my weblog - [JP]

Corey Harris: Journeys now on DVD






From childhood in Colorado to college in Maine and a year abroad in Cameroon, from New Orleans to Mississippi to Mali to Jamaica and beyond, MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris hasn't just studied the music, he has immersed himself in the cultures that created it. 


The AMRF Brings "Corey Harris: Journeys to Public Television




“If you don’t have any idea where your traditions, where your culture, where your popular culture comes from, that’s a problem. That’s what makes people unique, is that knowledge about where they’re coming from.” 
From: “Corey Harris: Journeys”


Those of us dedicated to keeping the Blues alive walk a thin line. On the one hand the blues will never die. As Chuck D said when Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “For those of you out there thinking ‘There goes the musical neighborhood’ let us not forget: We all come from the damn Blues.”

But in the interest of preserving the form which most all American popular music came from, Blues aficionados tend to penalize those who stray too far from it. “That’s not the Blues!” they say, as they mark down points for contestants at Blues competitions. The result too often is the casting of Blues as an ossified genre.

Finally, African Americans tend not to delve too deeply into their musical past. As Corey Harris explains succinctly, “White culture in American…likes to go back, and almost relive the past. Black folk don’t really do that. This guy came up to me one time and said, “I love this country blues so much, don’t you wish you could go back and live in 1930’s Mississippi?” Corey’s answer, as you can imagine, was an emphatic, “HELL no!”

Corey Harris knows where his traditions and culture and music come from, which is why Martin Scorcese chose him to take viewers on a musical journey from Mississippi to West Africa in “Feel Like Going Home,” the first episode of his celebrated PBS series “The Blues” in 2003.  Corey can surely play the Blues too, and there is nothing ossified about his performances. He can also play African music, reggae, soul and jazz, and he uses his mastery of the instruments, the complex cadences and rhythms, and the feelings of the music that evolved in the New World via the African diaspora to create something entirely new. Some call it “Progressive Blues.” Which is why he was chosen as a MacArthur Fellow in 2007.

Join Corey Harris as he performs solo, duets with harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins, harmonies with Detroit Blues Diva Thornetta Davis, and with the Rasta Blues Experience to weave an exquisite tapestry from these diverse musical threads in the AMRF's
Corey Harris: Journeys


AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  Blues  


  • Hello, i am Martha from Indonesia. I am a student of International Relations maj...more
    - [Martha Cahyani]

  read more (1 total)

Corey Harris: Journeys Coming to Public Television


COREY HARRIS forges an adventurous path marked by deliberate eclecticism. With one foot in tradition and the other in contemporary experimentation, he blends musical styles often considered separate and distinct to create something entirely new.
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 2007

COREY HARRIS: JOURNEYS presents the singer, songwriter, and virtuoso guitarist performing solo, duets with harmonica maestro Phil Wiggins, harmonies with special guest Thornetta Davis, and with the Rasta Blues Experience connecting musical dots from Africa to the New World.


Proudly offered by the American Music Research Foundation, producers of the award winning Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival series of programs.

Watch the first 5 minutes from NETA. Watch a 7 minute sampler.

CONTACT: John Penney


AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  Blues  


  discuss this article

Eddie B. Burns, 1928 - 2012


“Eddie B. Burns was born on February 8, 1928 to Albert and Eddie Mae Burns in Belzoni, Mississippi. He was the oldest of ten children. On Thursday, December 12, 2012, at the age of 84, Eddie went home to be with Jesus.

“As a young child, Eddie’s parents were sharecroppers, and he disliked picking cotton. Eddie Mae would tell of how instead of picking cotton Eddie would run through the cotton fields watching the birds flying free and imitating them. He said he wanted to be free like the birds. Seeking freedom and job opportunities, he headed north.”

So begins the obituary for Eddie printed in the program for his home-going celebration at the Lemay Church of Christ on Detroit’s east side on December 20. Eddie had been baptized and joined its congregation in 1996, and unlike many, his eulogy was delivered by a preacher who knew and loved Eddie, his wife Alma, and their family.

Eddie had 15 children with Alma and his first wife, Carmen Laberdie. They and their children and their children’s children filled literally half the church at the home-going. That’s how beloved a man Eddie Burns was. And oh-by-the-way, he was a brilliant musician too.

Eddie arrived in Detroit in 1948. Days he worked in an auto plant, nights he haunted clubs and house parties. In 1949 Eddie was blowing harmonica with guitarist John T. Smith at a house party in Black Bottom when John Lee Hooker heard him through a window. Hooker dropped his plans, entered the house and asked Eddie if he could sit in. Three days later Eddie made his first recording with Hooker, who was already a rising star on the strength of his 1948 recording of “Boogie Chillen’.”

Eddie remained with Hooker for many years, playing harp on recordings, holding down club engagements when Hooker was away promoting his records, and ultimately taking over his regular spot at Detroit’s legendary Harlem Club. He continued to develop his guitar chops, and on Hooker’s seminal “Real Folk Blues” sessions for Chess in 1966, Eddie played guitar throughout.

Eddie was a mainstay in the thriving Detroit blues scene throughout the 60’s. In the 1970’s he toured Europe with his own band several times and in the 1980’s continued to tour the U.S. and record. In 1994 he was honored with a Michigan Heritage Award. The citation asserts, “Eddie is the only pure blues musician to live and perform continuously in Michigan…His maintenance of blues tradition while contributing new compositions and effects on the guitar and harmonica makes Eddie Burns a key bearer of the living blues tradition.”

