Thank you for your support of our mission to promote and preserve Alabama blues! This Spring we presented Blues In the Schools programs all over the state! It is a great blessing that we are able to reach so many underserved schools that have little to no art or music as part their regular curriculum. Special thanks to organizations like the Black Belt Community Foundation and the Alabama State Council on the Arts that help to support arts programming in these schools.
On March 8th, we all suffered the great loss of our dear friend and fellow band member - blues legend Willie King. Willie's music, life, and message of peace and love touched friends and fans all over the world. More than a 1,000 people came to pay their respects at his funeral in Aliceville, Alabama, on March 15th. Willie was a source of so much inspiration for our mission here at the ABP, and I will never forget his last words to me: "Keep on pushing." We are thankful to the many tributes paid to Willie and especially to the Cognac Blues Passions Festival who dedicated this year's festival in his honor.
Our Spring After-School Blues Camp and the Blues Extravaganza at the Bama Theatre, held in Willie's honor, were both huge successes, and the final show rocked the house! We also just held our best Summertime Blues Camp ever! Eighty plus kids created great blues art and music, and they were taught by the most amazing staff. The Open House Blues Café was a “wang dang doodle” performance and art exhibition that was attended by over 300 members of the public!
A special thanks to Rick Asherson, who with the help of the Rural Members Association and the Pickens County Commission kept Willie King's Freedom Creek Festival going this year. The line-up was fantastic, and though Willie was greatly missed, all those who attended felt the presence of his loving spirit as they enjoyed this great festival.
Every day we receive confirmation of the importance of our blues preservation mission as we learn about new artists, past and present, from our state. Our archive database reached 400 entries this spring. We are particularly thankful to Italian blues scholar Silvia Serrotti for her work on our archive and for choosing Alabama as the focus of her PhD research. We are also thankful for the new blues musician friends we are making, like Shar-Baby and Ace Jones, who are each featured in this newsletter.
I also want to thank our amazing staff: Cara Lynn Smith, Kim Davis and Rachel Edwards, for their hard work on the day-to-day operations of the ABP. I hope their stories here will inspire others who might want to become more involved with our projects!
Fall will be here before we know it, and with the season will be our biggest annual event - "An Evening of Art and Blues” which will be held on September 25th at the Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s guaranteed to be a great night of live blues entertainment and amazing auction items, so please come out and support our cause while you have a great time!
Best wishes, Debbie Bond
MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
The Alabama Blues Project's
Annual Fundraiser 2009
Evening of Art & Blues
Friday September 25th
Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion
in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Please condsider contributing art, jewelry,
gift baskets or music memorablia
for our state-of-the-art auction.
Contact Cara Smith at (205) 752-6263
or firstname.lastname@example.org for more.
The Alabama Blues Project has garnered national recognition with our award-winning after-school and summer blues camp, but they are not the only way we are educating Alabama’s youth about the blues. Our school residency program is a little-known gem that provides schools inside and outside of Tuscaloosa County with top-notch blues instruction. Musicians Debbie Bond and Rick Asherson, working with special guests like, Eddie Kirkland , B.J. Miller, Little Lee, and the late, great Willie King, have worked tirelessly to promote and pass on Alabama blues to a new generation of musicians.
This spring we visited Cowart Elementary in Athens, Ala, J.E. Terry Elementary in Plantersville, Ala., and South Highland Middle in Union Springs, Ala. Each visit was comprised of a balanced mixture of performance, lecture, and participation, and students were introduced to the historical and cultural significance of blues music. The students also got a chance to hear Alabama blues musicians, Eddie Kirkland and Little Lee, talk about their life experiences with the blues. Although each residency has a basic one-day format, we try to tailor them to each school’s needs. For example, J.E. Terry Elementary secured two days for our residency, and we were able to acquire harmonicas so that every child could learn basic chords. Our residencies are aligned with National and State Education Standards to ensure that our students receive the best quality educational experience possible.
Mickey Mc Pherson, administrative assistant at Cowart Elementary said, “The Alabama Blues Project’s program was wonderful! It was very educational and our students learned a lot about the blues. We loved that every student was involved in the program. In fact, I was so moved, I even got up and boogied with the kids. Overall, it was a very good academic experience.”
If you know of any school in your area that would benefit from this unique experience please contact the Alabama Blues Project at (205) 752-6263 or email@example.com. Thank you!
2008-09 AFTER SCHOOL BLUES CAMP &
2nd ANNUAL BLUES EXTRAVAGANZA
ARE YOU READY FOR THE BLUES? The Alabama Blues project held their 2009 Blues Extravaganza on May 1st at the historic downtown Bama Theatre.The Blues Award winning "2008 Best Male Soul Artist" Bobby Rush delivered a knock out performance while the ABP Instructors along with Debbie Bond and Rick Asherson rocked the house and the ABP Advanced Band showcased their fine tuned skills.The Masters of Ceremony were Tuscaloosa’s own Olympic Bronze Medalist, Deontay Wilder, WTUG Radio Personality, Jade Nicole, and our very own Blues Camp Kid, LaBorn Brown.
