Thursday, October 20, 2011

Benefit at Buddy Guy's Legends on November 30

Kenny Neal called this morning after talking to Buddy Guy and confirming a date at Buddy Guy's Legends for the Jim O'Neal Blues Benefit on November 30. Thanks to Kenny and all the Chicago musicians who have called or sent messages, including Billy Branch, Eddie C. Campbell, Eddy Clearwater, Elmore James Jr., Bo Dudley, Deitra Farr, Sugar Blue, and Nora Jean Wallace (Bruso).

Kenny and Memphis Gold, who organized the Oct. 20 benefit in Hyattsville, Maryland, both know what it's like to face major health challenges. Not long ago Kenny had to take a year off from performing and undergo chemotherapy, while Memphis Gold (Chester "Chet" Chandler, aka "K.D.") suffered a serious fall that caused spinal damage and still needs a wheelchair or walker to get around. Thanks for the inspiration you have provided, Kenny and K.D.!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blues Benefit shows

My sincere thanks go out to everyone who has sent donations and good wishes since I was diagnosed with cancer in June. Several benefits have been organized to help with expenses, including one on Oct. 20 at the Surf Club in Hyattsville, Maryland, put together by D.C. bluesman Chester "Memphis Gold" Chandler and another on Oct. 28 at Knucklehead's in Kansas City headed by Baton Rouge's Kenny Neal. Kenny is also working on another date at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, possibly on November 19. More details will be posted as available.

In the meantime, I am receiving chemotherapy and so far I've been able to continue to work at my laptop doing writing and research for the Mississippi Blues Trail. I have lots of writing and research projects still to do and it's been gratifying to have the warm support of friends in the blues community.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Robert Johnson Centennial Celebration

From the Greenwood Convention & Visitors Bureau:
CONTACT: Paige Hunt

The Official Robert Johnson Centennial Celebration scheduled for Greenwood, May 5-8, 2011, will include the following events:

Robert Johnson Exposed: History and art exhibit at Cottonlandia Museum: Opening Thursday, May 5th: Open to the public, the art show will detail Robert Johnson’s life. The exhibit will include never before seen original album art, family pictures, and artistic interpretations of the legend created in the years after his untimely death. The exhibit will remain open throughout the summer.

Alluvian Happy Hour: Thursday Night, May 5th:
Live blues music and specialty cocktails.

Delta Blues Legend Tours: Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th:
Guided tours through Baptist Town and historic blues locations. Advance reservations required.

The Official Robert Johnson Centennial Concert: Friday night, May 6th, Whittington Park: A free concert with Jay Lang and the Devils Due, Bobby Rush and more to welcome travelers to town and celebrate the guitar legacy of the blues.

Robert Johnson Life & Legacy Expert Panel: Saturday morning, May 7th
A line up of known blues experts moderated by Jim O’Neal, Research Director of the Mississippi Blues Trail, will engage all aspects of the blues world to discuss Johnson’s music and legacy. Panelists to include Scott Barretta, Steve LaVere, Sylvester Oliver, Vasti Jackson, Scott Ainslie, and Judge Mike Mills.

Alluvian Spa Specials: Thursday, May 5th - Sunday, May 8th: The Alluvian Spa will offer a 60 minute Soulful Massage for $100 and their Bluesberry Spa services, including facials, body scrub and wrap and a mani/pedi. Advance reservations required.

Delta Dinner Class at The Viking Cooking School: Saturday, May 7th: Viking Cooking School will offer a Delta Dinner class. The menu includes Delta hot tamales, catfish, mile high coconut meringue pie, fried dill pickles and sweet tea. Advance reservations required.

The Official Robert Johnson Centennial Concert: Saturday night, May 7th, Whittington Park: A free concert with blues and rock n' roll greats. Honeyboy Edwards, Kenny Brown Band, Alvin Youngblood Hart, RJG – Robert Johnson Grandson Band, Keb' Mo' and The Warren Haynes Band along with other world famous blues acts will take the stage to honor Johnson’s legacy.

Community Church Service at Little Zion M.B. Church: Sunday morning, May 8th: On Robert Johnson’s actual birthday, an open church service will be held to commemorate Robert Johnson and his legacy with Steven Johnson as guest preacher.

Memphis Gold at the Chicago Blues Festival

Stackhouse Recording Company artist Memphis Gold finally has a slot at the Chicago Blues Festival at the Pepsi Front Porch stage on Sunday, June 12, at 2:15 p.m. He will be accompanied by the Billy Branch band. He is planning on bringing copies of his new CD, "Pickin' in High Cotton," which leads off with the sure-to-controversial "How You Gonna Play the Blues."

I will also be on two 11:30 a.m. panels at the festival's Mississippi Juke Joint stage: a Robert Johnson panel on Friday (with members of Johnson's family participating) and a Mississippi Blues Trail panel on Saturday, with Alex Thomas, Scott Barretta, and Rip Daniels.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010



For any of you who happen to be in or want to go to Tokyo for a special series of concerts, how’s this for a show:

The FLAMINGOS (featuring original vocalist Terry Johnson)
MITTY COLLIER (former Chicago soul singer now a gospel singer and pastor)
BYTHER SMITH (Chicago blues guitar man)

Shows every night, January 21 through January 25, at the Yoshimoto Prince Theater in Shinagawa, Tokyo

Yasufumi Higurashi, founder of Blues Interactions/P-Vine Special Records, put this package together with the promoter, Yoshimoto Creative Agency. I helped coordinate the U.S. end of the booking with the artists. For further details on the concerts, contact Yoko Yamabe at