Aaron “Little Sonny” Willis was one of Eddie’s closest friends and musical associates. In the program for Eddie’s home-going he is included as family. Like Eddie, he fled the south seeking freedom and a job, arriving in Detroit in 1957. Like Eddie, he worked in the auto industry by day and haunted clubs by night. The very first joint he visited was the Plantation Bar on Russell Street, and Eddie was on the bandstand. “He had that place locked down,” said Sonny. “That was his main gig.”

In his eulogy at the home-going, Sonny noted that his very first time on the bandstand was when Eddie let him sit in, and that Eddie’s last time on the bandstand was with Sonny at Detroit’s Music Hall during the 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008. Sonny was in semi-retirement himself at the time, and he agreed to the performance primarily because he was asked to play with and pay tribute to his long-time friend and band mate.

Eddie’s health was already failing and he could no longer play the guitar, but he sang and played harmonica through three songs and received a thunderous ovation as he left to sit in the wings with Alma for the rest of the set. From the stage Sonny said, “There might not have been a Little Sonny if it hadn’t been for the first man you saw walk out here to perform.” He then dedicated Z. Z. Hill’s “I Found Love” to Eddie and Alma.

Sonny spoke often afterwards of how much that appearance meant to Eddie, about how much joy the performance and recognition gave him. We didn’t need Sonny to tell us that at the time because we could see it in the smile on Eddie’s face. But then it was rare to see Eddie without a smile on his face. It was infectious, and Eddie spread warmth in every room he walked in to. He was one of the most gentle, gracious, and generous people we have ever been privileged to know.

A little over a year ago Eddie was admitted to an assisted living facility, but he came home for a last Thanksgiving. The house was packed with family, and Eddie gave as much love as he received. Three weeks later we went to sleep, peacefully and for the last time.

I am not dead. I did not die;
I simply chose to live another life.
I have no pain, so don’t weep
You might disturb my peaceful sleep
My soul is free like a morning breeze,
No cares, No worries, No needs.
Don’t worry about me being alone, I have a new home
I am with Jesus, I can’t be alone, I am happy as can be.
So, don’t stand at my grave and cry
‘Cause I am not there, I did not die.
Eddie B. Burns

AMRF News  Artists  Blues  


  discuss this article

R.I.P. Johnnie Bassett



Johnnie Bassett, 1935 - 2012

A few weeks ago, as we were working to put all the pieces together for both the NETA distributed public televison program and DVD release of "Detroit Blues & Beyond," word filtered down that one of Johnnie Bassett's band mates had taken him directly from a gig to the hospital and that he was in critical care. The outpouing of prayer and support that ensued is a testament to how beloved Johnnie is but was not enough to make a miracle happen. Johnnie Bassett succumbed to liver cancer in hospice at St, John's Hospital in Detroit on Saturday, August 4, 2012. He was 76 years old. 

AMRF Board member and Producer Keith Irtenkauf shared this reminiscence:  

We had the honor and pleasure of working with Detroit’s “Gentleman of the Blues” during our 2006 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival.  Johnnie Bassett was a soft-spoken man who let his unique guitar style and smooth singing voice speak for him.  Watching a performance dozens of times during an edit can get very monotonous, but it was different with Johnnie.  His restrained, but precise attack at the strings and his excellent lyrical timing made his set a pleasure to watch over and over.  There was always something new to see and hear, something pleasant and exciting.  Try to put your finger on his style; a bit like B.B. King, but different, a bit like Elmore James, maybe a little like T-Bone Walker, maybe a little like Jimmy Reed?  Familiar, yet totally unique, that was Johnnie.  Johnnie preferred playing deep-bodied electric guitars in a rarely-used tuning and had a unique tone that was warm and clear.  His voice was smooth and soulful.  Like many blues musicians who came up in the heyday of Detroit’s blues scene, Johnnie wasn’t born in Detroit, but was proud to be a Detroiter.   Johnnie’s just-released CD opens with a tune by the same name “”Proud to Be From Detroit.” 

Listening to Johnnie talk about his own history, you got the sense that he was proud of his musical accomplishments and that fame was not important, it was the music that was important.  Johnnie just wanted his music to make people happy.  His jump style of blues was upbeat and soulful, and his jazz chops added a precision to his guitar playing that was truly unique.

Johnnie was born in 1935 and was the son of a Florida bootlegger.   Johnnie’s family moved to Detroit in 1944 and Johnnie attended Detroit’s Northwestern high school.   It was during his high school years that Johnnie started playing guitar.  He joined the Army in 1958 and was stationed in Seattle, Washington. After 6 years in the Army, Johnnie stayed in Seattle for a while and picked up gigs.  Johnnie tells a great story about a young Jimi Hendrix coming to his Sunday night jam sessions and being amazed by Johnnie’s sound - Johnnie tells this story without a trace of arrogance or immodesty.  Jimi wants to know how Johnnie gets that unique tone and the working man musician Johnnie encourages Hendrix to find his own sound; “You don’t need to sound like me, do your own stuff and get your own sound.” 

Johnnie would return to Detroit in the mid 1960’s and was a solo performer and session musician for Fortune, Chess and Motown Records.  Johnnie played with the likes of Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner.  Later in life, he stayed busy as a local musician gigging with Joe Weaver and Alberta Adams.  He released five CD’s and was nominated 5 times for a W.C. Handy Award (the highest Blues honor).  Johnnie was also a multiple winner of the Detroit Music Awards best blues musician award.