The night would not have been complete without the ultimate entertainers, The ABP Blues Camp Kids! Conducted by the ABP Instructors, the Blues Camp Kids gave a stellar performance, making a 50+ member band look easy. Blues shows such as this do not simply materialize from thin air; there were months of preparation to make this 2009 Blues Extravaganza one to remember.
The 2009 Spring After-School Blues Camp began early February. The children were excited about the new semester of Blues Camp, but there were nervous inquiries about the "big" performance at the end of the semester. Luckily the instructors, an amazing line-up of blues talent - J.K. Terrell (harmonica), Herman Bell (harmonica), Keith Ruff (guitar), Ethan Gardiner (guitar), Mike London (guitar), John Hawkins (guitar), Jessie Suttle (percussion), DeShawndre Hill (percussion), DieDra Hurdle (vocals) and Ralph Lusian (intermediate band instructor) - put their doubts to rest with valuable life skills and blues history lessons.
Special guests came and interacted with the kids such as Willie King (shortly before his untimely death) who always inspired the children to do their very best, and bluesman Lil' Jimmy Reed who can sing, play the guitar and play the harmonica. The topic for one of the camp's life skill lessons was the difference between showing out and showing off. The students quickly identified the difference as showing out is a team effort and it allows everyone to have fun where as showing off is being self absorbed and not being concerned with your bandmates.
With each week the children became more unified and confident with themselves and each other. By the time May 1st rolled around, they were ready to jam and show just how hard working and dedicated they had been. Backstage, before the show, Bobby Rush and Deontay Wilder were giving the Blues Camp Kids a pep talk telling them to relax and have fun, but most importantly that it was their night, and the audience was there to see them perform.With that, the kids filed out onto the stage and started the 2009 Blues Extravaganza which is definitely one blues show to remember.
2009 Summertime Blues Camp was held at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, July 13th to Friday, July 17th. Friday’s session was an Open House Blues Café where the young musicians showcased their talent with a music performance and art show. Over 100 family members, friends and the wider community came out to this very special event!
If you have children between the ages of 8-17 who would be interested in attending future blues camps, please contact Cara Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 752-6263. Thank you!
Count to 10 Blues
When you call me names,
it makes me feel so sad
When you pick on me,
makes me feel real bad
It’s hard to get up when
you’re pushing me down
But I got to do something to
get rid of this frown
Take some time to count to 10
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Feeling better again
Hey, hey, bully, you’re pickin’ on me
Hey, hey, bully, pushing me down
Hey, hey, bully you doing me wrong
That’s why I’m singing this song
Mama Ain’t Happy Blues
Woke up this morning,
didn’t make my bed
Left for school without
combing my head
Played ball in the house when
I came home from school
I broke everything
and broke every rule
There’s one thing
I learned is right,
If Mama ain’t happy,
ain’t nobody happy tonight
If Mama feels happy,
then everybody’s happy
If Mama feels happy,
then everybody’s happy tonight
Woke up this morning,
looked in my fridge
My applesauce was gone
I asked my mom where it is,
my applesauce was gone
She said, “Don’t you remember
you ate it last night?
Your applesauce is long gone.”
I got the applesauce blues
Just don’t know what to do
I felt so sad, then I heard
It was the ice cream truck
Ring a ling ding, hear that ring
It was the ice cream truck
Now I don’t have no applesauce,
But ice cream is twice as nice!
Milk and Cookies Blues
I got in trouble today at school
Every time I turned around
I broke some kind of rule
I did real bad on my history test
Even though I studied
and tried my best
Then Mama picked me up
and took me home
She made me milk and cookies
Man it’s good to be home
I like to dunk ‘em…
Milk and cookies…
I almost sunk ‘em
Dr. Mom’s got a real good cure
For when I’m feeling blue
that’s gonna work for sure
Milk and cookies, milk and cookies
Advanced Band Setlist
What’d I Say
Walkin’ With Myself
Meet Me In The Morning
Folsom Prison Blues
Another Man Done Gone
Scratch My Back
Born Under a Bad Sign
Let The Good Times Roll
The Alabama Blues Project is fortunate to have Keith Ruff on our staff. Keith has been playing music for over 25 years and has toured all over the United States, as well as, China, Sweden, Iraq, and Canada. He is currently the lead guitarist for Bobby Rush and has produced music for Rush, DieDra Hurdle and PoohNanny. He has also worked with E.C. Scott and Freeman Lamar at Paisley Park Duo. Together with his wife DieDra Hurdle, ABP’s vocal instructor, Keith has become a valuable mentor for our burgeoning blues musicians.
