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.

UPDATE: Ironing Board Sam Is On the Mend!


In October 2015, just as Big Legal Mess was set to release Ironing Board Sam’s “Super Spirit,” Sam suffered a stroke that left him hospitalized for the better part of the following two months. He began rehab and moved to Montgomery, AL to be closer to his daughter who has been managing his care. The stroke was a difficult set back at a time when his career reprise was demonstrating its fullest potential. Sam heard the completed record from his hospital bed. Even through the heartbreaking set back he was able to muster a smile and feel the satisfaction of a vision seen to its completion.

Last week, Sam called in to report that his progress is steady, he is walking with the assistance of a cane, looking like a blues statesman. He was also thrilled to report that he would soon be getting his license back and would be able to drive himself to his outpatient therapy sessions he attends three times a week. He said he is grateful for Music Maker’s support which has been helping him stay up on his bills and expenses and hopes to soon return to his music. His optimism and courage are trademarks of his personality and his offbeat, remarkable career in music and entertainment. He is truly an inspiration and we hope you join us is wishing him a speedy and full recovery.

You can help support artist like Ironing Board Sam today!

Diggin’: Harvey Arnold – Love Her With a Feeling


Harvey Dalton Arnold is one of the musicians that we are lucky to have local to the Music Maker office, so we see him often! Harvey is a part of the Music Maker Blues Revue, often playing electric bass alongside drummer Bubba Norwood to form an indomitable rhythm section.

At our recent Freight Train Blues series in Carrboro, our headlining artist suddenly became ill. While Harvey was only expecting to play bass that night, he stepped in as the front man and delivered an amazing performance without skipping a beat. I was completely wowed by the show! Here is a short little tune from Harvey’s solo album, Outlaw.

— Jessica


Introducing Pat Sky: A Folk Music Legend


While I was attending the Folklore graduate program at UNC in 1989, I was introduced to folk musician, Pat Sky. Born in Georgia and raised in Louisiana, Pat and his guitar headed north in the 60s, where he was held in high regard as one of the great songwriters that emerged from Greenwich Village folk boom. Pat has seen all the ups and downs a musical career can offer and forewarned me of everything I would come to encounter in the proceeding 25 years of work in the music industry.
A close contemporary of Dave Van Ronk, Pat’s early albums were well received. Pat was known for his collaborations with Buffy Saint Marie, Eric Anderson and for producing blues singer Mississippi John Hurt’s album for Vanguard. Pat’s wistful and lonesome “Many A Mile” is a folk classic recorded by Pat and many others. BY the time the 70s rolled around, Pat was becoming disillusioned with the music business and politics. He turned a satirical eye to his songwriting and released the controversial ’Songs that Made America Famous.” Eventually, Pat’s interest turned to Irish music and he founded Green Linet Records in 1973. Pat became a recognized expert in playing and building uillean pipes. He published several books on the subject and performed for many years with his wife Cathy.
Now retired at 72, Pat has been experiencing some health complications. Fortunately, Music Maker can provide support through our Sustenance Program to help out. Pat is a significant artist that helped shape the landscape of American Music and should not be forgotten.

— Tim Duffy

Diggin’: Eddie Tigner – A Train

If you’ve ever driven through downtown Hillsborough, NC you might’ve noticed that there are several signs reflecting the historical significance of past residents. One of those signs denotes the fact that Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s musical partner and the man credited with writing the early American Jazz classic, Take the A Train, was raised in Hillsborough for part of his life.  Eddie Tigner’s version of this tune is a classic an innovative interpretation on A Train, with the addition of amplified harmonica the tune gets a more bluesy feel. Sometimes I put this one on my car stereo as I drive through downtown wondering if this great song was inspired by Strayhorn’s time in Hillsborough.


Eddie Tigner joined the ranks of the Music Maker Relief Foundation’s artists in 1998. Music Maker has helped Eddie obtain a passport, provided him with grants for prescription medicine, and gifted him with a keyboard. In addition, Eddie has toured with the Music Maker Blues Revue throughout Europe and the United States, recorded his albums Route 66 and Slippin’ In, and been featured in the book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America (2004) and the Music Maker documentary Toot Blues.