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  Artists  Blues  


  • Thank you for taking the time to post the story about Detroit gem, Johnnie Basse...more
    - [groovedaddy]

  read more (1 total)

Detroit Blues and Beyond: New from NETA at 1500ET on 8/31




Exploring Detroit's Rich Blues Culture

ALBERTA ADAMS is Detroit's undisputed Queen of the blues. She began as a dancer on legendary Hastings Street, recorded for Chess Records, and toured with the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Jordan.

JOHNNIE BASSETT has been nominated for 5 W.C. Handy Awards by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, received several Detroit Music Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society in 1994. 

SIR MACK RICE was knighted by Stax Records in recognition for the success of Wilson Pickett's version of his song, "Mustang Sally." As a successful artist and writer for Stax, Mack commuted regularly from Detroit to Memphis in his Cadillac.

CALVIN COOKE was for three decades the principal steel guitarist for the House of God, Keith Dominion Pentacostal Church. He mentored Robert Randolph and has ben called the B. B. King of the Sacred Steel.

THE HOWLING DIABLOS began as the house band for legendary Detroit blues club Sully's in the 1990s, and today is one of Detroit's most renown bands with a unique, rocking funky blues style. In 2012 alone the Diablos won five Detroit Music Awards.


Contact: John Penney


AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  Blues  


  discuss this article

Detroit Blues & Beyond: The Best of Detroit


"I think that's how most of white America got into the blues; people like the Rolling Stones saying, 'You love us so much, how can you not know about your own American blues artists who influenced us?'"
Tino Gross of the Howling Diablos in

The American Music Research Foundation's 
Detroit Blues & Beyond
Alberta Adams
Johnnie Bassett
Sir Mack Rice
The Calvin Cooke Band
The Howling Diablos

five minute sampler 



AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  Blues  Merchandise  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

Philipe Lejeune at Cliff Bell's Friday April 6th


Philippe Lejeune performed at the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie in 2005, and is featured in our program and DVD, "International Boogie Woogie." He is coming back to the Motor City for a performance at Cliff Bell's on Friday, April 6th, starting at 9:30pm.

Mr. B once told us, "I've always admired guys who, when they sit down at the piano, you don't know exactly what you'll hear. That's what keeps me interested as a listener." Philippe LeJeune is one of those guys. 

Philippe grew up in the south of France studying classical piano. His world changed in 1968 when his mother took him to hear Memphis Slim perform in Reims. "I did not even imagine such music could exist," said Philippe. He threw himself into the blues and boogie woogie, scouring shops for recordings by the masters - Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Cow Cow Davenport, and many more. 

How much did he learn and how well could he play? Memphis Slim had become a Parisian citizen in 1962. He had heard Philippe and in 1980  asked him to record an album of piano duets. Just their four hands on two pianos. Enough said.

Today Philippe is recognized primarily as a jazz pianist, but his repertoire is broad, his approach his own. "For me music has to be different," he told us in 2005. "I like to play jazz standards with a blues feeling, or boogie woogie with jazz chords."

Friday night at Cliff Bell's you can hear for yourself. Don't miss Philippe LeJeune.


AMRF News  Artists  Blues  Boogie Woogie  Jazz  


  discuss this article

Corey Harris


The short version is that the AMRF is presenting Corey Harris & the Rasta Blues Experience with special guests Phil Wiggins and Thornetta Davis at Callahan’s Music Hall on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17th, for two sets beginning at 5:30pm, and will capture both the performance and an interview with Corey on video for posterity and public television.

The long version is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum: How to convince you, without jumping into hyperbolic space, that this is an event you daren’t miss?

On the one hand we could write a few hundreds or thousands of words about Corey’s unparalleled musicianship. About how he has done more to connect the musical and cultural dots between Africa, the Caribbean basin and America than perhaps anyone else on the planet. About how he made those connections, not by proxy, but by literally going there and doing that, from the streets of New Orleans to Cameroon, Mali, Guinea, and on stages around the world.

We could write about how Martin Scorsese chose Corey to narrate and perform in his film, “Feel Like Going Home,” and about how the Macarthur Foundation called Corey out of the blue one day to tell him he was a Genius.

On the other hand we could simply say, “Trust us. You want to be there.” 

Purchase tickets here.  

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  Blues  


  discuss this article

James "Red" Holloway, 1927 - 2012


James “Red” Holloway
May 31, 1927 – February 25, 2012

 Life is after all a terminal disease, and even if we were still teenagers, our mission at the AMRF pretty much guarantees there will be more funerals than weddings. It’s just that some passages are harder to take than others. Red Holloway’s death at the age of 84 on Saturday, February 25th, is one of the hardest.

 Just hearing his name I see his ever-present smile. I hear his laugh, and the way he said, “greazzy,” with more than a couple of z’s. I hear him snoring contentedly in my car as I drove him from rehearsal at the Firefly in Ann Arbor back to his hotel in Farmington. Mostly I hear his tenor saxophone, so sweet and so gritty all at once.

It’s not that I really knew Red; he wouldn’t recognize me on the street, and it’s beyond doubtful he’d even remember my name. He spent but four whirlwind days with us in Detroit during the 8th Annual Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2006. But what I took from him during the few hours in which we were together and he wasn’t snoring was more meaningful than days and weeks I’ve spent with some others.      