Shar-Baby - Guitar & Band Leader
Shar-Baby discovered the blues at the tender age of 6 and started taking guitar lessons at the age of 11. She was inspired by Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s legendary guitarist. She has performed in many blues festivals such as the Pensacola Blues Festival and Willie King’s Freedom Creek festival, and in 2006, she competed at the Blues Challenge for North Michigan in a Solo/Duo competition. She has shared the stage with blues legends, Willie King and Sam Lay, and shared the bill with greats such as Honey Boy Edwards, Kenny Neal, Sweet Claudette, Otiel Burris, and Kent Burnside. She has a recently released album on Instant Karma Entertainment that features all original songs.
DieDra Hurdle - Vocals & Band Leader
At eight years old, DieDra Hurdle began her life long singing career in a family gospel choir. Since then, DieDra has become a sought after blues vocalist and teacher. DieDra sang for the group Melvin Dawson and the Genesis Ensemble, and she has worked with musicians such as Betty Wright, Denise Laselle, Al Green, Avant, Sunshine Anderson, Bobby Rush, and Carl Thomas. When she is not singing, DieDra teaches vocals to children at her church, as well as, the Alabama Blues Project and helps develop other artists. Currently, her latest blues CD, “Overcoming Hurdles” is on two separate southern soul charts. In May 2009, DieDra went on a “Divas of Blues” Tour with Denise Laselle and Betty Padgett. DieDra is married to ABP guitar instructor, Keith Ruff, who serves as her manager and loyal supporter. She has been nominated for Blues Critic's " Best New Female Artist of the Year 2009," Jus Blues Award Song of the Year 2009 by a Female "Hip Swinging Blues," Jus Blues Award Female Artist of the Year 2009 and was an International Blues Challenge Competitor in 2009.
Rick Asherson - Harmonica & Band Leader
Asherson first heard the blues in his native city of London, England, and began to play the harmonica, guitar and piano in the 60's. He has been playing harmonica and keyboards in bands in Europe and the U.S. for the past twenty years, and for the last four years played with the late blues legend Willie King and The Liberators, touring in the United States and Europe. He has played keyboards and harmonica for other Alabama blues greats, including Lil' Jimmy Reed, B. J. Miller, Carroline Shines, and Eddie Kirkland. Rick is Assistant Director of the Alabama Blues Project and a regular blues instructor with the ABP's after-school programs and artist residencies. He has worked closely in developing the Alabama Blues Project educational programs, curriculum and traveling exhibitions.
Jesse Suttle - Percussion & Band Leader
Jesse Diego Walker Suttle is the Project’s lead drum instructor. Music has always been a part of his life, and in addition to drums, he plays piano, guitar, bass and trombone. Jesse brings a wealth of experience having played in numerous bands and worked with some of the great names in blues music. His bands include Owsley, Topper Price and the Upsetters, Roosevelt Franklin, Teenage Daddy, South Southern Delta, the Crème Brulees, Shane Idols, and Lolas. He is currently playing drums for Shar Baby’s Blues Party. Jesse has also worked with Jerry “Boogie” McCain, Sam Lay, Shariff Simmons, Lil' Jimmy Reed and Willie King. In addition to playing with Shar Baby, he is currently working with former Leon Russell guitarist Jason Speegle. When Jesse isn’t practicing, composing or producing music, he is raising his kids, Kathryn, Rachel and Ian with his wife Rebecca Brewer.
Debbie has released a solo CD titled What Goes Around Comes Around. She is featured on the Vent Records CD, Alabama Blues Showcase: A Compilation of Alabama Blues Artists and on a German release by Taxim Records called Blues from the Heart of Dixie which showcases contemporary Alabama blues musicians. Bond is a 2001 recipient of an Alabama State Council on the Arts Master Apprenticeship Grant to study guitar with Eddie Kirkland. A long time “blues activist,” she is the founding director of the Alabama Blues Project, an award-winning blues education organization. Debbie has been working with the Alabama State Council on the Arts and other arts organizations to develop a blues curriculum. She has a B. A. in Sociology and an M. A. in American Studies focusing on the blues.
Lonnie Bradley Holley, sometimes known as The Sand Man, is an African American artist and art educator. When his sister's two children died in a house fire in 1979, he decided to do something constructive with his grief. As the family could not afford to buy tombstones for the children, he decided to make them himself. The tombstones were Holley's first works of art. He soon began to create an environment of found materials that he assembled in his yard. Eventually he took some of his carvings to the director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, who was so impressed that he contacted the Smithsonian. This resulted in Holley's work being included in the exhibition, "More Than Land and Sky: Art From Appalachia," which originated in 1981 at the Museum of American Art in Washington. Holley's work is in the permanent collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art after first being exhibited there in 1980. For the first few years, Holley worked almost exclusively with industrial-made sandstone. He then began to work with other found materials such as discarded wire, scrap materials, and wooden objects. In what is considered a natural progression of his work, Holley eventually began to paint. Self-taught and driven, Holley has made his life his art. His yard, his house, his car, his business. It's all art. He can make something out of nothing and instill it with so much meaning that you can't believe he stores most of his art out in the yard or eternally open garage.
