I’ve just heard that this show has been cancelled due to illness. No details yet. Bummer! DB – 8 p.m. July 9, 2012
A group of legendary Piedmont blues musicians are coming together for an evening of music, storytelling and camaraderie – the likes of which most of us never get to experience. On July 21 the Legends of the Piedmont Blues Show at the Mauldin Cultural Center will feature Pop Ferguson, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Mac Arnold, Boo Hanks and Drink Small. Prepare to be amazed at the combination of talent, energy, and love on the stage.
It’s a sad fact of life that if we manage to bypass illness, disease, accident and worse, we’re going to grow old and die. But life also gives us the opportunity to leave a legacy behind, evidence of what we brought to the table. This lineup is proof that life is, indeed, what you make of it.
Pop Ferguson has traveled the country playing juke joints, fish fries, coal fields and street corners. At 84, he’s one of the last practitioners of true traditional blues of the N.C. foothills. On stage his energy is only surpassed by his unpredictability.
Boo Hanks is 83. He’s said to be a descendant of Abe Lincoln (on his mama’s side). Boo bought his first guitar by selling little packets of seed and grew up picking and singing songs he learned in the tobacco fields. You can still find him sitting out front of the country store with a bologna sandwich. Listen closely, you’ll hear Blind Boy Fuller in his finger-style guitar work.
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is 72. She was still in high school when she was introduced to Piano Red (later known as Dr. Feelgood), who had his own radio show on WAOK in Atlanta, Ga. She joined his band and began building a name for herself in the blues community for her searing guitar riffs and James Brown moves. (Visit her website)
The Blues Doctor – 78-year-old Drink Small – plays a mean blues guitar with a voice to match. He has performed at some of the country’s top music festivals including Chicago Blues Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Smithsonian-Folklife Festival and Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Drink has played Lincoln Center and Central Park in N.Y.C. His profiles have been published in Downbeat, Metronome, Blues Revue, Il Blues, Juke Blues, Soul Bag and Blues News. (Drink’s MySpace page)
Mac Arnold, at 69, is the youngster in this posse. When he was 24, Mac joined the Muddy Waters Band and helped shape the electric blues sound that would provide inspiration for a generation of rock guitarists. He played on the iconic John Lee Hooker album Live at the Café Au GoGo. (Mac’s website)
This is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime evening of musical performances, personal commentary and surprises. I mean, you never know what Drink is going to say.
Tickets are $20 general admission (or two for $35/five for $80) or $40 VIP, which includes an event T-shirt, pre-show meet and greet with one glass of wine. The VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m. Doors open to the public at 7:30.The show runs from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Mauldin Cultural Center is located at 101 E. Butler Road, Mauldin, S.C. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.piedmontlegends.com. Tickets will also be available at the door. cutline:
Clyde “Pop” Ferguson is a legend. Never mind that you may not know his name. He’s a legend anyway. At 84 years old, he’s still playing the blues, and let me make it as clear as possible. He’s the real deal. He’s not someone who’s been influenced by those early authentic bluesmen; Pop Ferguson is authentic blues.
So gas up your Hummer or the pickup, whatever your vehicle of choice; mark your calendar for June 8 and 9 and set the Garmin for the historic city of Lenoir, N.C. in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the fourth annual free Pop Ferguson Blues Festival.
This Festival is unique in that its goal isn’t simply to provide a venue for blues acts. According to festival organizer (and Pop’s son) Clyde Ferguson, Jr., the Pop Ferguson Blues Festival also charges itself with the mission of reconnecting today’s culture with the true heritage of the blues.
To that end, five of the nine acts are considered elders of the genre, playing a range of blues, and all connecting to the past.
Eighty-four-year-old Pop Ferguson is one of the last practitioners of traditional blues in the N.C. foothills. Growing up in the African American community of North Wlikesboro, he played for local revivals, all the time yearning for the blues. As a young man, he traveled all around, playing juke joints, fish fries, coal fields and street corners in the northeast. He shared the stage with Papa John Creach and Etta Baker. Playing at first in the local Piedmont blues style (thumb and finger), he adopted popular techniques and developed his own style of blues gospel.
“With my dad,” Ferguson, Jr. laughs, “you never know what you’ll get. He may start a song that you think you know, but then he just does his own thing.”
