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.

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

Stay Tuned – New Jukebox in the Works!

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 10.13.29 AMHere at the Music Maker Relief Foundation our passion is MUSIC and the people who make it. We are always looking for ways to share the incredible history that Music Maker artists continue to make through their music with YOU, and now this just got easier. We are super excited to announce that Music Maker will be getting a new jukebox!


Diggin’: George Higgs’ “Greasy Greens”


Listen: “Greasy Greens”

 “Well, way down South where I was born

Didn’t raise nothin’ but cotton and corn

Green tomatoes and black-eyed peas

Man, good Lord, them greasy greens…”

This groovy ode to collard greens is one of my favorites! Originally, I thought that “Greasy Greens” featured two artists, one singing and another playing harmonica. However, while the voice and harmonica do exchange the melody in a flawless call-and-response pattern, George Higgs is in fact playing both instruments at once! Despite the virtuosic nature of “Greasy Greens,” the mood remains laid-back as Higgs expresses his love for his favorite vegetable at a steady, unhurried pace. Try to resist tapping your foot along to the irresistible chugging of Higgs’ fine Piedmont-style harmonica playing—I dare you!

This is one of the tracks that will be featured on the Listener’s Circle CD I created this summer. All of the songs involve one of my favorite topics: food! That’s all for now, though– I’m getting hungry.

– Erica

Photos from Lincoln Center!

Music Maker supporter Michael Weintrob joined us for our recent performance at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Series, where he took these amazing photographs!

Dom Flemons performs first

Dom Flemons performs first

Music Maker had the largest crowd of the night!

Music Maker had the largest crowd of the night!

Beverly "Guitar" Watkins and Tim Duffy take the stage

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and Tim Duffy take the stage

Beverly was a huge hit!

Beverly was a huge hit!

Berk filming Beverly's performance

Berk filming Beverly’s performance

Ironing Board Sam's gold suit made it impossible for him to go anywhere after the show - everyone wanted a photo with him!

Ironing Board Sam’s gold suit made it impossible for him to go anywhere after the show – everyone wanted a photo with him!


A beautiful day for a great show!

A beautiful day for a great show!

Diggin’: Mother Pauline and Elder James Goins’ “Nora”


Listen: Nora

When the Goins sing together, two distinct voices declare the most incorruptible love that could ever be shared. Mother Pauline sings the melody with a nasal vibrato while Elder James punches emphasis with his rumbling tenor. The joy they take is this exchange is clear and infectious! Enjoy.

– Aaron

Diggin’: Lakota John & Kin’s “Key to the Highway”

Lakota John& fam


After a jamming show at the Southern Pines Blues Crawl and in anticipation of their upcoming performance in Durham this weekend, I just can’t seem to get Lakota John & Kin’s “Key To The Highway” out of my head. Having heard them play live for the first time a couple weekends ago, I was instantly captivated by their straightforward style of blues. In other words, there’s no playing around when they play.


Lessons In Good Living


I spend a lot of time on the phone these days. The conversations are varied, consisting of in-depth discussions regarding various blood pressure medications, the process of adjusting to bifocals, or anecdotes regarding doctors both good and bad. Some days, I might learn about the benefits of jumping on the trampoline, how to use cover crops to grow vegetables, or the proper method of preparing collard greens. A few weeks ago, a good 20 minutes were devoted strictly to the subject of peach cobbler. This morning, I listened, spellbound, to a story about a man who pulled his own tooth with a pair of pliers. At this point, you are probably wondering what these seemingly unrelated conversations have in common. Since May I have been in the process of conducting health surveys with Music Maker Relief Foundation-sponsored artists. These health surveys will be really helpful for MMRF programs, particularly artist services. The data I have collected will make sure we are getting the artists what they need when it comes to their health. During these health surveys, I ask a variety of health-related questions that touch on emotional health and wellness, healthcare and health insurance, diet, and much more.


Masyn’s Blues Crawl Experience


Several weeks ago I got to attend my first out-of-town music festival with Music Maker – the 14th annual Blues Crawl in the charming downtown area of Southern Pines, NC. Having been the first time I experienced arranging more than 10 of our artists to perform at the same time, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I was excited to see what was in store.


Why I Stink At Blues Crawls



My Dad and I were able to make the recent Blues Crawl in Southern Pines, NC.  We were very excited to be going because 1) it’s a nice town and 2) the line-up of MMRF artists was one of the best in years.  The theory was simple, see five songs from each of the acts and then move on.  However, while theory and practice are the same thing in theory, they are quite different in practice.  When the talent is as great as MMRF regularly fields, it is all but impossible to walk out on an artist.  If you don’t walk out on one, you can’t walk in on the next.  The good news is that my Dad and I enjoyed a great night of music in a wonderful little town.  I guess we will just have to attend the Homecoming in October to see all the acts we missed at Southern Pines.

– Henry Slyker, Music Maker Board

Journey to “We Are the Music Makers!”

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Our We Are the Music Makers! exhibit has been a year and change in the making. Really, the idea has been ruminating for all the years I have been a part of the Music Maker team, but began to take real shape last spring, as we planned out our 20th Anniversary year. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a photo exhibit up?” turned into an incredibly detailed and specific plan, assisted by Bill Ferris of the Center for the Study of the American South, and Tom Hanchett and Kate Baillon Van Rensburg of the Levine Museum of the New South, to create a panel exhibit featuring photography and audio from Music Maker’s extensive collection. Featuring photos of Music Maker artists by Tim Duffy, and accompanied by audio and video further telling the story of roots music in the south, the exhibit began to take shape. It was designed and created this past spring, and we planned to launch it at our 20th Anniversary celebration in October. 


Ironing Board Sam & the Sticks


In October 2012, Simon Arcache and Raphaël Evrard, students from the prestigious Toulouse University, a business school, convinced their professors to allow them to spend a year of college credit interning with the Music Maker Relief Foundation. The day they arrived we took them to the Music Maker studio where they met Ironing Board Sam and they attempted to jam bass and guitar with him. Afterwards they were over the moon. “We had no idea of how to follow him, he did no basic changes. We really met the blues.” In the following year Simon and Raphaël rented an apartment next door to Sam; they were proud to be his roadies and drive him to all his shows. They spent countless nights in our studio, wood-shedding and learning to play the blues.


Erica Loves the Blues!

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“The blues tell you the truth,” the woman on the screen said with conviction. Even though I was watching Precious Bryant’s nearly twenty year-old interview on a giant iMac screen, it felt as if she was speaking directly to me.

I’ll admit– up until this summer, I had not considered myself much of a blues fan. Heresy, I know. (Tim has called me out on this several times.) How can somebody who aspires to be an American music scholar not enjoy one of the most seminal genres in American music? A valid question. In my defense, up until this summer, I only had a vague idea of what the blues were and what they could be. I was aware of famous blues icons and familiar with the music’s basic structural components. However, last week’s concert featuring MMRF-sponsored artists John Dee Holeman and Ironing Board Sam made me reevaluate everything I thought I knew about the blues.