Miz Thang is a self-taught folk artist from Hawkinsville, GA. All of her blues art is original. Her wooden pieces are usually cut out of cabinet grade birch and then sanded. She paints with acrylic paint, and sometimes she coats her pieces with shellac. She doesn't use brushes, but prefers to paint exclusively with her fingers. When her fingers are in the paint she feels connected to her art and feels she is passing along some of her special brand of mojo. Some of her creations have been on display at shows, museums and galleries throughout the USA and abroad. Her art is on display at the Smith Calloway Banks Southern Folk Art collection and the Research Center at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA. Her blues art has been on display at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia since 2004. In addition to being an accomplished folk artist, Miz Thang is a certified art educator.
Linda Munoz has worked in the medium of glass for over 25 years. Her other artistic love is sewing, and she has won awards for her quilts. Although trained as a Registered Nurse, she gave up nursing to pursue art full time when she realized that art could bring healing in ways medicine could not. Linda has taught mosaic art to children and adults for the last 8 years. She has taught at the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell, at Fine View Nursery in Ga., and at Black Belt Treasures in Camden, Ala. - just to name a few venues. Linda is also currently working on a 9x9 foot mosaic mural on the wall of the Gallery at Kentuck in Northport (pictured). Her art can be viewed at The Cotton Patch Art Studio in York, Ala.; The Gallery at Kentuck in Northport, Ala.; ORBIX Hot Glass in Fort Payne, Ala.; Black Belt Treasures in Camden, Ala.; Blackwood Gallery in Springville, Ala.; Lucas Road Gallery in Meridian, Miss.; and Mountain Mama's in Cloudland, Ga.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., B.J. Miller was destined for greatness. She is the daughter of Bettye Miller, reigning musician in K.C., known as the “Queen of Jazz”. To enhance the premier music atmosphere that was her home, Miller took formal studies at the university of Missouri-KC Conservatory of Music. She thrived in this total immersion in music, from trombone to electric piano and on to singing. Blessed with talents from both parents, B.J. has used her abilities to captivate audiences across United States, Canada, France, Spain and Tokyo. She has played and sung with a multitude of artist such as Ronnie Laws, Bloodstone, Bonnie Pointer, B.B. King, Fred Wesley, Marvin Cease, Roy Ayers and Sir Charles Jones. B.J.'s skills include writing, singing, playing, arranging, engineering and producing just to name a few of her talents. Among her production duties is the CD Better Man by the talented Mack Davis on the Mixed Company label. Clearly, Miller is a multi-gifted artist.
One of Alabama’s best kept secrets is the talented blues diva Carroline Shines. Carroline is carrying on the blues tradition she learned from her father, the late, great, world renowned Johnny Shines. As a legendary guitar player, singer and song writer, Johnny Shines lived the blues, performing and writing songs his entire life, even traveling with Robert Johnson in his youth. He was always a great educator and supporter of the blues, and passed on his passion to his daughter, Carroline Shines. Carroline grew up in this rich musical environment with her father as her mentor. She dedicated her early years to raising her own family and singing in the church and local bands while putting her own career on the back burner. In 2004 Carroline began working with the Alabama Blues Project after-school program, teaching young singers and helping to educate the next generation about the blues. Those who have long been aware of Carroline’s extraordinary talent are so excited that she is launching her performing career.
Big Joe Shelton
Big Joe Shelton was born in the Black Prairie region of northeast Mississippi. As a child growing up in a small Mississippi town he was exposed to African-American culture, which still strongly reflected that of the early part of the twentieth century. He attended tent minstrel shows, bar-b-que picnics and heard street musicians performing authentic traditional blues. As a young man, he was fortunate in befriending Big Joe Williams and this association greatly influenced his musical sensibilities. As a child Shelton sang in church and grammar school choirs. In his teens he began playing the harmonica and guitar. Songwriting soon followed, and he found he had a wealth of experiences from which to draw. In the mid seventies, he moved to Chicago and experienced the urban blues scene first hand. From Maxwell Street to the south side, he sopped up the blues gravy served by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and many others. He is a member of the Mississippi Arts Commission “Artist Roster” and “Folk Arts / Folk Life Directory” and was honored by being included on the “Columbus / Catfish Alley” Mississippi Blues Trail Marker. Big Joe has performed at numerous festivals and clubs throughout the southeastern United States including: King Biscuit Blues Festival, Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival, Freedom Creek Blues Festival and the Beal Street Mess Around. He has also toured England, France, Belgium, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. He has played with blues legends Big Joe Williams, Furry Lewis, Son Thomas, Junior Kimbrough, Fenton Robinson, Living Blues 2003 “Artist Of The Year” Willie King, BMA Award nominees Blind Mississippi Morris, R. L. Burnside and Johnny Rawls as well as Daniel “Slick” Ballinger, the 2007 BMA” Best New Artist” honoree. Among his many contributions toward the perpetuation of the blues is his involvement with the Jazz Foundation of America and the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Societies' “blues in the school” educational programs.