The Festival lineup also includes the inimitable Drink Small, South Carolina’s much loved blues doctor (age 79); from the N.C. Piedmont, finger-style guitarist James Arthur “Boo” Hanks (age 83); Beverly “Guitar” Watkins (age 72), playing straight ahead blues and telling it from a woman’s P.O.V.; and Mac Arnold, playing modern day jump blues that reach back to the old days. At 69, he’s the baby of the group.
There will also be gospel, traditional acoustic folk music, storytelling, country blues and the introduction of a special young talent – Miss E.
How the Festival was born is especially touching.
“My dad and I starting playing together about six years ago,” says Ferguson, Jr. “My parents got divorced when I was really young, and I visited my dad and heard him play, but we didn’t spend ‘time’ together. I went away to school, started teaching, had kids. In 2006, we came back together, started to have a real relationship.
“For Christmas that year, I wanted to give him a special present. I learned to play guitar so we could pick together and on Christmas day I sat down to play for him. When I was done, he turned to me and said, ‘Boy I believe that song goes like this.’”
Clyde is laughing out loud as he remembers. “Well, my feelings were hurt, but Merry Christmas anyway! I went back to his house on New Year’s Eve, with a bass guitar and this time he said, ‘Play that again.’ And then we started playing together.
“Within 30 days we had a harmonica player, a guitarist and Pop Ferguson Blues Revue was created. So we started playing.
“This guy was following us around everywhere we went. And a little while later, we get this notification he was going to be recognized by the Smithsonian Institute.”
Turns out the guy who was following them around was with StoryCorps Griot Project and he was researching Pop for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. So Pop Ferguson’s life story, recordings and works will be preserved by the Smithsonian.
This year’s Festival theme is Celebrating the Blues Heritage of the Appalachians. What a terrific way to not only learn, but experience the heritage of the area.
The Festival is free. Just head into downtown Lenoir and volunteers will be onsite to direct you toward the stages and events.
(5 – 8 p.m.)
Patrick Crouch. Slide blues guitar
Jaret Carter. Country blues guitar
Max Hightower. Blues “Hohner” harmonica
Main Street Stage
3:45 Pop Ferguson
5:15 Drink Small
6:00 Boo Hanks
6:45 Beverly “Guitar” Watkins
7:30 Pop Ferguson
8:15 Mac Arnold
9:00 Blues Jam Session
Sweet T’s Stage
4:00 Strictly Clean & Decent
5:00 Mt. Pilgrim Choir
6:00 Jaret Carter
7:00 Smith Memorial Choir
4:00 Jaret Carter
5:00 Diana Banner & Sisters
6:00 Life Center Choir
7:00 Strictly Clean & Decent
Venti’s Casa Stage
4:00 Pop Ferguson w/Miss E
5:00 Life Center Youth Choir
6:00 Storytelling – Diana Banner
West Avenue Stage
5:00 Jacob Johnson Band
She D’Ambrosio is a talent scout, booking agent and all around lover of blues music. It’s been on her bucket list for quite some time now to put together a blues festival for the Upstate of South Carolina, and this month it’s finally come to pass.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, the inaugural Summer’s Last Blast & Blues Festival will take place at the Pavilion at Acadia in Piedmont, S.C. (a suburb of Greenville). The lineup is extraordinary, especially for the ultra-reasonable ticket price of $15 per person (free for kids under 12).
Headlining is the incredible Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and her band; then there’s Cee Cee James featuring the inimitable Rickey Godfrey on guitar; the Matt Walsh Blues Band; Freddie Vanderford with Brandon Turner and the Shades; singer songwriter J Edwards and his kick-ass band; and the King Bees. YEAH!
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was born in Atlanta, Ga. in 1939, and she can play the pants off musicians half her age. She says, “My style is real Lightnin’’ Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues.”
D’Ambrosio can’t wait to bring her to the Upstate. ‘Beverly is a national treasure,” she tells me. “She’s got a style all her own and she’s so charismatic. Wait till people see her with that guitar over her head.”
Watkins was a junior in high school when she joined Piano red and the Meter-tones. Later she played with Eddie Tigner and the Ink Spots and other groups, becoming a fixture at the Underground Atlanta.
She would go on to work with James Brown, B.B. King and Ray Charles, becoming well-known throughout the blues community. But like so many other roots musicians, she had little airplay, and wouldn’t achieve success until the advent of the Internet. Re-discovered by Tim Duffy, founder of the nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation, she joined Koko Taylor on the women of Blues “Hot Mamas” tour in 1998. Her debut CD, Back In Business (1999), earned her a W.C. Handy Award nomination in 2000, and she was on her way. A bout with cancer a few years later couldn’t keep her down, and she’s back touring and getting the kudos she deserves.