You can help support artists like Eddie Tigner – here

— Corn Lewis

Listener’s Circle: Tapping the Deep Well Of American Music

Help Save Our American Roots – Sign Up Today!

GGheadphonesJoin us in the Listener’s Circle and get exclusive releases curated by the MM staff every other month. You can preview last April’s Listener’s Circle below to see what it’s like!

By donating $30 monthly, you not only join this exclusive society of Roots music devotees, you ensure Music Maker can continue the work we do to sustain and preserve Our Roots.

Sign Up – here





Of Grills and Thrills: Postcard from Bernice, LA


Big Bertha, Magdalena, Theresa, Melvina; names tossed around with such affection you’d think they were referring to wives, lovers or children. Nope. BBQs. Bernice, Louisiana (pop. 1,648) has as many grills as it has rooftops. They take their grilling seriously.

A few weeks ago, Music Maker visited Bernice to shoot some music videos with Music Maker’s newest partner artist and one of its proud residents, Robert Finley. In advance of our visit, Communications Coordinator, Corn Lewis, discussed hosting a cookout for one of our shoots. Robert said there was no need to make any calls, as soon as the BBQ was lit, people would trickle in from every direction.

Early Saturday morning, Robert’s neighbor and closest confidant, Sherman, AKA Minnie, showed up wearing an apron and began to wash and prepare the 80lb box of chicken  thighs we picked up the night before. He stood over the sink, peeling skin and rinsing, stopping occasionally to sip from his beer.


Artist Spotlight: Guitar Lightnin’ Lee

Guitar Lightnin’ Lee exudes an indescribable exuberance. A couple weeks ago he came to visit NC to play for our Freight Train Blues Series presented by Carrboro Parks & Recreation & Music Maker Relief Foundation. It is always a treat to get to hang out with Lee. While here, we got to sit down and talk to Lee on camera, he regaled us with stories about hanging out with Boogie Bill, Little Freddie King and Jimmy Reed back in the day. The local radio station, WCHL scheduled an interview with Lee right to promote Freight Train Blues. Lee, being the pro that he is, nailed the interview. You can listen to the interview here. Tim Duffy, our Executive Director gave Lee an amazing Fender Stratocaster that was given to Music Maker by a generous donor.

Lightnin’ Lee With His New Guitar

Guitar Lighnin' Lee 2-1

Diggin’: Pura Fé – A Love Like Mine

Pura Fé is one of the most mystical artists I have ever met. When you see Pura Fé perform you instantly see that her physical emotion matches her voice. A Love Like Mine is the perfect combination of Blues, Rock and Native American influences. Throw in the unique sound of her Hawaiian lap-steel guitar playing and you get a tune that breaks through to the core of a person who’s been snubbed by a love interest before.

— Corn Lewis

Longtime Partner Cathead Vodka Comes to NC!

We are so excited to share that our long-time partner, Cathead, is now selling their craft vodka in NC restaurants and ABC stores! Read below to find out more. What do you get when you combine a passion for fine spirits, live blues, and southern heritage? Cathead Vodka. Based out of Jackson, MS, Cathead is the first and oldest distillery in the state, producing small-batch craft vodkas. It was founded in 2010 by long-time friends Austin Evans and Richard Patrick who sought out to toss aside the remnants of prohibition (Mississippi was the last state to repeal in 1966) and build a company that truly honored their southern roots. They do this by offering deliciously southern vodka flavors (original, honeysuckle and pecan vodka!) and supporting the blues.

The Blues was born in the Deep South, and Cathead pays respect to this rich musical heritage through their generous philanthropic model. For each bottle of vodka they sell, $1 goes to organizations that support live blues music and artists. Music Maker is proud to be one of those partner organizations. Cathead also supports Music Maker in other ways, through various benefit events and booking gigs for our artists. We were especially honored when the Music Maker Blues Revue was asked to play at their grand opening event in Jackson.

