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.

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.


Meet Our Summer Interns!

Jeff Scott and Masyn-1

Next Generation Artist Jeffrey Scott and Intern Masyn during a video shoot in June

Music Maker has been blessed with some great summer interns, and it’s time for us to introduce them to you! Masyn and Erica will be working with us until they head back to school in the fall, helping us with our summer music series, keeping up with artists’ health needs, and working with PR for upcoming releases. Welcome Masyn and Erica!


Intern David Visits the Como Mamas


On my very first day of interning with the Music Maker Relief Foundation I was offered a chance to drive down to Mississippi and meet the Como Mamas. All I knew was they were a female gospel trio from the Delta who have been singing together for decades. I hurriedly agreed without putting much thought to it, what a rare opportunity to experience firsthand one of America’s oldest musical traditions.


New Next Generation Artist Jeffrey Scott


This past Thursday and Friday, Music Maker had the pleasure of hosting Piedmont blues master, Jeffrey Scott. Jeffrey, nephew of National Folk Heritage fellow John Jackson, is the heir to his family’s musical tradition. He is a great storyteller and a masterful guitar player. Currently, the majority of Jeffrey’s time is split between managing his 100 acre farm where he raises Texas Longhorn beef cattle, working as a mortician, driving a truck and raising his two sons with his wife.