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The Alabama
Blues Project
is a proud
member of

Alabama Blues Project
712 25th Avenue
Northport, AL 35476
Phone (205) 752-6263
Fax (205) 752-6663
info@alabamablues.org

INTERNSHIPS | HISTORIC MARKERS | BLUES WOMEN EXHIBITION

The Alabama Blues Project is an award winning non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation of the blues as a traditional and a contemporary American art form. Since our inception, the ABP has realized the urgent need for research and documentation of Alabama blues history and culture and the crucial importance of preservation work.

Since at least the beginning of the twentieth century, there is considerable evidence of a rich and thriving blues culture throughout the Southeast - from Texas, through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, Kansas and more. States like Mississippi and cities like Memphis have centers of study, museums and a prolific number of books dedicated to their rich blues history. However, the study of Southern blues in many of these regions through recorded material and oral histories has been strikingly lacking. This piecemeal regional approach to blues music research has resulted in a very incomplete history of the blues.

We are very concerned that the story of Alabama blues has not been told and there is not yet a book dedicated to this important subject. With every day that passes, more of our important oral history sources are passing away and valuable information is being lost forever.

As a contribution to Alabama blues research, we are very proud of a developing intern partnership with the University of Alabama. We are providing a list of research projects for an increasing number of students from the American Studies, History Department and New College. In 2006, the University of Siena in Italy sent an anthropology student who spent a month with the ABP as part of her dissertation research on blues women.

Along with academic research, the ABP has compiled a small but growing archive which we hope, with the help of interns, will become a significant historical record of all things Alabama blues.

 

HISTORIC MARKERS | BLUES WOMEN EXHIBITION


We are very proud of our developing intern program in partnership with Alabama University. There are so many project the ABP would like to see being pursued, and we are always looking for interns who might be interested in working in the following areas:

 

Conducting library research on Alabama blues culture
Assistant curator work with existing archival materials at the ABP office, such as helping with filing and organizing archival materials
Writing short, one-page biographical summaries of Alabama blues artists based on our existing research
Conducting oral histories with living blues artists
Assisting in the plans for a cultural center/museum for the Alabama Blues Project archive
Assisting in our award winning and innovative arts and education, after-school blues programs
Creating a short promotional DVD on the Alabama Blues Project
Nonprofit administration and event coordinating
Researching local, state and national education standards for our educational blues curriculum
Assisting with the creation of promotional materials
Assisting with the Alabama Blues Project Website
For more information, please contact Debbie Bond or Cara Smith at 205-752-6263 or email info@alabamablues.org.











 

 

 

 

BLUES ARCHIVE | BLUES WOMEN EXHIBITION


Vera Hall Historic Marker, 2007

The Alabama Blues Project, along with the Livingston Historical Commission, was very proud to announce the 2007 unveiling of a historic marker to celebrate the musical legacy of Alabama singer Vera Hall in Livingston. This historic marker was made possible through generous donations from Moby, the Sikes Family, Anna Lomax, and many other thoughtful individuals.

The unveiling took place in Livingston at the Sucarnochee Folklife Festival in April, a celebration happily timed to coincide with the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel's declaration of 2007 as “The Year of Alabama Arts.” The annual Sucarnochee Festival celebrates the culture of Alabama’s Black Belt and is organized by the University of West Alabama and the City of Livingston. Alabama blues musicians Willie King, Caroline Shines and Debbie Bond performed at the event, which included a diverse musical line-up, storytelling, and some of Alabama’s best visual artists.

Though Vera Hall was largely unrecognized in her lifetime, her talent and artistry continue to touch and speak to millions of people around the world. Hall was born in rural Sumter County, near the town of Livingston, Alabama, around 1902. Immersed in the rich musical culture of West Alabama, she began singing gospel songs she learned from her mother and at her local Baptist church. Rich Amerson, a family friend, harmonica player and singer, taught Vera to sing the blues.

Vera was first recorded in 1937 by John and Ruby Lomax, who were then working with Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration recording American folk music at its source. The resulting recordings included Vera’s versions, steeped in the black folk traditions of West Alabama, of spirituals, children’s songs, and blues songs. These recordings are now part of a national collection stored at the Library of Congress and are prized by folklorists throughout the world.

Vera Hall died January 29, 1964, at Tuscaloosa’s Druid City Hospital and is buried in an unmarked grave at the Morning Star cemetery in Livingston, Alabama. Unfortunately, as was the case with many African Americans in this region, Vera Hall died in poverty, her grave was never marked and the position of her burial site was not recorded.

Although Hall died in 1964, her work still garners attention. Indeed, in 1999, techno-artist Moby featured her voice singing “Trouble So Hard” in his multi- platinum album Play, thus introducing Hall’s voice to a whole new generation of listeners around the world.