Originally from Portland, Ore., Cee Cee James was 12 when she put together her first band. She discovered blues early, but went on to explore R&B and her native cherokee roots. “Hiking in the mountains outside San Diego,” she says, “I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan whispering to me from the Heavens… “Go back to your roots girl. go back to what you do best,” which I intuitively knew was blues, low-down roots and soul.”
Her current blues band includes songwriting partner and husband Rob “Slideboy” Andrews and Nashville’s hot rockin’ bluesman Rickey Godfrey wailing on his Telecaster. This act is going to blow the sky open.
“Cee Cee James is a vocal volcano,” says D’Ambrosio. “There’s this gut-wrenching quality … Her originals come from walking through fire … and there’s just not enough to say about Rickey Godfrey. It’s an honor for us to have him here.”
J Edwards Band is going to shock a lot of people at this show. A popular Columbia, S.C. musician, he just isn’t well-known outside the area. But this boy can sing. His raw, rough, heart-wrenching vocals will stop you in your tracks.
In a matter-of-fact style that I’ve come to expect from She D’Ambrosio, she says bluntly, “J’s voice is my crack cocaine. He’s got a voice like no other. Once you’ve heard ‘I’ve Got a Woman,’ you know what I mean.”
Matt Walsh’s sound is rooted in the old-school blues of south-side Chicago in the fifties. He first gained national notoriety in 2006 when former guitarist for Muddy Waters Bob Margolin interviewed him for Blues Revue magazine. Since then Matt shared the stage or opened for Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Pinetop Perkins and others. This guy’s on his way up! Catch him while you can!
The King Bees out of N.C were formed by guitarist/organist Hound Dog Baskerville and singer/song-writer/bassist, Queen Bee Penny Zamagni. They have a musical pedigree I can’t even imagine. They have sat in with or backed up so many blues giants:Bo Diddley, Tinsley Ellis, Billy Branch, Mojo Buford, Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, Frank Frost, Lazy Lester, Ronnie Earl … the list goes on.
“When you hear that voice come out of Penny, who stands all of five feet … you wonder where it comes from,” says D’Ambrosio as she talks about the King Bees.
Harpman Freddie Vanderford is doing his part to keep the blues alive. In 2010 he received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for sharing the tradition of Piedmont blues harp. For the Summer’s Last Blast festival, he’s playing with iconic guitarist Brandon Turner and the Shades.
“Brandon Turner is one of the most underrated guitarists in the U.S. I can’t wait for this show,” She tells me.
“We have people coming fro Atlanta, Charlotte, Virginia, the Carolina beaches,” she goes on. “We’re hoping to have a lot of locals, too. We have a lot of talent in this area, but we wanted to bring in acts from out of the area, too … give people a chance to see someone that maybe they haven’t been able to see before.”
This is a family-friendly festival. Food vendors will be selling homemade ice cream, funnel cakes, hot dogs, barbecue, beer, wine, soda, tea, lemonade and more.
Vendor spots are still available for $25. As a further incentive, this year’s vendors will be able to return next year for the same price.
The Pavilion at Acadia is located at 102 Fathers Way in Piedmont, S.C. For more information, log onto the website at http://www.summerslastbluesfest.com, email email@example.com or visit them on Facebook.
Once again, the Lowcountry Blues Bash is combining a lineup of stellar out-of-town talent with a crew of topnotch local area performers to give blues lovers one sizzling show after another. According to organizer Gary Erwin, the event, which is in its twentieth year, is offering 53 different acts performing 90 shows at 24 venues throughout the Charleston, S.C. area during the 12-day blues crawl.
I’ll give you some highlights here, but the best way to figure out which shows you gotta see is to mark your calendar for Feb. 5 – 16 and download your own brochure at http://www.bluesbash.com.
Headliners for 2010 include Charlie Sayles & the Blues Disciples; Paul Geremia; blues legend Eddy Kirkland; blues mama Beverly Guitar Watkins; and Bryan Lee & the Blues Power Band.
Harp man Charlie Sayles picked up his first harmonica during a stint in Vietnam. He’s known as much for his authentic song- writing as for his soulful harmonica sound. Add to that, the smokin’ guitar of Tony Fazio and this band is a Gotta See in my book.