Dr. G.B. Burt was born in Birmingham, Ala. on January 30, 1937. During WWII, his family moved to the west coast where his father went to work in the shipyards. In 1947, his family moved back to Alabama and then on to Florida often migrating to wherever his dad could find work. He comes from a musical family. His mother played the piano and sang gospel music. His father and two uncles, Arthur and Herbert Burt, were all blues guitarists. G.B. took up the guitar and started playing the blues when he was in his teens and has kept it up ever since. When he was 14, he began to box. In 1954, he fought in the Golden Gloves tournament, and later he trained with Alvin Blues Lewis who went on to fight Muhammad Ali. When he was 30, he married and settled down and found work with Ford Motors in Michigan. After nearly 10 years he went out on his own, bought a wrecker truck and became an independent mechanic, a job he continues to this day.
SILVIA'S GOT THE BLUES! Staff Story; Photo & Assistance by Jerome Adams
The ABP is very thankful that blues scholar Silvia Serrotti, from the University of Sienna in Italy, has chosen to do her doctorate research on Alabama blues. Blues in our state has been overlooked, and as yet, no one has written a book documenting Alabama blues! We hope that Serrotti's work will result in the first one!
As part of her doctoral research, Serrotti has been spending the last three months of this year conducting extensive interviews and shooting performances of Alabama blues musicians in order to document their lives, stories and music. As a visual anthropologist, she is shooting and recording these interviews that will become part of a final film and written piece for her PhD dissertation.
Serrotti's first field trip to the United States was in 2005 while researching her Masters’ degree subject of blues women. After spending time at the Lomax collection at New York City’s Hunter College, she traveled extensively in the South attending blues performances and conducting interviews. While at the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas, she met guitar player/singer and ABP founding director, Debbie Bond, who was performing with the late, great Willie King. The ABP had declared 2005 the year of Alabama Blues Women, and Serrotti accepted an invitation to travel with and observe the Liberators and the ABP as they presented performances, educational programs, and events. Soon Willie King and the ABP became a focal point of her Masters’ degree research.
Through this contact with the ABP, Serrotti realized that Alabama blues is strikingly overlooked by scholars and decided that Alabama blues would be the chosen topic of her PhD research. In 2008-9, she was again in the states to acquire field data for her doctorate, primarily traveling the Alabama countryside shooting more interviews and performances documenting the lives of Alabama blues men and women.
Despite our limited resources, the ABP has been working on blues preservation in our state for many years and has created a budding Alabama blues archive. We are so pleased that Serrotti has promised that eventually this data will be donated and become part of a permanent collection. As part of her research project, Serrotti also worked closely with Debbie Bond to further organize and expand the ABP database and archive, and at last count there are close to 400 entries. The goal is that the database will eventually contain photographs, video, historical and biographical information, and sound samples for each entry, and will also be made available online. This database and archive are an integral part of the ABP's dream of an Alabama-themed Living Blues Museum.
ALABAMA BLUES MAN Story by Cara Lynn Smith
Radio station owner and blues musician C.W. Jones became known as "Ace Jones" in the 1950s while playing a house party in Dayton, Alabama. His blues band had everyone at the party jumping and the house rocking to "Boogie Chillin" until the floor fell in - and he played on! Since that night, he was known as "Ace Jones the House Rocker."
Ace was the son of sharecroppers and grew up one of 13 kids in a two bedroom house with a kitchen, an outhouse and an outdoor well of water. His father and brother played guitar, and he wanted to do it, too. Since the family didn't have the money to buy a guitar for him, 11-year-old Ace brought home an apple crate from school one day. His father split it up, fit it together, and slapped some strings on it. Ace couldn't be stopped. He made so much noise, he'd be run out of the house.
Ace quit school when he was 15 and milked cows on a farm for work. When the boss's son showed off a guitar he didn't know how to play, Ace made an offer. His boss took $3 out of his pay each week over five weeks, and Ace had his first real instrument. He was able to develop his skills more. Two of his biggest inspirations were Little Son Jackson and Jimmy Reed. Eventually, Ace earned enough money for a small amplifier and a microphone, and he added a harmonica player and spoons beater to form a small band.
In 1950s Alabama, Ace played the blues at four different kinds of house parties. For young blacks, he said he didn't make too much money. Older blacks charged 30 to 55 cents cover charge to pay the band's fees. White college students paid $25-$35 per night. Older whites would pay $25 a night but would also pass a hat around for tips. Ace reminisces about one night when his band made $400 dollars - doing limbo with a pogo stick, the party-goers would drop money in the hat each time they went under. He also earned a solo $100 tip in his shirt pocket once from a woman who wanted him to play "Your Cheating Heart" by Hank Williams.
"In the 50s, all everybody listened to around here was the blues. If you played anything else, you shouldn't be there," recalls Ace. "That's what it was all about. The blues. That's what I grew up on, and I love it, and I always will. To my dying day, I'll still be playing the blues."
