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.

Alabama Slim, Big Ron Hunter & Leyla McCalla in France!

Big Ron Hunter, by Jimmy Williams

Big Ron Hunter, by Jimmy Williams

Often the Music Maker artists we cherish and love are not seen the same way in their own communities. This perception has an impact on the way these artists see themselves. Opportunities like the one Big Ron and Alabama Slim are enjoying right now in France, with Raphael Imbert’s “Music is my Home” tour, show these musicians, and their communities back home, that their music is important, highly regarded and still has an audience.

Raphael Imbert, French saxophonist and jazz impresario, first visited with Music Maker artists Alabama Slim, Big Ron Hunter and Layla McCalla in 2010 as part of a research mission, sponsored by the French National Research Agency, studying the relationship between improvisation and new technologies. Since, he has been looking for another opportunity to play with these artists and bring them to France.  For the past three years he has been planning a tour and concept album that would celebrate these musical friendships. The project is called “Music is My Home.”

Raphael, Big Ron, Alabama Slim and Leyla are currently in the studio working on an album set to be released on the Harmonia Mundi label, while performing four tour dates in France. Later this summer they will follow up with a more extensive tour throughout Western Europe.

After their first show I received emails from Raphael, his assistant Olivier and Big Ron all gushing about the performance and the French reception. We are thrilled to be partnering with Raphael and seeing our artists return to France where new audiences will learn about the hidden talent we celebrate.

Alabama Slim & Aaron Greenhood

Alabama Slim & Aaron Greenhood

Every time a Music Maker artist returns from a performance on a big stage or from a trip abroad, they rave about the experience to us for weeks. Their faces glow when they talk about the people they met and the food they ate, sites they saw. Their giddy enthusiasm is contagious! As with Ironing Board Sam’s recent trip to France in September, there are also significant publicity opportunities as well, multiple appearances in magazines and on French national television. This is the stuff that gives the musicians we work with the juice to keep honing their craft and performing, enriching all of our lives.

Thanks to your support, it is all possible!

– Aaron


Diggin’: Little Freddie King and Alabama Slim “The Mighty Flood”


Alabama Slim – Music Maker Tintype

Listen: The Mighty Flood

The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina can be felt in many of the songs and stories here at Music Maker. If you’re familiar with Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King, you might already be familiar with the impact that Katrina had on their friendship. The two are very best friends, and together they survived The Mighty Flood, way down in New Orleans.

Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King have become one of the many incredible duos here at Music Maker. The song “The Mighty Flood” off the self-titled album paints the picture for how these friendships can be more important than just music. Simply put, Alabama Slim saved Little Freddie King’s life.

You can hear the details calmly laid out in the lyrics: “I called Little Freddie King, I told him to come on by me. He’s my very very best friend. The city had out a curfew. No one on the street after 6pm. I told Little Freddie King he had 15 minutes to make it here, and he was there in 10.”

I remember how during the homecoming when Little Freddie King was out of reach in between flights, Aaron told me “Just call Slim. That’s always the best way to get in touch with Little Freddie King.”


Little Freddie King – Music Maker Tintype

At the time, I didn’t know the particulars of their friendship, but since the Homecoming, The Mighty Flood has been on repeat in my car for months. The title track sets the tone for the entire album, and after hearing their stories, it’s clear why these two musicians mean so much to each other.

“The Mighty Flood will always be on my mind.”


– Berk

Diggin’: Guitar Gabriel – Ain’t Gonna Let No Woman (Original Version)


Guitar Gabriel at the Vancouver Folk Festival. Photo by Tim Duffy

I am sure many of you have heard the more recent recording of this tune on several of Guitar Gabriel’s albums and Music Maker compilations. While these versions have lyrical similarity, the guitar work that Gabe does on each version is completely different. Both unique in their own way the guitar riff and voice of Guitar Gabe on the older version of “Ain’t Gonna Let No Woman“, released in 1970 on the album My South, My Blues defines Guitar Gabriel as an incredibly unique artist. Have a listen to both versions and let us know what you think!



Captain Luke Comes Home


Capt. Luke & His Daughter Teresa Leaving the Rehab Clinic. Photo by Aaron Greenhood

Tim and Aaron have been running around all week, checking on the Captain and getting his new home ready for his arrival. We got word this week that Captain would be ready to return home from the rehabilitation clinic in Winston-Salem, NC, and Music Maker helped facilitate a new apartment for him that has amenities geared towards dealing with senior citizens. Captain Luke greatly enjoyed all your well-wishes and is happy to be in his new home!


