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Originally Published February,9, 2001
A Full Weekend Of Blues In Memphis!
Second Annual BluesFirst Weekend
Damn, it was good to be back in Memphis – the Home of the Blues! Yours truly, along with a whole posse of Blues lovin’ road warriors, made the trek to the Blues Mecca of the Mid-South for the second annual BluesFirst Weekend. BluesFirst is the only international convention and expo for Blues societies, fans, musicians, and industry. This was not all – the International Blues Challenge was also held the same weekend, right on historic Beale Street.
BluesFirst consists of a series of informative workshops and discussions about a wide variety of topics. You could check out “Building a Better Bluesletter,” which I found to be valuable time spent. Other seminars included, “Blues Radio – Challenges and Opportunities,” “Getting the Word Out (Tricks and Angles to get Press),” “So You Recorded a CD…Now What?,” “Women in Blues” and “Blues in the Schools.” There were tips on how to run a non-profit organization and the laws of 501(c)3 and the basics for preparing a budget. You could get valuable advice on how to pick the right recording studio and also hear from industry professionals on booking, artist development, management, buying, hiring a lawyer and promoting.
Of course we have to eat, so there were some excellent luncheons and “meet-and-greets.” One of the most interesting things that I experienced was listening to Johnny Parth, who won the KBA (Keeping the Blues Alive) Award for Achievement in Historical Preservation. Mr. Parth is from Vienna, Austria and is the head of Document Records. He has been busy with his labor of love, which is to compile every Blues recording ever made before World War II. If a recording was done more than fifty years ago, it becomes public domain. Mr. Parth’s love for the Blues started with a 78 of Louis Armstrong’s “St. Louis Blues” and has blossomed into an incredible achievement. Document Records has a vast collection of pre-war Blues for the casual fan and completist alike.
Other KBA winners that I would like to mention include: Achievement in Blues on the Internet: www.allmusicguide.com. This is an incredible source for information on Blues musicians, their recordings and history. Achievement in Photography was awarded to Raeburn Flerlage – a most deserving and talented winner. To see this man’s magic with the camera, check out his book, Chicago Blues – As Seen From The Inside. The award for Achievement in Literature was given to Nadine Cohodas for her excellent book, Spinning Blues Into Gold, the recount of Chess Records and the men behind it. Certainly recommended reading.
But let’s talk about the music! 53 acts were on hand to vie for the “Best Un-signed Blues Act.”There were acts representing Blues societies from all across the United States and even Austria, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan. These bands and solo artists all played their hearts out, displaying talent, charisma and soul. The first place trophy and prize package went to Richard Johnston representing the Beale Street Blues Society. Johnston is a one-man tour-de-force on guitar and vocals, favoring the approach of Delta artists like R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Jessie Mae Hemphill. Second place went to Collard Greens and Gravy, a 3-piece band from Australia. Richard Kern, a solo artist from Austria, came in third. I saw a lot of great talent and would not have wanted to be a judge! Every act received great exposure and experience, even if they didn’t land in the winner’s circle.
If all of this wasn’t enough, there were performances by Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin at the Black Diamond, not to mention the jam held at the New Daisy Theatre. I stuck around an extra night to catch Little Jimmy King at B.B. King’s Blues Club and then was able to get my own mojo workin’, sitting in with a local band in the wee hours at the Blue City Cafe. It was great to finally play and sing on the same street that so many stellar names have graced through the years – Beale Street!
CONGRATULATIONS!!! ” JWood ” You are this week’s winner of an autographed Kenny Neal CD, Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain. Go to the Backstage to collect your prize. Remember to play the quiz each week for your chance to win great prizes.
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