After playing the blues and working odd jobs around rural Alabama, Ace followed in the footsteps of many southern blues musicians and made the migration up north. In 1966, he moved to Detroit at the suggestion of a cousin who played bass guitar. He played with different bands before saving up money working at Chrysler and buying all the equipment needed for his own band to play. Two of his frequent band mates were young boys ages 12 and 13 – his most reliable musicians – who would come in and out of the clubs by the back door with Ace. As an added bonus to his career in the Motor City, he recorded two 45s.
Unfortunately, bad luck came to Ace in Detroit. He had opened a clothing store that was robbed, so then he was ready to come back home to Alabama. His wife wouldn’t leave the north, so Ace left her all his property and belongings (which sadly included all of his copies of the 45s he recorded) minus a few dollars in his pocket, and headed back down south.
"Detroit was a good place for me. I loved it, but it got to a point where the city just didn’t agree with me. I got tired of sirens, gangs and crime. They took my business away from me, and that was it,” says Ace. “I never was a city man.”
The young men he played with in Detroit made a few trips to Alabama to play, but gigs didn’t pan out. Ace was starting all over again. He took a second wife and adopted her two children. Later, the couple added two more kids to the family. This marriage didn’t work out either. Ace was divorced and starting over again. For four months, he slept in his sister’s trailer with a kerosene heater and no lights. Ace says God answered his prayers when he landed 10 acres of land that had $5000 worth of cedar on it for just $5000. His family land was adjacent, and when it was split up, he had four more acres.
“I’m not lucky, it’s a blessing. I live a life to be blessed with,” explains Ace. “Money is not to be hovered over. If I see something I want, money goes – like this radio station.”
He spends his time at his radio station, WJWC, which covers a 12-mile radius, playing a few gigs here and there, and working as a deejay for private parties. Ace hasn’t lost his style.
“I do a good show, because I’ll play just as hard for one person as I do for 1000 out there. When I play the blues, I feel the blues. I play it, and I love it.”
ALABAMA BLUES WOMAN Story by Rachel Edwards
From across the room you can hear the strum of a guitar accompanied by a voice that derives from a rich history of blues men and women. Shar-Baby truly captures the essence of the Blues through unique melodic chords and a deep alto voice. Like many blues musicians before her, Shar-Baby‘s road to the blues was a long one that started with her first exposure to music: Gospel.
Shar-Baby was born January 18, 1952, in South Bend, Indiana. She was taken by music at a young age, recalling the sounds of her father’s Jubilee style gospel group from her crib. She was influenced by many different genres of music such as Motown and Rock-A-Billy. Shar-Baby began playing guitar at 11 years old, and she and her sister started a band named the Braylock Sisters. At the age of 16, Shar-Baby was in a group called the Soul Sensations, playing R&B from artists like Al Green and Aretha Franklin.
Shar-Baby was introduced to the Blues much later in life and actually began playing the style in 2004. That year, she auditioned for Willie King and the Freedom Creek Festival. Shar-Baby says that when Willie heard her audition, he said that the gig was hers. She shared a strong friendship with Willie, and often she felt as if they had known each other for years. She moved to Alabama in 2007. She became a regular featured performer all the Freedom Creek showcases of Alabama Blues Women.
Since Shar-Baby has begun her Blues career, she has successfully recorded three CDs: My Life, Just Jukin’ and The Blues is Here To Stay. She is currently working on her fourth CD Rockin’ the Blues, which will be composed of songs from one of her previous CDs backed by a different band. Shar-Baby will be playing in the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival in Eutaw, Ala. on August 22nd. Shar-Baby has also made a name for herself outside of the US. She will be taking tours in December in Bristol, England and in 2010 she will take a tour in Malaga, Spain. Don't miss Shar-Baby at the upcoming blues women showcase at the ABP Evening of Art and Blues - Friday September 25, 2009!
The Alabama Blues Project is very grateful of the work our student
interns and volunteers do to assist with day-to-day operations.
The following are reports from two of our current interns.
I was lucky enough to work for the ABP during their 2008 summer camp as a dance instructor. I loved it so much that I immediately accepted an internship that fall. The life of an ABP intern is interesting because you never know what you might be called on to do. I have done everything from writing newsletter stories and press releases to organizing and filing to working the entrance table at our amazing blues camps. It has been a great opportunity to utilize the diverse skills I have gained over the years.
I am very excited because I have recently been given the opportunity (read: begged for the opportunity) to teach a blues history course at blues camp. I am looking forward to using the training I have gained while completing a Master’s level certification in education and teaching as part of the Blount Undergraduate Initiative both at the University of Alabama. I really hope that I can help make blues history come alive for the students and give them new ways to enjoy the study of history.