I won’t be able to be in Tokyo for the shows, but here’s what I’m looking forward to in January, as a rare opportunity to see a gathering of musicians who represent Wichita’s little-known but deep history of blues, jazz and R&B. As veteran guitarist Berry Harris says, if Alan Lomax had come to do field work in Wichita, people would know about the talent there. But Lomax didn’t. So I hope some of the interviews I’ve been doing can help fill in that informational gap. (Thanks to Berry, Rudy Love and the Love family, and Wichita Blues Society president Randy Crump,

The Wichita Blues Society presents its 12th Annual Blues Ball on Saturday, January 16, at the Cotillion Ballroom in Wichita. The event honors Blues Masters of Wichita featuring Berry Harris, Ray Drew, Henry Walker, Rudy Love, D.D. Dunn and Mr. Lee. Big Clyde Sheely and Rib Bone are backing them up. For further information call 316-722-4201 or log on to


I’ll also be on the radio for a telephone interview (and wishing I could be down on the coast in person) about the Mississippi Blues Trail on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010, at 7:35 a.m. on The Morning Show on WTNI, 1640 AM, from Biloxi.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa’s Messin’ With the Kid

Santa’s Messin’ With the Kid!

Here’s an unexpected Christmas present courtesy of CBS television: On the Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, episode of the crime drama NCIS (7:00 pm CST, 8:00 pm EST), Eddie C. Campbell’s song “Santa’s Messin’ With the Kid,” as performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd, is heard in the background when agents DiNozzo and David go to a honky-tonk bar.

CBS has already pulled one blues surprise this season, in the Sept. 3 episode of another crime show, CSI, entitled “Gone Dead Train,” named after – of course – the King Solomon Hill record. Two of the CSI investigators turn out to be prewar blues collectors who try to stump each other – one plays Robert Johnson’s “Dead Shrimp Blues,” which is too easy, and the other counters with “Gone Dead Train,” prompting the incorrect guess “Mississippi John Hurt?” Way off. Hill sounds like Blind Lemon, not John Hurt.

Still, kudos to the writer, Jacqueline Hoyt, and even to CSI co-star Laurence Fishburne, despite his previous miscasting as Ike Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

Monday, December 14, 2009

On the blues trail in Tutwiler

Here’s a photo by Melanie Young of Living Blues from the November 25 Mississippi Blues Trail marker ceremony in Tutwiler, from left: Jerome Little (Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors), Tutwiler Mayor Genether Miller-Spurlock, me, Robert Plant, former mayor Robert Grayson, and Mississippi State Senator David Jordan. All spoke at the event, with local officials taking pride in Tutwiler’s place in blues history and Senator Jordan reminding the local “Bible thumpers” of their connections to the blues. Former Tutwiler resident Panny Mayfield of the Clarksdale Press Register arranged for Plant’s participation in sponsoring the marker. His appearance was kept hush-hush so as not to overwhelm Tutwiler with hordes of Led Zeppelinites, so festivities remained pleasantly low-key. Many of the older residents in attendance had no idea who he was, in fact, although they did know the people pictured on the marker, including Tutwiler musicians Tom Dumas and Lee Kizart, as well as Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, who is buried about two miles from town. Plant took time for interviews and conversations with media and fans. He recalled Sonny Boy’s stays in England, talked about his fascination with the Delta and with its blues artists, including Rube Lacy and Tommy McClennan, and mentioned that Led Zeppelin once had chances to purchase the Chess, Sun, and Vee-Jay labels – he and Jimmy Page wanted to do it, but the other band members weren’t interested. Local blues aficionado Johnny Jennings also had some interesting stories to tell about meeting Sonny Boy in Tutwiler. (More about that another time.)

Some culprits from the Mississippi Blues Trail staff sabotaged me that day (my birthday) by circulating 61 on 49 name tags and coronating me with a paper crown. My sister Julie published my “61 on 49” reference as a mystery quiz on Facebook, prompting a guess that I would be turning 61 in the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility on Highway 49. Now that is truly insulting. I would hope that if I ever achieve the necessary criminal credentials, I would at least have the honor of serving in the state penitentiary at Parchman, which is only a few miles down the road on 49.

Robert Plant said he also turned 61 in August. In honor of the first (and only) time I saw Led Zeppelin (at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago, Feb. 7, 1969), here is a photo of a John Bonham drumstick I picked up at that concert:

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'll be 61 on 49

The 95th marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail is being unveiled on Wednesday, November 25, in beautiful downtown Tutwiler, Mississippi, in honor of W.C. Handy's encounter with the guitarist who introduced him to the sounds and lyrics of "Goin' Where the Southern Cross' the Dog." I'll be there for the ceremony, which begins at 11:30 a.m., along with Brenda, Dela and Louis. The 25th also happens to be the day I turn 61, and Tutwiler is on Highway 49, so that makes for some kind of crossroads numerology, I guess -- although I have never for a minute believed that any of the points where Highways 61 and 49 meet (or used to meet) could possibly be "THE" crossroads that Robert Johnson believers are always seeking, if there even is such a place.

Meanwhile, as Mississippi Blues Trail research continues to peel away layers of hidden history, even in such accepted and often documented scenarios as W.C. Handy's experiences in Tutwiler and Cleveland, Mississippi, we'll have some "new" (actually very old) details to reveal soon that may result in a rewriting of blues history at the turn of the century in Mississippi, thanks to leads from Handy scholar Elliott Hurwitt with the participation of David Evans and a network of sources across the South.