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.

Destination Como – on the road to Juke Joint


Shelton Powe, Ironing Board Sam and David Bryant

 We arrived at David Bryant’s house just before sunset and he was sitting on his porch waiting for us. “Yes, mm hmm,” he said, and waved a greeting. We were picking up David on the way to the Juke Joint festival, along with Ironing Board Sam and our intern MaryAnne.

David’s little dog danced around me as we helped him bring his things to the car; then we got together for a photo in the beautifully raked garden. David insisted that we go inside to see just a few pictures of his grandfather. He wanted to show Ironing Board Sam who he was. Once inside David pulled some buttons from his pocket. Two sets tied together with string. This really got the conversation going.


On the Road: To Juke Joint!

Aaron, Intern MaryAnne, Ironing Board Sam and David Bryant are on their way to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS! They’ll be playing off and on all day tomorrow. We thought we’d share some pics of their road trip!photo 1Ironing Board Sam, MaryAnne and David Bryant – the second day on the road in Talladega, AL!

photo 2David Bryant loves the guitar Tim and MM Staff decorated for him! The photo in the middle is of his late mother, another MM artist, Cora Mae Bryant.


Berklee Student Speaks: Why Music Maker Matters


David at top left, along with Berklee students and professors, and Algia Mae Hinton

My name is David Guillaume; I am a junior at the Berklee College of Music. I was recently invited to take part in what would become the single most rewarding vacation of my life. The premise was simple enough: head down to North Carolina, soak up some good music and eat some good barbeque. Don’t get me wrong, my colleagues and I got an abundance of both, but it was the unsung gestures of hospitality and warmth that I will carry with me always.


Women in Blues Spotlight: Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

Beverly watkins

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was born in 1940 in Atlanta, Georgia. She began a lifelong love of music at the age of eight, when her aunt gave her a guitar; the very first song she learned to play was the blues classic “John Henry.” Learning from her family, and even the local coal deliveryman, helped her develop a unique, hard-playing guitar style.


Women in Blues Spotlight: Algia Mae Hinton

Algia Mae Hinton

Algia Mae Hinton was born on August 29, 1929 in Johnston County, North Carolina. Her parents, Alexander and Ollie O’Neal, were farmers who raised tobacco, cotton, cucumbers and sweet potatoes. Mother Ollie could play many stringed instruments and began teaching Algia when she was just nine years old. Algia was the youngest of fourteen children and worked the fields from an early age. Her musical and agricultural upbringing set the stage for her adult life. Algia married Millard Hinton in 1950. Her husband died in 1965, forcing Algia to raise her seven children alone by working long hours on the farm. Despite these trying circumstances, Algia kept the music alive and passed it on to her children. Together, they fought off the hard times by entertaining the people of their community. Over the years Algia’s music has gained international recognition.


Women in Blues Spotlight: Etta Baker

etta-baker-gallery-4This month, Women’s History Month, Music Maker is shining a light on women in Roots music. Etta Baker’s legacy will live on indefinitely as her influences on music can still be heard today.

Etta Baker is perhaps one of the most well-known women in Blues of the last century, but that is not a large crowd. Etta, born in Appalachian North Carolina in 1913, grew up in a musical family in a racially diverse area. She told NPR in 2005, “Where we lived was a white section, but everybody was one family. I played with my sister Cora and Daddy at big dances for both white and blacks.”

Etta picked up a guitar at the age of three, learning from her father, a clawhammer banjo player, and her community. Diverse musical influences make up Etta Baker’s style – African-American Blues, white country picking and English fiddle tunes can been seen and heard in her unique finger picking, and her father passed on a love of mountain music and Piedmont blues that stayed with her all her life. Etta Baker became the “finest finger-style Piedmont Blues guitarist to come out of North Carolina,” writes Susan Simone.