In conclusion, I feel very fortunate to be able to add Intern at the Alabama Blues Project to my resume, because I have been given so many new sets of skills and experiences that will serve me in the future. Before I leave (if they can get rid of me), my last project is to find a way to combine my passion for Irish dance and the Blues. I am not sure how that will look on my resume, but it will be a challenge I will wholeheartedly undertake.
I’ve been involved with the Alabama Blues Project for five years. I started as a vocal student of Caroline Shines in the Advanced Band. There was absolutely no way for me to tell when I was 15 that the ABP would have intertwined with my life as much as it has. Now that I’m 20 and an aspiring blues singer, it makes perfectly good sense. It would be an understatement if I said that the Alabama Blues Project wasn’t the highlight of my week back then, and now that I actually get to work behind the scenes for the ABP, it’s the highlight of my day.
My favorite aspect about working for the Alabama Blues Project is the variety of things I’m able to do. One day it may be working with 50 kids, and another day it may be assembling office furniture. I am getting to learn about the business of blues music - for example I am getting a taste of what it means to manage and book a band! I am also learning about arts education and how I might use my performing skills to teach others about our important blues heritage. Nothing about working for the ABP ever gets redundant. I love my co-workers. We always get along and help one another, and I’m really blessed to be apart of an organization that practices what it preaches.
During the camps, I now teach our up-and-coming Blues starlets their lyrics and songs. It’s absolutely fascinating to see them blossom and develop into their more outgoing and open selves, and I know what they’re going through because I was once in their shoes. So now, if they ever wonder what their lives are going to be like when they reach 20, hopefully I can say full of the blues like mine.
Your donations help us to give financial assistance to these student interns. Please take a minute to donate $10 online now by clicking here, or mail a donation to the Alabama Blues Project at 712 25th Avenue, Northport, AL 35476.
Cara Smith's daughter (left)
Cassidy pitches in to help
ABP subcontractor Frank
Adams - who she calls
"the nice man" - get some
filing cabinet shelves put
together. Cassidy has said,
"When I grow up, I want to
work at the Alabama Blues
Project." If you are concerned
about child labor laws, don't
worry. Cassidy is compensated
with lots of hugs and cookies!
“I have never been more impressed by a group focused on
youth than I have been with the Alabama Blues Project.
Your child is welcomed with open arms from day one,
and each practice thereafter; he is immersed in all aspects of
I only wish that I had known about the group sooner!”
– Carrie, mother of Darrell (age 10) and Hayden (age 8)
“Playing in a group is fun, and we all pour
our hearts into the music.” – Elizabeth (age 11)
“I personally thank you for allowing my child to attend Blues
Camp. You all teach the children such valuable lessons for life.
As a single mom, it helps to have positive reinforcement.
Like the old proverb states: It takes a village to raise a child.
Thanks a bunch!” – Jackie, mother of Jayla (age 9)
“I have learned to love everyone.” – Kaylynn (age 10)
“He has been very happy to be a part of the
experience. He likes the people, music,
the many friends he has made while in Blues Camp.
He has a greater appreciation for a variety of music –
blues, classical, pop and gospel. He has greater discipline
in his studies at school, appreciates the need to be on
time and has a stronger desire to do his best at all times.”
– Booker, grandfather of Brandon (age 10)
“I have learned that a good attitude affects everyone, you
have to have eye contact, and you have to give respect to get
This is the best camp ever!” – Brittany (age 10)
“He wishes it lasted longer!”
– Shawnta, mother of Keondice (age 12)
“My daughter drew a heart on her harmonica case to
remind herself that you have to open your heart when
you play the harmonica. She is blossoming in large
part to the loving atmosphere and sound guidance she
receives at Blues Camp” – Laura, mother of Shira (age 14)
“Getting to play at the Bama Theatre is an
chance to express yourself.” – Karia (age 10)
“Due to this program, my child’s confidence
to a new level.” – Evelyn, mother of Toni (age 10)
“He has learned to take risks in uncomfortable situations
as well as the always good life skills stressed each week.
I don’t believe your children can ever have too many good
role models in their life. Peer pressure is so hard and it begins
so early, and I am very thankful my son is learning about life
music from great teachers.” – Gail, mother of Jonathan (age 15)
“My favorite part of Blues Camp is everything.
I’m having a lot of fun!” – Durrell (age 15)
“It has been an experience that she would never
– discovering that she could sing. She has learned that if
you work and want to do something
I am proud
of the Blues Camp because it has given her a lot of
confidence in herself.”
– Mary, mother of Dajah (age 11)
“My sons have learned how to be comfortable in front of
people even when you’re not great (yet). It has been so good
in helping them broaden their appreciation of different
people and music. I love that every kid who comes leaves
feeling great and that the instructors (and everyone who works
with the group)
seems to have a real heart for these guys. Thanks!”
– Perri, mother of Peter (age 15) and Thomas (age 10)
“I would like to encourage other people to play the blues.”
– Laney (age 13)
“He struggles very much with social skills due to autism, and
it is a blessing that the workers have the understanding and
patience necessary to deal with his challenging behaviors.
