2017 38th ANNUAL BLUES MUSIC AWARDS
Verbals: Suzanne Swanson
The air is heavy and humid when you arrive in Memphis, in the second week of May for the beginning of the Blues Music Awards festivities held yearly by The Blues Foundation. The Mississippi River flows high due to snow melt running into the expansive waterway from hundreds of miles north after a stormy winter. In spite of the 80 degree F (27 C) heat, a swell of excitement exists as this is one of the busiest music weeks every year.
Events began on Monday, May 8. If you did not have your tickets sent to you a trip to the Blues Hall of Fame on S. Main is necessary to pick up Will Call tickets and visit the museum that holds important memorabilia from all the Blues Hall Of Fame inductees. Downstairs, there are sound booths to listen to recordings of special interest to blues buffs. In the reception area where you are able to purchase albums, CD’s, clothing, and other items. Outside is a bench, shared with a seated bronze statue of Little Milton that was unveiled April 10, 2015. A perfect sitting for any photo buff wanting to record their visit.
As the day wears on a welcome breeze drifts lazily across the river toward bustling Beale Street, the hub of all things musical in this Delta city. Neon lights glow and dance an invitation to come, meet old and new friends, share a meal, a beverage, and experience the joy that only live music can bring.
Corky Siegel is introducing the film Born In Chicago at Malco’s Studio on the Square. Before this, the Memphis Blues Society is hosting a performance of member musicians. Afterwards, back on Beale Street, Eric Hughes Band takes one of the many stages along the row of brightly lit venues. A leisurely walk up and down the street will whet your appetite for more of the tunes that bring memories from melodies and lyrics that make an impression. If you have any energy left from your journey, the celebrations continue into the small hours of the morning.
Eating in this Delta hub is always a pleasant adventure. There are so many fine traditions here for repeat visitors and new comers. Some of note are; Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, Alcenia’s Soul Food (breakfast and lunch, close to Sheraton host hotel), Rendezvous BBQ, Blues City Café (Beale St), Miss Polly’s Soul City(Beale St.), Majestic Grille, Blue Plate Café Downtown (breakfast/brunch), and the Kooky Canuck. B.B. King’s Blues Club, Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar, Arcade (Elvis’s favorite), Pearl’s Oyster House, and Flying Saucer Emporium, these are around the downtown area. Many more restaurants and bars are available, depending on preferences.
Tuesday is a good day to investigate Sun Studio, Stax Museum, Graceland, Gibson Guitar, the National Civil Rights Museum, Peabody Hotel, and the Memphis Rock & Soul Museum. Any one of these gives you a richer portrait of this music hub that has played a leading role in the history of the American Delta.
Jay Sieleman, former CEO of The Blues Foundation, along with Priscilla Hernandez, led an hour and a half walk along and over the Mississippi River. This is a wonderful idea in starting your Wednesday by walking the areas close to your hotel as this river made this city the cotton capital of the South.
Later in the early afternoon Mike Kappus, Music manager and record producer of the fabled Rosebud Agency, shared his experiences and music during the forty-
This year, Big Llou’s Fifth Annual Hall of Fame Tribute Jam and Fundraiser took place at The Warehouse, south of the National Civil Rights Museum. This is a time to celebrate recent inductees. Here, the blues icons of today perform the music that brought the recipients the acknowledgement and appreciation they deserve.
Thursday is the pinnacle of activity beginning with The Blues Foundation holding a Health Screening on the second floor of the Sheraton Downtown funded by The HART Fund. Doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners are on site for a variety of health screenings including, but not limited to, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, custom made earplugs and a lot more. The HART Fund is for blues musicians and their families in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns. The Fund provides for acute, chronic, and preventive medical and dental care and even funeral and burial expenses.
Two overlapping events took place as well. An important information meeting regarding the Recording Academy celebrating the Blues Music Awards, and legendary saxophonist Eddie Shaw’s Retirement Party.
The main event of the evening, the 38th Blues Music Awards happened at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. The program cover this year gave respect to blues women. Bob Gray designed it. In keeping with this theme performers Terrie Odabi, Lara Price/Fiona Boyes, Nancy Wright, Vanessa Collier, Diunna Greenleaf, Janiva Magness, Thornetta David, Bettye LaVette, and Annika Chambers, thrilled the capacity audience throughout the proceedings. Some of the other musicians who stood out were Kenny Neal, Doug MacLeod, Cedric Burnside, Nick Moss with Dennis Gruenling, Johnny Rawls, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, RW Grigsby, John Nemeth, Albert Castiglia, John Primer, Toronzo Cannon, Guy King, and several more. Hats off in praise to CEO Barbara Newman and Joe Whitmer, COO, for the musical direction, Paul Averwater, stage manager, Kyle Deibler,and Greg Johnson, assistant stage manager.
The winners of the evening for the 2017 Blues Music Awards are:
ACOUSTIC ALBUM -
ACOUSTIC ARTIST -
B.B. KING ENTERTAINER -
BEST EMERGING ARTIST ALBUM -
CONTEMPORARY BLUES ALBUM -
CONTEMPORARY BLUES FEMALE ARTIST -
CONTEMPORARY BLUES MALE ARTIST -
HISTORICAL ALBUM -
INSTRUMENTALIST– BASS – Biscuit Miller
INSTRUMENTALIST– DRUMS – Cedric Burnside
INSTRUMENTALIST– GUITAR – Joe Bonamassa
INSTRUMENTALIST– HARMONICA – Kim Wilson
INSTRUMENTALIST– HORN – Terry Hanck
KOKO TAYLOR AWARD -
PINETOP PERKINS PIANO PLAYER -
ROCK BLUES ALBUM -
Performed by Curtis Salgado
SOUL BLUES ALBUM -
SOUL BLUES FEMALE -
SOUL BLUES MALE -
TRADITIONAL BLUES ALBUM -
TRADITIONAL BLUES MALE ARTIST -
During the In Memoriam portion, photos of over fifty notable blues music luminaries showed on a huge screen and James Cotton received a standing ovation. Sadly, many important contributors to the industry have passed in the previous months. We can be grateful for their influences and salute the gifts that they imparted.
A distinctive bronze life-
While some travelled south to Clarksdale, the sixth Annual Play-
Saturday, the choice was even more excellent music either in Memphis or in Clarksdale at the fifth annual Pinetop Perkins Boogie and Crawfish Boogie.
There was more than enough blues music to satisfy all attendees this year in Memphis thanks to president, Barbara Newman, and chief operating officer, Joe Whitmer, who head The Blues Foundation, and their very capable staff. Consider this as one of the most intensive, fun filled weeks for any music lover to attend. Y’all come back now and enjoy it again next year!