Captain Luke in His New Home. Photo by Aaron Greenhood












Captain Luke checks out his new kitchen

Captain Luke checks out his new kitchen

Captain Luke and his daughter Teresa Mayer

Captain Luke and his daughter Teresa Mayer

Captain Luke getting comfortable in his new home

Captain Luke getting comfortable in his new home

Diggin’: “Fred, You Ought to Be Dead” – James Davis


James Davis, Photo by Tim Duffy

















Listen: Fred You Ought to be Dead

This track by James Davis is on our 20th Anniversary compilation, We Are the Music Makers!, as well as Davis’ album on the Music Maker label, Georgia Drumbeat. I was just discussing with our new board member Nick about how James Davis’ album, Georgia Drumbeat, would sound so great on vinyl. I have to take his word for it, because I don’t actually have a record player, but I do know I love this track from James Davis – not just for the title, which admittedly catches my attention – but for its driving rhythms and funky style. I’ll listen to James Davis however I can!

– Corinne

Diggin’: Robert Lee Coleman – Raisin’ Cain


Photo by Tim Duffy

NOBODY PLAYS GUITAR LIKE ROBERT LEE COLEMAN. On this rippin’ track Coleman comes flying out the gate with his aggressive picking style. If you have never seen Robert Lee Coleman live you are certainly missing out because his stage performance is just as spectacular and wild as his playing. As a band member of both James Brown and Percy Sledge you can hear where Coleman’s funky sound was formed. While Coleman’s guitar playing is funky he still retains a lot of grit being Macon, GA.


Read more about Robert Lee Coleman

Purchase Robert Lee Coleman – One More Mile

Ironing Board Sam’s Long Road to JazzFest


Ironing Board Sam performing at JazzFest in 2012. Photo by Tom Ciaburri

When the Music Maker Relief Foundation first started working with Ironing Board Sam he was in a pretty rough spot. He was being evicted from his trailer, had no gigs and desperately needed help. After receiving a call from Living Blues photographer Gene Tomko, Tim leaped at the opportunity to help Sam. Tim had seen Sam many years ago in New Orleans and also in Asheville, NC and could never forget Sam’s unbelievable performances. (more…)

Diggin’: John Dee Holeman plays “Going Down To New Orleans” live

John Dee Holeman photo

John Dee Holeman

John Dee Holeman is 87. He speaks softly. When he picks up his guitar, it’s a different story. John Dee’s brand of blues swings and shuffles to where you have no choice but to stamp your feet or jump up and dance. It’s that way by design. Before his legs retired from dancing, he was known far a wide for his deft buck dancing, a colloquial form of dance that’s the origin of tapping.  John Dee has rhythm in every inch of his body. Check out this track from our Homecoming Revue Show.– Aaron

The Kerosene That Saved Willa Mae (and her snakes)


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



Diggin’: Bishop Dready & Marie Manning – Hard Luck & Trouble

Bishop Dready and Marie Manning

Photo by Jimmy Williams

Hard Luck & Trouble exemplifies the blues with Marie Manning’s haunting vocal performance accompanied by the Bishop’s quintessential driving guitar licks. Marie Manning’s sporadically placed claps throughout the tune serve as the rhythmic foundation while she sings.  The Bishop’s guitar playing comes straight from the South and represents his life as juke joint musician and moonshine salesman before from his previous life before joining the Church and exclusively playing Gospel music.


A Music Maker Newcomer Comes to the Homecoming Pt. 2


The next day was the big event, which included even more musical and life revelation for me than night before. Being able to mix and mingle with some of the most talented guys and gals who bring us the real, true Southern American Blues and to hear their music and first hand stories of how MMRF has helped them personally was absolutely life changing. Having my “We Are the Music Makers!” book signed by the artists who played that day was just the icing on the cake. They were so elated just to be asked to sign, and that’s when the best conversations were had. It was clear through every note played and every smile and story shared by every artist that weekend – Alabama Slim, Eddie Tigner, Pink & Big Ron, Robert Lee Coleman, Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen, Little Freddie King, Cool John Ferguson, John Dee Holeman, and the many more – that music is their life, and that their life is given to them through the support of MMRF. It really made me think about the things that are truly important in life.  (more…)