Her masterful renditions of blues and other traditional songs are a defining feature of the rich black culture that came out of the Alabama Black Belt region. We hope that through the ABP’s efforts to create this historical marker we will help to spotlight her life and legacy as part of the great African American contribution to American culture.

 

AFTER OUR SUCCESS WITH THE VERA HALL HISTORICAL MARKER IN
LIVINGSTON, THE ALABAMA BLUES PROJECT PROUDLY ANNOUNCES OUR
NEW CAMPAIGN TO HONOR DINAH WASHINGTON!

Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in 1924 in Tuscaloosa , Alabama . Moving with her family at a young age to Chicago , she went on to become one of the most distinctive singers of her time. With strong gospel roots, influenced by Bessie Smith and Billy Holiday, her music covered a wide range of musical styles from blues, R & B, blues, jazz and even pop ballads.

By 1947 Dinah had hits with “Postman Blues,” “Blow Top Blues” and “Evil Gal Blues.” However, her biggest professional triumph came later with blues tinged renditions of pop tunes like the 1959 Grammy-winning “What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" and she topped the charts again with “Baby, You’ve Got What it Takes” a sizzling duet with Brook Benton.

Heavily influenced by the musical talent of her mother, a gospel singer, she became a gospel star at the age of fifteen. She was discovered by the legendary Lionel Hampton at eighteen and performed with him from 1943-1946, before striking out on her own. The rest of her short life was spent largely on tour in clubs and theaters and in the studio --- making the music she loved.

Dinah had a silken soprano and heartfelt voice that was confident, intimate and conversational. She was a distinctive song stylist, crossing over from the "race" music category to the pop and jazz charts. Known in her day as Queen of the Blues and Queen of the Juke Boxes, Dinah was regarded as that rare "first take" artist, her studio recordings reflecting the same passion and energy she brought to every live performance. She was one of the few women of the period to run her own booking agency, Queen Productions.

She was known to make every song her own, having once said, “George Gershwin wouldn't know his own song when I'm through with it. I can't stay hidebound to any melody.”

Ms. Washington died in 1963 at the very young age of thirty-nine. She was in peak musical form at the time of her death, and one can only imagine what magic she would have recorded had she lived longer. Her legend continues through song and through her influence on other singers. She continues to be a huge influence on R & B, soul and blues singers who have come to prominence since the mid-1950s, including Ruth Brown, Etta James, Esther Phillips, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Nancy Wilson. Her voice, charm, humor and charisma remain as distinct today as when she recorded the songs that made her the Queen of the Blues.

The traditions of jazz have always been inextricably tied in with great exponents of the blues. Dinah was the “reigning Queen of the Blues, the Bessie Smith and the Ma Rainey of her time.” 0ct 5, 1952, San Francisco Chronicle, music critic Ralph Gleason.

Click Here to Donate to the Dinah Washington Historical Marker Fund!

 

 

BLUES ARCHIVE | INTERNSHIPS


The Alabama Blues Project declared 2005 "The Year Of Alabama Blues Women" and created its first traveling exhibition, Red Hot and Blue: A Spotlight on Alabama Blues Women. This is the first of many planned exhibition projects which we hope will culminate in the opening of our own permanent exhibition space celebrating the many Alabama blues musicians and contributors from our state.

The exhibition centers on a number of text and graphic panels which outline the biography of some of Alabama's greatest women blues artists. It has been presented all over Alabama, often augmented by a fascinating collection of period artifacts. At several venues, the opening of the exhibition was celebrated with a live blues show featuring a showcase of Alabama Blues Women.

 

Number of Works:
- Seven 22”x 38”panels (samples above)
- Four additional black and white photographs from the Library of Congress WPA and FSA collections
- 78 and 33 rpm recordings
- One listening station with six CDs
- One 1920s victrola
- One 1930s radio
- One 1940s radio/phonograph
- One 1960s radio
- Period clothing, jewelry and other artifacts
Support Materials:
- Sample press release
- Sample photographs
- Poster layout
- Postcard layout
- Installation instructions
- Condition report materials

Alabama Blues Women perform at Freedom Creek 2007
Shar-Baby, Debbie Bond, Carroline Shines, Sweet Claudette
Photo by David Hurt

Sweet Claudette, Debbie Bond and Carroline Shines
perform at a Magic City Blues Society Festival in downtown Birmingham

BLUES ARCHIVE | INTERNSHIPS | HISTORIC MARKERS

 

Our programs are made possible by the generous support of our sponsors, including Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama, the National Endowment for the Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alabama Credit Union, Alligator Records, Bonnie Raitt, Capstone Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, db Tech, Guitar Center Music Foundation, Harrison Galleries LLC, Little Willie’s Jazz & Blues Club, Mercedes Benz, Pollack Foundation, Nick's Kids Fund, Manna Grocery, Tuscaloosa Consortium for Higher Education, United Way of West Alabama, Zildjian, and many other kind organizations and individuals.