The AMRF had decided in January to present a big band boogie-woogie show.  Paul Keller had agreed to serve as Music Director, with his 14-piece PKO providing the foundation. Pianists Mr. B, Bob Seeley, Charles Boles and Axel Zwingenberger were all in the mix, and we were casting about for additional players and vocalists, and also big band boogie woogie charts; Paul has a massive book but there were some holes we were looking to fill, and the more material to choose from the better.

It was sometime in the spring when I walked into AMRF President Ron Harwood’s office and he said that Axel had suggested we consider a guy he had worked with, Red Holloway, who played saxophones, sang, and probably had some charts. Ron asked me what I thought. After peeling myself off the ceiling I told him in language more colorful than can be repeated here that I thought it absolutely brilliant.

Red was 79 years old, a seasoned veteran and product of Chicago’s south side who straddled the worlds of jazz and blues with ease. He had played with everyone from Roosevelt Sykes, Willie Dixon, and B.B. King to Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and Dexter Gordon. He was a member of organist Jack McDuff's famed quartet in the early 60’s, with Joe Dukes on drums and a teenager named George Benson on guitar. He was a favorite sideman for vocalists Etta James, Joe Williams, and Carmen McRae.  He was the perfect choice to round out our ensemble.

I Googled Red and found his website. There was phone number I figured was for his agent. It was Red’s home number and he answered himself, the first of many pleasant surprises from this wonderful man. I explained the project, said that Axel had recommended him, and just like that, he was in. Just like that.

The concert itself was so magical we made two television shows from it. Red’s soul infused the entire evening. He reached deep into the mud for an exquisite duet with Mr. B on “Going Down Slow,” swung mercilessly with Charles Boles on "Rt. 66," and blew the house down while Axel pounded out the boogie woogie. He pulled out a pennywhistle to play an achingly beautiful ballad, and pulled in the audience to clap along and sing with him on “Locksmith Blues.” It made the crew a bit crazy that he was playing through the vocal mic, holding it in the bell of his horn between choruses, but they got over it.

Red’s contributions to the concert were extraordinary, but it’s the interview that really sticks with me. The express purpose of our Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festivals is to bring artists to us so that both their music and stories can be captured on video for posterity. Red’s anecdotes alone were beyond entertaining: Sitting next to Johnny Griffin at fabled DuSable High in Chicago. Being stranded, starving and freezing on tour in North Dakota. Practicing a lick over and over in the closet with a towel jammed in the bell of his horn, so that he wouldn’t be blown off the stage at next week’s jam session in a south side club.

Most compelling is the extent to which his story informs our understanding of what music is, and what it means to be a musician. I hear every nuance of cadence and inflection as he said, “If you cannot play the blues, you cannot play good jazz.” I am still awed by the breezy eloquence of his simple statement, “I liked jazz, but I liked to eat too.” His equally eloquent summation gives voice to a universal truth: “If you’re going to be a real musician, you’re going to play anything that’s going to make you some money, so you can eat regular, and be just like the people who work six or seven days a week.”

We have been privileged at the AMRF to capture the performances and stories of over 50 artists, and we have learned from every one of them. We are particularly proud that one of those artists is Red Holloway. Not only did he provide some of the most compelling footage in our archive, but in the process he touched us all with his wisdom and beautiful soul.  He made us feel, not just good, but greazzy good. RIP

John Penney, AMRF

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  Artists  Blues  History  


  • i had the pleasure of working with red holloway in the 2006 concert and I must s...more
    - [Charles Boles]
  • Thanks for the wonderful article about my Dad! He was truly one of a kind and w...more
    - [Lianne Holloway]

  read more (2 total)

The AMRF Presents Corey Harris and Rasta Blues Experience



The American Music Research Foundation is proud to present MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris and the Rasta Blues Experience with special guests Phil Wiggins and Thornetta Davis at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday March 17th. There will be two sets, start time is 5:30pm. Tickets are available at Callahan's or at 248-858-9508. Both sets will be recorded for broadcast on public television.

Harris was born in Denver and began his career as a street singer in New Orleans. In his 20’s he lived for a year in Cameroon, which had a profound impact on his approach to the blues. A powerful singer and an accomplished guitarist, Harris leads a contemporary revival of country blues with a fresh, modern hand. He performs both traditional country blues and his own compositions, infusing both with Caribbean and African influences, particularly reggae. His musical artistry is complemented by serious explorations of the historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the blues.

Harris has performed and recorded with the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Henry Butler and Ali Farke Toure, and released nine CDs under his own name. In 2003 he was a featured artist and narrator of Martin Scorcese’s film, “Feel Like Going Home,” which traces the early evolution of the blues from West Africa to the southern U. S. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007, receiving what is popularly known as the “genius grant.”

Phil Wiggins is arguably America’s foremost blues harmonica virtuoso. While rooted in the melodic “Tidewater” style of blues native to his home in the Chesapeake Bay region, his playing transcends stylistic boundaries. Thornetta Davis is the Detroit Music Awards' 2011 Outstanding Blues/R&B Vocalist of the Year, on of the city's most revered talents.

Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd. in Auburn Hills, is Southeast Michigan’s premier venue for the blues.




AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  


  discuss this article

Deanna Bogart at Callahan's Friday January 27th



Deanna Bogart is not our BFF at The American Music Research Foundation just because she raised the rafters at our 9th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2007. Nor because she was the Blues Music Awards Horn Instrumentalist of the Year three years running and has received 22 Wammies (Washington Area Music Association Awards) along the way.

It’s not because she’s a pianist who can boogie your woogie ‘till the cows come home, a vocalist who can make your hair stand on end, and a live performer who can singe that hair right off your head and make it grow back in the color of your choice in a single set.

It’s not because she was born in Detroit either, though that helps.  

Deanna Bogart is our BFF because no matter what the room she’s the hippest person in it, whether blowing a horn, tickling keys, singing, or just hanging out.

She’ll be doing all of the above at Callahan’s Music Hall this Friday night January 27th. Trust us when we tell you that, if you go, you’ll have a new BFF too. Doors at 6:30, show at 8:00.

AMRF News  Blues  Events of Interest  


  discuss this article

Allen Toussaint The Soul of New Orleans on DPTV Saturday Jan. 21 9pm


 Join DPTV's Fred Nahhat and the AMRF's John Penney for a special fundraising edition of “Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans” 9:00 - 10:30pm Saturday, January 21, on Detroit Public Television, WTVS Channel 56. 

Watch the first 5 minutes.

The program is the eighth in the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival series produced by the American Music Research Foundation and the first to focus on an individual artist.

Toussaint is one of the most important musical figure to emerge from New Orleans in our time and yet a relative unknown because his accolades have come for work behind the scenes. He was cited as “the chief architect of the New Orleans sound” when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1998. In 2009 he received the Grammy Trustee Award, given to "individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.” This year he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Because Toussaint performed so rarely, no one was quite sure what to expect when he played solo on a Steinway at Detroit’s Music Hall in 2008. But when he opened the show with “Java,” “Certain Girl,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Working in a Coal Mine,” and, “Get Out of My Life Woman,” the gasps from the audience were audible: “He wrote that too?” Toussaint wasn’t sure what to expect from the audience either, and he was obviously delighted by the reception. The result was a relaxed, joyful, and exquisitely intimate performance.

During the on-camera interview earlier that day at Cliff Bell’s Toussaint had been eloquent and expressive about growing up in New Orleans and the city’s musical heritage. The documentary built from this interview and the performance is extraordinary, and we hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

DVDs are available at the AMRF’s online store.

Listen to John Penney's "Jazzfest Detroit" Saturday's 7-9pm on 90.9  WRCJ FM Detroit, a joint service of Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Public Television



  discuss this article

Mike Montgomery


All of us at the AMRF are still reeling after the sudden and unexpected loss of one of our oldest and dearest friends. Mike Montgomery passed in his sleep sometime after midnight last Tuesday, June 22, 2011. He was 77 years young.

Mike was a world renowned authority on ragtime, early blues and jazz, and particular on piano rolls; he discovered a barn full of them as a teenager growing up in Chicago and was immediately smitten. Mike produced some 26 LPs and CDs, wrote liner notes for many more, and contributed hundreds of scholarly lectures and articles. You’d be hard pressed to find a CD or book or anything in any media published in the last 50 years having to do with ragtime that does not acknowledge Mike’s contributions.

To call him a “Scholar” however doesn’t do him justice. Mike was a Sage.  More than just knowledgeable, he was wise and enlightened, and since music was his avocation rather than vocation he led with his head and heart rather than his wallet.  Mike was more interested in sharing than he was with taking credit, content that his extraordinary contributions simply be disseminated whether acknowledged in a “Special Thanks” section or a footnote or not at all. He went out of his way to share his discoveries; a friend in Ann Arbor reminisced about how Mike showed up out of the blue one day bearing an envelope filled with information about the history of the building he lived in, hooting with delight as he revealed its contents.  All of us who knew and worked with Mike have similar stories.

Mike and AMRF Founder and President Ron Harwood were close friends and colleagues for many decades. Mike rarely missed a Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, and his research provides fundamental underpinnings for the book on Sippie Wallace and the Thomas family that Ron is writing with the AMRF’s John Penney. Mike continued to make significant contributions until his tragic death. He was a regular visitor at Ron’s offices, where he was well known and well loved. “Make sure to bring Mike by to say ‘Hi’” was a common request.

At Mike’s Memorial one man tearfully recounted how his father had died when he was a youngster, and how Mike had become, in a very real sense, a father to him.  He went on to say that, after he had given a tearful and mournful eulogy for his father, Mike pulled him aside. “You are speaking in a minor key,” Mike told him. “You need to speak in a major key.” How brilliant, how Mike…

Though for many of us Mike Montgomery’s passing is almost more than we can bear, we can take some solace in the joy and wisdom he shared and that enriched our lives. That we could count him a friend is more than a precious thing, and when we speak of him, and sing of him, it will always be in a major key.

AMRF News  History  Piano Rolls  


  • We called him "The Encyclopedia Montgomrica." This is a terrible loss....more
    - [piano]

  read more (1 total)

Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans


NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD with 30 additional minutes of interview footage and a train-wreck boogie woogie featuring Toussaint with Pinetop Perkins Band, Michael Kaeshammer, David Maxwell, and Bob Seeley.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Songwriters Hall of Fame
Grammy Trustee Award

Performing his songs: Java, Certain Girl, Working in a Coal Mine, Mother-in-Law, Fortune Teller, Get Out of my Life Woman, Southern Nights and more.
Click here
for more information.

