” is a song that popped out at me from our new jukebox. I’m so excited to finally meet Pink, who I’ve talked to so many times on the phone, at Music Maker’s upcoming Homecoming weekend. He lives up in South Dakota, so it’s very special that he’s able to travel to Hillsborough, NC – thanks to generous Artist Sponsor!

I’m hoping he’ll perform this jaunty tune, which I love for its fun lyrics and lively rhythm. It matches the festive atmosphere in the air here as we count down to the Homecoming and page through Tim’s book that we’ve all worked so hard on for the past year! But I’m not picky, I know whatever Pink plays at our Homecoming will be wonderful.

Enjoy!

Corinne

Diggin’: “Today I Started Loving You Again”

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Listen: Today I Started Loving You Again

Ironing Board Sam is a relentless and prolific creator. Whenever I call him or go by his house to discuss business, I have almost always interrupted a brainstorming session, home recording or invention.

When Sam went down to Huntsville, Alabama to record Double Bang! a few years ago, they recorded another album in their free time. The release is forthcoming but all of it was recorded live and features Ardie Dean on drums and Ironing Board Sam on vocals and keyboard.

The songs are classic and this particular song is a favorite, “Today I Started Loving You Again”

Enjoy!

– Aaron

Diggin’: Get It by George Stancell

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Listen: Get It

I was speaking to George Stancell on the phone yesterday morning. We were chatting about the fantastic CD he sent me, a compilation of recordings he has personally written, performed and produced over the past 45 years.

George is one of a few exceptional musicians we have just recently been introduced to from Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. To pay the bills, George, 75, worked as a welder on the railroad and ran a nightclub, but he has been a musician all his life, playing guitar, piano and singing. As he was telling me his history, I asked him where he found the time to do all of this. As a nightclub proprietor and railroad worker, he literally worked night and day.

George grew up sickly and small. When the men left the house to go work in the foundries, he was left at home. The shame he felt during that time instilled in him a tenacious desire to work. When he finally got big enough to do the work, there was no stopping him. Day and night, it was his joy in life.

“You know Aaron, right now I’m talking to you from this bar where I’m working as a bartender. I just love to be busy, put me on the road.”

This track, “Get It” is a truly inspiring mantra. George wrote and recorded it in the late ‘60s. It’s fresh and funky, so go ahead and get it! Meet George Stancell.

-Aaron

Diggin’: Cary Morin’s “Sing It Louder”

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Listen: Sing It Louder

Cary Morin’s playful tune Sing it Louder can lift you up from the darkest of moods. Somehow Cary manages to make the blues lively and upbeat while still reaching deeply into the musical well. With finger-style guitar playing that I have yet to hear matched by any other guitarist and a soothing voice, Sing It Louder is also impressive in a technical sense.

Read more about Cary Morin here.

You can check out Cary’s video here!

Diggin’: Why Don’t These Young People Understand?

Lee Gates BW

Listen: Why Don’t These Young People Understand?

I’ve been so excited about the new Jukebox, and have been listening to the general playlist we have up right now. (Soon to come – curated playlists!) I love this track from Lee Gates, “Why Don’t These Young People Understand?” Lee is one whose wailing vocals I don’t often listen to, mostly because I don’t have any of his albums uploaded to my iTunes, and because Aaron (who is in charge of office music) hasn’t put him on in awhile. I do, however, talk to Lee on the phone frequently. So, when I was immersed in writing the other day and this song came on, I knew immediately it was Lee.

Lee’s pleading vocals accompany some pretty great guitar; I think you should give this a listen and find out what Lee’s question is about. Then, you can tell him what you think at the Music Maker Homecoming!

- Corinne