Traditional bluesman Paul Geremia is considered to be one of the best country blues hand pickers in the country. He paid his dues playing with legends such as Yank Rachell and Howlin’ Wolf; today he’s a jazz and blues scholar, an esteemed songwriter and a legend in his own right.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Alabama until he went off with the Sugar Girls Medicine Show at the ripe old age of 12, Eddie Kirkland is truly the “Gypsy of the Blues.” He toured and recorded with John Lee Hooker; he was a bandleader for Otis Redding; he still tours over 40 weeks out of the year. Eddie Kirkland & the Energy Band will perform two shows on opening weekend.
It makes me feel good just knowing that Beverly Guitar Watson is still out there kickin’ and pickin’. She growls originals and classics into the mic while she ignites her guitar.
If you haven’t heard of Bryan Lee, he’s nothing less than a bona fide New Orleans blues institution. Eric Clapton calls him “… one of the best bluesmen I have ever heard…” Blues Revue magazine says “… Lee’s fiery Telecaster is unstoppable …” You’ve got three chances to catch him at the Lowcountry Blues Bash.
Daddy Mack Blues Band is back by popular demand bringing their downhome, funky Beale Street sound to town during the second weekend of the crawl.
Shemekia Copeland will be at the blues bash that weekend, too. Still in her twenties, the daughter of blues legend Johnny Copeland has opened for the Rolling Stones, headlined the Chicago Blues Festival and shared the stage with Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Taj Mahal. Mark my words, it won’t be long before Shemekia is going to own the stage! Gotta See!
I’m excited to report that Delta Highway is on the roster for this year’s Bash in Charleston. I saw this rockin’ group in 2008 at the Cape Fear Blues Festival. Led by founders Brandon Santini on harp and guitarist Justin Sulek, their sound has traditional roots, but definitely takes you for a ride through some uncharted territory. If this is the future of the blues, count me in!
Now you may know Col. Bruce Hampton & the Quark Alliance, but for this gig, the Col. Bruce Hampton Blues Trio will be front and center, exploring their blues roots. Another rare opportunity for lovers of the genre!
Guitar wizard Rickey Godfrey is bringing his Telecaster to town for one show only. If you’ve never experienced his unique brand of soulful blues and the utterly raw power of his vocals, make sure you’re in the neighborhood of the Hometeam BBQ on Sunday, Feb. 7. It’s not just the barbecue that will be smokin’
Another hot rockin’ show in the lineup is Johnny Mac & Booty Ranch. Charleston locals love the raunchy blues of this exciting bar band. But it’s the musicianship of these guys that keeps packing the room.
Atlanta’s Big Bill Morganfield is sure to pull a crowd. Son of the legendary Muddy Waters, Big Bill is on his own blues journey and making his daddy proud. He has been named Best New Blues Artist at the W.C. Handy Awards. The Chicago Tribute has said, “… it’s eerie, as if his father and Howlin’ Wolf had never left…”
There are so many more to mention: singer/songwriter Davis Coen; my favorite lowcountry bard, Jeff Norwood (whose latest CD, Awendaw, I love!); Drink Small, the blues doctor; Wanda Johnson, another S.C. gem; the King Bees from N.C.; the one- man blues band of Robert Lighthouse; Cole Train, which is the new group led by the amazing young guitarist Sarah Cole (Stone Cold Sarah); Lil Dave Thompson and his Mississippi brand of electric juke joint blues; and The Scissormen from Nashville. I have to say, I don’t know this group, but I love Gary Erwin’s description of them: “Blues/rock mayhem and wild slide guitar.” Gary’s alter ego, Shrimp City Slim will be performing throughout the festival, too. This is going to be another great Lowcountry Blues Bash. Hope to see you there!
Discount lodging is available at the Rodeway Inn at River Crossing at the foot of Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant. Be sure to mention the Blues Bash to get the special rate. Call 843-884-5853 or visit http://www.theinnatrivercrossing.com.
Gary Erwin aka Shrimp City Slim is pretty excited about the lineup for his 19th annual Lowcountry Blues Bash taking place in Charleston from Feb. 6 – 16. And no wonder.
His headliners are Lil’ Dave Thompson; Big Bill Morganfield, who happens to be Muddy Waters’ son; Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones; and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins.
We gonna have some fun.
If you’ve never been, the Lowcountry Blues Bash is a blast. This year, it’s been scaled back a bit, but there are still 44 different live acts performing in 19 different venues over 11 days throughout downtown Charleston, East Cooper, North Charleston, and the West Ashley/James Island/Folly Beach area.