 $27.50 includes shipping and handling. Visit our online store or call 866-270-5141.

Click here for public television broadcasts in your area. Updated daily.


AMRF News  Merchandise  


  discuss this article

New from the AMRF: Allen Toussaint the Soul of New Orleans




“Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans” is the eighth in the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival series of public television programs produced by the American Music Research Foundation. Watch the first five minutes here.


Toussaint is one of the most important musical figures to emerge from New Orleans in our time and yet a relative unknown because his accolades have come for work behind the scenes. He was cited as “the chief architect of the New Orleans sound” when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1998. He received the Grammy Trustee award in 2009, given to "individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.”  This year he will be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.


Because Toussaint performs so rarely, no one was quite sure what to expect when he played solo on a Steinway for us at Detroit’s Music Hall in 2008. But when he opened the show with “Java,” “Certain Girl,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Working in a Coal Mine,” and, “Get Out of My Life Woman,” the gasps from the audience were audible. “He wrote that too?”  Toussaint wasn’t sure what to expect from the audience either, and he was obviously delighted by the reception. The result was a relaxed, joyful, and exquisitely intimate performance.


During the on-camera interview earlier that day Toussaint had been wonderfully eloquent and expressive about growing up in New Orleans and the city’s musical heritage. The documentary we have built from this interview and performance is quite extraordinary, and we hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.


If you like what you see in the first five minutes, please share the video with friends, and let your public television station know that you want them to broadcast “Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans.


DVDs are available at our online store or by calling 866-270-5141.




AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  


  discuss this article

New from the AMRF "Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans"


“Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans” is the eighth in the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie series of public television programs produced by the American Music Research Foundation and distributed by NETA (ATNO 00H1, 60min, HD, feed on 4/25 @12noon ET).

 Toussaint is one of the most important musical figures to emerge from New Orleans but still a relative unknown because his accolades have come for work behind the scenes. He was cited as “the chief architect of the New Orleans sound” when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1998. He received the Grammy Trustee award in 2009, given to "individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.”  This year he will be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

 Because Toussaint performs so rarely, no one was quite sure what to expect when he played solo on a Steinway for us at Detroit’s Music Hall in 2008. But as he opened the show with “Java,” “Certain Girl,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Working in a Coal Mine,” and, “Get Out of My Life Woman,” the gasps from the audience were audible. “He wrote that too?”  Toussaint wasn’t sure what to expect from the audience either, and he was obviously delighted by the reception. The result was a relaxed, joyful, and exquisitely intimate performance. The capture was brilliantly orchestrated by award winning Director Mark Haney .

 During the on-camera interview earlier that day Toussaint had been wonderfully eloquent and expressive about growing up in New Orleans and the city’s musical heritage. The documentary we have built from this interview and performance is quite extraordinary, and we are confident that it will resonate with you and your viewers.

Watch the first five minutes of the program here 

If you have any questions or if there is anything we can do for you, please write or call anytime.


John Penney
American Music Research Foundation
30733 West Ten Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48336
(O) 248-478-2525
(C) 248-798-5132



  discuss this article

Requiem for Pinetop



It had always been our dream to have Pinetop Perkins play the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival; he was the last of the great Mississippi bluesmen, and the story of boogie woogie is more than incomplete without his.


Pinetop was born in Belzoni, Mississippi, in 1913. He started in juke joints, spent three years with Sonny Boy Williamson on the original King Biscuit Time radio show in Helena, Arkansas, and then toured extensively with Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker. It was as an afterthought at a session with Hooker at Sun Studios in Memphis that he recorded his remake of Pinetop Smith’s classic “Boogie Woogie” in 1953 and earned his nickname. In 1969 Pinetop took the piano chair from Otis Span in Muddy Waters’ band, and in 1980 when that band broke up he and several other members formed the Legendary Blues Band. Pinetop went solo in the early 90’s and continued to perform through early last year.


Pinetop was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2003, and received a Grammy for Lifetime achievement in 2005. In 2007 "The Last of the Great Delta Bluesmen" was the Grammy's Best Traditional Blues Album of the year. His last recording, “Joined at the Hip” with long-time partner Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, received the same honor in 2010. The Blues Music Awards (formerly the W.C. Handy awards) are the blues equivalent of the Grammy’s, and Pinetop won the best pianist award so many times (11 years in a row) that he was finally retired from competition and the award renamed for him.


Our dream came true at the 10th annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008. It was bittersweet. Pinetop was 95 years old and physically frail, arriving at Cliff Bell’s for his interview in a wheelchair. He had lost most of the hearing in one ear decades before when Earl Hooker’s guitar amp pretty much blew up in his face at a gig on Chicago’s south side, and it had deteriorated further to the extent that our questions had to be relayed directly into his good ear by long-time friend and band mate Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He had great difficulty answering any but directed questions, and his attention quickly waned.


But his spirit was indomitable, his smile lit up the room, and when we got him seated at the piano for the interview he simply began to play. There was power in his hands, and the music in his soul took a sledgehammer to the physical constraints the years had imposed on his body.