He is such a bright and gifted young boy, and experiences
such as Blues Camp have such positive reinforcements for
his strengths as well as helping to modify his weaknesses.”
– Gail, mother of Joshua (age 9)
“Blues Camp is a wonderfully diverse musical experience.
Grace is learning a lot about people, character and the culture
of Blues music. It’s a positive, nurturing learning environment.
I would highly recommend the opportunity to others.”
– Vertis, mother of Grace (age 8)
“I love art and music, so if you like art and music,
the Summertime and After-School Blues Camps.” – Sara (age 9)
“I have been singing since I was four years old, and Blues Camp is
the best camp I have ever been to in my life!” – Cheyna (age 9)
“My favorite part of Blues Camp is playing the instrument that
I love (drums) and making new friends. I have learned a lot
being nice to other people.” – Evan (age 9)
“When I grow up I want to be on American Idol.” – Tamia (age 8)
“One of Tuscaloosa’s jewels!”
– Andy, father of Peter (age 15) and Thomas (age 10)
Do you surf the net? Do you use Facebook?
Do you shop online? You can help the ABP!
QUICK & EASY First of all, the quickest and easiest way to help the ABP is by clicking here and donating $10 right now. It will take less than five minutes and is the price of a night out at the movies. I encourage everyone reading this newletter to take a little of your time to do this and pass along the link to your friends. This quick and easy donation to the ABP could raise matching funds required for our 2009-10 Blues Camp grants within a week. How incredible would that be? You can even do it as many times as you like!
SEARCH & SHOP Yahoo has teamed up with GoodSearch.com to donate a penny to your cause every time you search the web. This is totally free as the money comes from advertisers. Whenever you do an online search (and don't we all?), use GoodSearch.com, designate us as your non-profit of choice, and raise funds for the Alabama Blues Project! You can even put a search bar on your browser for convenience, and make it your homepage. To give you a sense of how the money can add up, the ASPCA has already earned more than $23,000! There are approximately 6,000 people on the ABP email list. If everyone did two searches a day, that would generate $3600 for the Alabama Blues Project in just one month!
Also, more than 900 of the top Internet retail and travel sites including Amazon, eBay, Target, Apple, Expedia and more have joined forces with GoodShop.com to donate part of every purchase to your favorite charity or school at no additional cost to you (more than 72,000 nonprofits are now on-board - including the Alabama Blues Project)! Anytime you go to shop online, go through GoodShop, enter the Alabama Blues Project as your non-profit of choice, and a donation will be made to us. If you're going to buy online anyway, why not help the ABP while you do it?
The Internet continues to grow, and more and more online organizations are helping non-profits raise funds. The Alabama Blues Project has joined Firstgiving and GuideStar as well as started a Facebook page and a "Support the Alabama Blues Project" Facebook cause (powered by Firstgiving). This is new for the ABP, and in just a couple of months we have raised over $700 - but the sky is the limit! By joining up with us and spreading the word over the Internet to all of your friends, you can help the Alabama Blues Project tremendously! Donations are tax-deductible!
RECYCLE YOUR PRINTER CARTRIDGES How many of you throw away your ink cartridges because you don't know where to recycle them? The Alabama Blues Project has a way to save the environment and save money on our operating costs. Simply place your empty inkjet and deskjet cartridges in an envelope and send it to our office at 712 25th Avenue, Northport, AL 35476. We will take care of recycling it and earn $3 per cartridge toward our office supply expenses. The ABP and Mother Earth thanks you!
BUY ALABAMA BLUES GOODIES We have some wonderful Alabama Blues merchandise at our Online Store! The classic black Tee has always been in demand, and now we have a new Navy design! Also, get your musical fix with our Blues from the Heart of Dixie compilation CD and download an MP3 of Debbie Bond & The Creme Brulees hit "Mary's Cakes." The newest item is our tasty Alabama Blues Blend coffee! A product of Higher Ground, this delicious treat is 100% organic and Fair Trade. In addition to ABP goods, you can buy and sell EBay items and donate to the Alabama Blues Project through Mission Fish. Don't forget the ABP for gift-giving!
PUT ON A CASUAL FRIDAY AT YOUR WORKPLACE Want a fun and easy way for your workplace to support the Alabama Blues Project? That $5 you found in your pocket can buy you the chance to shed your business suit and wear blues jeans to the office while supporting a great cause! How does it work? Be a coordinator at your office and collect $5 from each participating employee in exchange for the opportunity to wear blues jeans to work on a specified day. This is a fashion statement with a cause! Inviting staff to wear their favorite pair of blue jeans to work for a "casual Friday" is a fun and comfortable way to generate good feelings for both staff and customers. We can provide promotional flyers to you that will provide customers information regarding your company’s generosity and commitment to the Alabama Blues Project. Please contact Cara Smith at (205) 752-6263 or email@example.com if you would like to host a "Blue Jeans for the Blues!"