Cathead Group Shot-1

“Cathead is thrilled to be in North Carolina, home of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, incredible music and now – Cathead Vodka!” – Austin Evans (Co-Founder, Cathead Vodka)

We cannot accomplish our mission without support of our partners, and Cathead is one of the most valuable partnerships that we have. We are so grateful for everything they do and so Music Maker would like to extend one big THANK YOU and WELCOME to our home state!

P.S. – We asked Cathead’s NC Market Manager, Owen Jones, for his favorite Cathead summer cocktail, so check out his mouth-watering recipe suggestions below. You should also visit their site for more info like “What is a cathead, anyway?”, even more delicious recipes, and where to find Cathead Vodka near you!

Keep it simple and classic:

catheaddrink“Mississippi Mule”

2oz Cathead Original or Honeysuckle Vodka

4oz Fresh Ginger Beer

Dash of Fresh Lime Juice

For the more advanced home bartender:

“The Hummingbird”

1.5 oz Cathead Honeysuckle

Muddled Cucumber

Splash of Lime Juice

¾ oz Agave Nectar

Top off with Prosecco

Diggin’: Etta Baker – Going Down the Road Feeling Bad

As someone who is a “beginning blues” listener, I can’t speak much to the technical aspects of Etta Baker’s talent. If I knew better, I might discuss her melodies, rhythms, or exactly how she exemplifies the Piedmont Blues Guitar style – but I don’t.

Instead, I will simply say that this is a perfect summer driving song. Be sure to roll down the windows, turn up the volume, and enjoy this lovely tune.

— Jessica Roy

Thank You Music Maker Supporters!

Get your free download here

In the month of May Music Maker received a $5,000 matching gift from a generous donor. With contributions from donors like YOU we were able to meet the match! Without your support Music Maker wouldn’t be able to do the work that helps keep our musical history vital.


Biscuits For Your Outside Man

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Foodways shape all aspects of culture. With the rising popularity of the sustainability movement it is easy to forget that there are many folks that still practice traditional forms of agriculture and cooking. Almost every single Music Maker artist has some sort of connection to agriculture and even though they are too old to farm, many of them still maintain gardens. To pay our respects to the agrarian lifestyle that shapes everything around us, the Music Maker staff harvested the best food-related songs to create the album, Biscuits For Your Outside Man. The title was taken from North Carolina native Algia Mae Hinton’s song, Cook Cornbread For Your Husband. We asked world renowned chef, author, and longtime MMRF supporter Bill Smith to write the liner notes. Read Bill’s reflection of the album and how foodways relate to music:

Food and music have always gone hand in hand around here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Musicians work in restaurants and cooks go to the clubs to hear bands after work in equal measure. I remember one night years ago when there was a show we all wanted to see. I don’t remember the band now, but as soon as we got done, a bunch of us line cooks went tearing down the street to the Cat’s Cradle. We still had our aprons on even. The club was crowded and loud, but I could hear a woman beside me say to her friend, “It smells like someone is cooking a steak in here!” Actually, as usual, it was the music that was cooking.

The language of the Blues is especially effective in using the metaphors of food and cooking. It’s both honest and funny. It may seem elemental and primitive at first, but to me, it is great poetry. This marvelously curated collection presents this at its best. Some songs are sexy, some are silly. All are clever. A few, like “Shortnin’ Bread” are familiar, but many were unknown to me. I don’t remember having heard either “Chicken Pie” or “Cabbage Man” before. Both were cool discoveries. There are narratives like “Old Bill” and the wonderful “Lima Beans” will delight both the cook and the poet alike.

Listen to this collection as a whole. The songs of course can each stand on their own but together they have a wonderful feel of working people intelligently and unselfconsciously examining their lives with music. It makes sense that that thing as elemental as food and the table would find their way into song. Play this music when you sit down to dinner. It’s as satisfying as a T-bone steak.

— Bill Smith, chef, Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill, NC

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