Shining a Light on Women in Blues


We think of the blues player as a wandering, itinerant musician, traveling with his guitar, playing his music and spreading the musical styles of the South across the nation. What we often don’t realize in that scenario is that the stereotype is possible because a woman was in the home, caring for his children, working the fields or the factory, and harboring her own musical talents that were shadowed by obscurity.


B’s Recap of the 1st MMRF Road Trip of 2014


B is off to Atlanta this week visiting more artists, but while she’s away we wanted to share with you her thoughts about her first days as part of the Music Maker team! See the video she shot on the trip below.

When I came down to North Carolina at the beginning of this year essentially the first thing I did as a Music Maker team member was embark on a road trip with Tim Duffy and Aaron Greenhood. It was an experience I hadn’t had before. The first day we went to South Carolina to visit Drink Small; the only other time I’d been to South Carolina was to visit Charleston with my family. I had my first experience with homemade soul food at a hole in the wall off the highway that first day – it was amazing! Afterwards we headed over to Drink’s to do a photo shoot; when we arrived he was sitting slouched way back in his couch. He had recently gone blind, so he seemed a bit disoriented, and a little down. Tim started joking around with him, and soon Drink was smiling. Tim also started talking with Drink about his recent blindness, and asked him if he remembered what he (Tim) looked like. Drink said yes, and then Tim went on to say how it must be strange to hear your friend’s voice and not be able to see him anymore. It made me so sad to hear about Drink’s blindness, but I knew that we would be able to cheer him up. Soon, he was playing and singing with Tim.


Harvey Arnold’s Reflections

Harvey Promo Photo-1Harvey Dalton Arnold is a Music Maker Partner Artist, and will release his first album on the Music Maker label on March 4, 2014.

When I think of black history month, and the struggle for civil rights, what comes to my mind is a snapshot of my hometown as a child.  When the pavement at the edge of town turned to dirt, everything changed.  The sidewalk ended, the houses were no longer painted, there were no streetlights, and the residents were all black.  My sister and I were about eight and six when we met several black children the same ages that we were, also brother-sister, at the paved-dirt line. We played hopscotch together there for about a week, each day.  One night our parents told us that somebody in town had “said something” about us playing with “colored” children and that it probably wasn’t a good idea.  The next day we had to tell our new friends that we couldn’t meet them anymore, though none of us really understood why.


Shelton Powe Tells Us About Claudette Colvin

Shelton Powe

Shelton Powe is a Music Maker artist who currently lives in Georgia. When we asked Shelton Powe to tell us his thoughts on Black History Month, he directed us to learn more about Claudette Colvin, who was actually the first person arrested for resisting bus segregation in Montgomery, AL. Though Rosa Parks would be the famous face of civil disobedience for not giving up her seat to a white person in Montgomery, Claudette was the first to be arrested. Mainstream history does not talk very much about Colvin, and largely seems to have forgotten her. We can’t help but compare Colvin’s unremembered greatness to many of our Music Maker artists. History, it seems, has passed them by as it declares their music dead and gone even as they play on.


A Story from Dr. Dixon


Doctor Dixon is a “Discovery Artist,” which means we’ve just begun to form a partnership with him. Read Dr. Dixon’s story about traveling in Chicago below. Enjoy!

In 1976, arriving in Chicago from Atlanta with Muddy Waters Band, I was asleep that early morning when I was awoken by Muddy’s great guitarist Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson. “Wake up son, you’re in ‘Chi-Town,’ The Windy City!”


Leyla McCalla: What Black History Month Makes Me Think Of

IMG_1014_10x15inch copy

Bring me all of your dreams,

You dreamer,

Bring me all your

heart melodies

That I may wrap them

In a blue cloud-cloth

Away from the too rough fingers

Of the world.


“The Dream Keeper” by Langston Hughes


I’m writing this article on the eve of the release of my first album, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, on the third day of Black History Month and two days after Langston Hughes’ birthday. There is so much going through my mind that it’s hard to say exactly what I’m feeling.