The afternoon also yielded one of our most cherished moments at the AMRF. Allen Toussaint was on the bill with Pinetop, and the tight production schedule allocated 90 minutes for his interview at Cliff Bell’s, after which he was to be hustled back to Music Hall for sound check while Pinetop was brought in for his interview. Toussaint cites Pinetop as a major influence on his music but had never met him, and when he discovered that Pinetop was coming he declined to leave until he had a chance to do so. It wreaked havoc on the schedule, but for those who witnessed the historic meeting of these two musical giants, and watched as they played four handed piano, it was not only magical but an overwhelming affirmation of the AMRF’s work that none of us will ever forget.


Pinetop’s band played a stellar set that evening, and Toussaint’s performance on solo piano was beyond astonishing (watch for “Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans” on public television this summer). At the end of the night all the players gathered on stage for the traditional “train wreck” finale, and during the bows Toussaint singled out Pinetop.


It was bittersweet, but at the end of the 10th annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, Pinetop Perkins had not only touched our piano; he had touched our hearts.


Pinetop Perkins died peacefully at his home in Austin, Texas, on March 21, 2011.






AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  Artists  Blues  Boogie Woogie  


  discuss this article

A New Look for the AMRF Website


'"The folks at the AMRF obviously care passionately about both the music and the musicians, and their work combines technical excellence on all levels with a huge measure of heart and soul…As a working musician, I can think of few efforts more worthy of financial support in the service of presenting and documenting our musical and cultural heritage." Paul Keller, 2006


Imagery is central to our work at the AMRF; listening to music with eyes closed can be a transcendent experience, but watching musicians create it – Axel Zwingenberger’s hands bouncing effortlessly across the keys so fast that all that the camera captures is a blur, or Koko Taylor prancing and growling through Wang Dang Doodle – takes music appreciation to an entirely different level. You can watch sampler's from all of our award winning television programs and DVD's on our redesigned website,


Even still images can illustrate the rhythm, harmony, camaraderie and joy artists share when making music, particularly when framed by a master like our friend and colleague John Collier. In this one, Michael Kaeshammer enjoys a patented Bob Seeley bear-hug. John's photographs are featured prominently on our new home page. Please drop by, and let us know what you think at


American Music Research Foundation

30733 West Ten Mile Road

Farmington Hills, MI 48336-2605






About the American Music Research Foundation  AMRF News  


  discuss this article

We Need Your Help


Over 10 years the AMRF captured the music and stories of 59 artists on state-of-the-art audio and video at our Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival. Last year we decided to breathe, and threw an intimate party with old friends at Callahan’s Music Hall. Sadly, there will be no 12th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Festival.


The primary reason is money. We set ticket prices as low as possible and occasionally cover artist costs, but covering the astronomical costs of recording the shows depends on grants and the generosity of sponsors, members and friends. In this challenging economic environment we simply could not afford to produce the fest without cutting corners, and we decided that if we couldn’t do it right we wouldn’t do it at all.


We have plenty of work to do however, and plenty of costs to cover. Over the past five years we have used the footage in our archive to produce seven nationally distributed programs for public television. We provide them to stations for free in pursuit of our mission to keep the music alive. To date they have aired over 1,500 times and been available to over 200 million viewers across the country.


We are in the process of editing three new programs, and there are still dozens of artists in our archive whose music and stories have yet to be shared. The archive itself is aging and requires attention; the oldest tapes, which contain performances and interviews with such seminal artists as Jay McShann and Johnnie Johnson, are both analog and fragile. Digitizing them for the sake of preservation and sharing them with television audiences are high on our priority list.


The AMRF is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and we need your financial support to continue our important work. When you pay taxes you have little control over how your money is spent. When you make a tax-deductible contribution to the AMRF as allowed by law, you know that your money will be used wisely and frugally to enrich life by documenting, preserving, and sharing slices of our country’s cultural and musical heritage so that future generations will not forget.


To make a donation by check please Use this form. For donations by credit card, or for more information about the AMRF call 1-866-270-5141.


The American Music Research Foundation

30733 West Ten Mile Road

Farmington Hills, MI 48336-2605


Thank you for your support!

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  AMRF News  


  discuss this article

Deroit Blues Society Headstone Project


In 1911 Sylvester Russell wrote a eulogy for George Walker in the Chicago Defender, “See That His Grave’s Kept Green.” In 1927, two years before he died at the tender ago of 36, Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded the classic, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” Compliance with these requests is difficult when graves are poorly marked or not at all, and this is sadly the case for too many of the greats who made vital and lasting contributions to our musical and cultural heritage.


The goal of Detroit Blues Society’s headstone project is to properly and respectfully mark the graves of Detroit Blues Legends. The project began in 1997 by marking the grave of Son House. Others beneficiaries include Clarence and Curtis Butler (The Butler Twins), Calvin Frazier, and Big Maceo Merriweather.  This year’s goal is to provide headstones for “Mr. Bo” Collins and “Uncle Jesse” White. We urge you to support DBS’s efforts by attending one or both of their fundraising events, at Cliff Bell’s in downtown Detroit this Sunday March 28th, and at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills Sunday April 18th.


Uncle Jessie White is particularly dear to us at the AMRF. He was a performer at our very first Motor City Boogie Woogie Festival in 1999, and we are blessed to have captured the performance and an interview conducted by Mr. B for our archives. During the tumultuous year of 1967 Uncle Jessie began hosting weekend long house parties and jam sessions at his home on 29th Street in Detroit. The sessions continued through 1971 and are legendary for the local and national talent that passed through to play at the famous house. Uncle Jesse was a revered mentor and teacher to many and a fixture in the Detroit Blues scene. His 29th Street Blues Band performed for 20 years at the Attic Bar. Uncle Jesse passed at the age of 87 on January 29, 2008.  