Lil’ Dave Thompson. Born in 1971, Thompson was encouraged by his father, also a musician, to play the guitar. Consequently, by the time he was a teenager, Lil’ Dave Thompson was playing the local blues circuit. This third generation Mississippi Delta bluesman will intoxicate you with his unique brand of visceral soul-blues. Expect to hear some great shuffles, slow blues, junk or even a little jazz with a Latin sound. Lil’ Dave is known for his dynamic live performance, so his should be one of the most popular shows at the Blues Bash.
Be sure to bring some extra cash, because you’ll want to pick up a copy of his 2008 CD, Deep In the Night. Find out for yourself, why this guy has been nominated for two Handy awards and is considered to be one of the top under 40 blues guitarists in Mississippi today.
Big Bill Morganfield. Born in Chicago in 1956, the son of Muddy Waters wears his pedigree proudly, but has really come into his own in recent years. Once heard, it’s clear that Big Bill Morganfield stands firmly on his own talent.
The singer/songwriter/guitarist reportedly never picked up a guitar until his father’s death in 1983. At that time he embarked on a mission to study the roots of Delta blues music. Eventually, he would join forces with harmonica man Paul Oscher and guitarist Bob Margolin, both of whom had played with his father. In 1999, they recorded Morganfield’s debut album, aptly titled Rising Son (Blind Pig Records). The album was received warmly, both for its nod to Muddy Waters and for Morganfield’s original songwriting. A bit of trivia for you here: the title cut from Rising Son, was included in the film A Love Song for Bobby Long, starring John Travolta. The Blind Pig label would go on to record Morganfield’s Ramblin’ Mind (2001) and Blues In the Blood (2003).
Big Bill has just finished recording a new CD titled Born Lover, which was produced by Bob Margolin and Brian Bisesi. This is one to watch for.
Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones. Dallas born in 1950, this is one of the Lone Star State’s favorite sons. Jr. Boy was playing guitar professionally by the time he was 16, working with the likes of the legendary Freddie Kings’ Thunderbirds, Bobby Patterson’s Mustangs, Johnnie Taylor, R.L. Griffin and Charlie Robertson. He also worked with the Swamp Boogie Queen herself, Katie Webster on her Swamp Boogie Queen CD. While working as a session player in San Francisco, he signed on with Charlie Musselwhite for a number of years, appearing on Ace of Harps (1990), Signature (1991) and In My Time (1993)– all on the Alligator label.
Be sure to check out one of his performances and find out what folks in Texas have known for years.
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. Born in 1939 in Atlanta this rockin’ blues mama is probably best known for her work with Piano Red (who later became known as Dr. Feelgood). If lowdown, foot stompin’ blues is your thing, you’re gonna want to run, not walk to one of her shows during the Blues Bash. As you’ll find out, she plays a mean guitar, often duckwalking or playing with her teeth, and her voice … well, her voice is the blues, plain and simple.
She’s got several shows lined up – Sticky Fingers, the Isle of Palms Recreation Center, the Charleston County Library. Make sure you get to at least one of them. You’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t.
The list goes on. Other notable performers include local faves, King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers. If you’ve never experienced swamp blues à la front maniac Jim Quick and the guys, check out their show at J.B. Pivots. You won’t be disappointed. Pivots is also bringing back Johnny Rawls and his topnotch band. Davis Coen is another act to catch. In fact, I’ll be writing a piece on his new CD, Blues Lights, in the next issue. Daddy Mack Blues Band, out of Memphis, is back by popular demand. Blues bard Jeff Norwood is another great show. If you haven’t seen Stone Cold Sarah Cole before, do it now! I’ve seen this teen guitarist at the last two National Women In Blues Festivals in Wilmington, N.C. and she rocks! Sharrie Williams & the Wise Guys … She’s dynamite. Juke Joint Johnny on harp, another must-see. Maurice John Vaughn and the BJ Emery Band mix some classic Chicago blues with soul and south side funk. Wanda Johnson … Paul Geremia … Dr. Pickup (all the way from France) … If you’re any kind of a blues fan, you’ll want to be at the Blues Bash.
Tickets to the individual shows are super reasonable. Sometimes admission is free and the rest of the time prices range from $3 to $15. For more information and a full schedule, visit http://www.bluesbash.com, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 843-762-9125. If you’re looking for accommodations, stay where the artists stay: the Inn at River Crossing in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Mention the Blues Bash and get a special rate. Call 843-884-5853 or visit the website at http://www.theinnattherivercrossing.com .