Mr. Bo was a fixture in the Detroit blue scene from the 50's through the 70’s, performing with Washboard Willie, Little Sonny Willis, Eddie Burns and John Lee Hooker among many others. His best known composition, 1966’s  “If Trouble Was Money,” was recorded by Albert King and Charlie Musselwhite among many others. Mr. Bo succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 63 on September 19, 1995. 








Blues  Events of Interest  


  discuss this article

11th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival a success


For 10 years the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival got bigger. Bigger stages, bigger venues, bigger bands, bigger names - double that when the fest expanded to two nights in 2005 – more cameras and bigger crews, bigger video trucks…and much, much bigger bills.


This year, it was time to breathe.


At the 11th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival there were no cameras, no trucks, fewer cables, and you could count the crew on the fingers of one hand. We weren’t in a concert hall with 1701 seats and a proscenium augmented by a 30’ wide orchestra pit between the audience and the musicians. We were at Callahan’s Music Hall, where you can’t be much more than 50 feet from the stage or you’ll be in the middle of South Boulevard in Auburn Hills.


The artists were old friends already documented and brought back by popular demand; Kelley Hunt played for us at the Redford Theatre in 2003 and can be seen in our public television show and DVD, 2003 Motor City Boogie Woogie and Blues Festival. Jason D. Williams performed at the Redford in 2004 and appears in Boogie & the Blues Diva.


At this year’s two sold-out shows, audiences were treated to performances that were up-close and personal, in an atmosphere that can only be described as a good old-fashioned house party. You could see the sparks flying from Jason’s fingers, and the power of Kelley’s voice literally knocked you back in your seat.  


We cannot sing high enough praise for Callahan’s Music Hall. Since opening the doors two years ago, Callahan’s has become the blues club in SE Michigan. The folks there are in it for the music. Their priorities are to assure that the audience can see and hear and that the artists are comfortable. Their attention to both the house sound and the monitor mix on stage brings out the best in performers, and is a major reason why they too sing high praise for Callahan’s and return to the room again and again.


Sadly, our friend and master photographer, John Collier, was unable to attend this year. He was sorely missed. While we can’t match his artistry, we do have photographs. Enjoy the slideshow!  view slideshow


Thanks to all for making the 11th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Festival an unmitigated success!


AMRF Festivals and Concerts  


  discuss this article

4 Shades of Blues Now on DVD



The Blues come in many shades, from electric to indigo. In this live program four brilliant artists present 4 Shades of Blues. Grammy winner and undisputed Queen of the Blues, the late Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine perform in the low-down, gritty electric style of Chicago. TexasRuthie Foster explores the acoustic and gospel-tinged blues. Tommy Castro brings the funky side of blues honed in the San Francisco Bay area. Belgrade’s Ana Popovic is an electrifying guitarist who says, “I wanted to be too bluesy for jazz and too jazzy for blues.”

In addition to the complete program as seen on public television, the disc contains 35 minutes of bonus material presenting additional performances and interviews with the artists.


$25 includes postage and handling.  BUY ONLINE


 toll free 1-866-270-5141

Blues  Merchandise  


  discuss this article

Big Band Blues & Boogie Woogie now on DVD




The Paul Keller Orchestra with Mr. B, Bob Seeley, Charles Boles, Axel Zwingenberger, Dave Bennett, Red Holloway, and George Bedard.

This special 2 disc set contains two complete television programs, Big Band Blues and Big Band Boogie Woogie, and an additional 75 minutes of performances and interviews.

$35  includes shipping and handing  BUY ONLINE



Click here to check for public television broadcasts in your area


Blues  Boogie Woogie  Jazz  Merchandise  


  discuss this article

Koko Taylor, 1928-2009

The passing of Koko Taylor brings an end to the era when sharecroppers became Blues Divas. Born in an environment where Black women had little chance of success, Koko’s restless mind, curiosity, determination and enormous talent led her from the plantation to royalty as the world’s undisputed Queen of the Blues. Her life story is so rich that those of any dozen of today’s pop/rock stars combined would pale in comparison.

The American Music Research Foundation is proud to have documented much of that story, and to have captured a great performance in a setting befitting a great Diva. Our forthcoming TV program "Four Shades of Blues” offers perhaps the last opportunity to see Koko as herself, and helps us all understand her enormous impact on the music world.

Koko joins more than 60 artists who have been similarly filmed by the AMRF and whose greatness and contributions to American music will be forever preserved.

Ron Harwood
President and Founder
American Music Research Foundation

"Grammy Award-winning blues legend Koko Taylor, 80, died on June 3, 2009 in her hometown of Chicago, IL, as a result of complications following her May 19 surgery to correct a gastrointestinal bleed. On May 7, 2009, the critically acclaimed Taylor, known worldwide as the “Queen of the Blues,” won her 29th Blues Music Award (for Traditional Female Blues Artist Of The Year), making her the recipient of more Blues Music Awards than any other artist. In 2004 she received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award, which is among the highest honors given to an American artist."
Click here for more information from Koko's official site.



  • It was a pleasure to have worked for the AMRF boogie show. The pleasure to meet...more
    - [redford]

  read more (1 total)

Prev [1]  2  3  Next

You are on page 1

Items 1-25 of 65.