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We are proud to announce that our second television program, "Boogie & The Blues Diva: 2004 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival," is now available to public television stations nationwide.

Recorded at the historic Redford Theatre, “Boogie & The Blues Diva” showcases sixty years in the evolution of American music. First, Maria Muldaur and James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band recreate performances from the 20’s and 30’s by blues divas Ethel Waters, Victoria Spivey, Ida Cox, and Sippie Wallace. "Prairie Home Companion" regular Butch Thompson plays turn of the century ragtime from Eubie Blake and Scott Joplin, and seminal boogie woogie from Pinetop Smith in the 20’s. Alma Smith performs blues from the 40’s by Lionel Hampton and Dinah Washington. And finally, the amazing Jason. D. Williams brings the house down as he straddles the transition from Louis Jordan’s 40's boogie woogie to Jerry Lee Lewis’ 50's rock’n’roll.


Contact your local public television station and let them know that you want to see, "Boogie & The Blues Diva!" Click here to see a list of scheduled broadcasts around the country.


Watch the promo!




  • I can't wait to see the show! HH
    - [hhertz]

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Pioneer Female Blues artist Jessie Mae Hemphill Dies at 71





July 24, 2006                             Image Preview

 The Associated Press

MEMPHIS — Jessie Mae Hemphill, whose award-winning blues career lasted decades and was heavily influenced by her upbringing in rural Mississippi, has died, a spokeswoman for the singer's foundation said. She was 71.

Olga Wilhelmine Mathus, the founder and president of the Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation, said the artist died Saturday from complications of an infection that may have resulted from an ulcer. Hemphill died in a Memphis hospital after checking in a week ago.

"She did not want to be operated on," Mathus said. "I think she was ready to go."

Hemphill embraced music at an early age and came from a family of musicians in northern Mississippi. Her great-grandfather and her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, were fiddle players who passed on their love of music. Her aunt, Rosa Lee, was also a performer who recorded several albums.

Jessie Mae Hemphill began playing guitar at age 7 or 8, and later moved on to other instruments.

She lived in Memphis for 20 years, and played the clubs on the city's famous Beale Street before finding an international audience.

"She brought a lot to the blues culture," Mathus said. "She was a pioneer for women in blues and women in general. Her music was very inspiring to a lot of people."

In 1993, Hemphill suffered a stroke that paralyzed her left side, leaving her unable to play guitar. She retired from touring and returned to Senatobia, where she lived with her dog, Sweet Pea.

She recorded one final album a decade later titled Dare You to Do It Again.

Mathus said funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Jessie Mae Hemphill won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Female Blues Artist in 1987 and 1988.  In 1991, Hemphill won the Handy Award for Best Acoustic Album.

Artists  Blues  


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Detroit Blues Legend Joe Weaver Passes



Joe Weaver at the 6th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in the Redford Theatre, 2004
(c) American Music Research Foundation

The loss of Joe Weaver hits particularly hard for us at the AMRF; he has been a friend for many years. One of my favorite memories is of Joe playing piano for Alberta Adams in President Ron Harwood's basement at the post-festival barbeque' in 2004. In 2006 Joe was to be one of the featured performers in our"Detroit Blues Legends" program. His passing reafirms the sense of urgency we feel about our mission.

Late last year Ron and I had a conversation about how to further that mission -  to promote, preserve, and document American music and the musicians who create it. Our festivals serve all three elements: The live performances and resultant television programs promote the music and musicians, while the raw recordings of the performances and on-camera interviews with the performers are documents that preserve their legacies. 

But this format is self-limiting because we can only document those artists who are still performing and can come to us. The urgent need is to document those artists who are close to the end of their careers, and even more urgently those who are no longer performing. I remember Ron saying that a bit of his soul dies every time another great one passes without his or her story being captured on camera.

At present we depend on outside personnel and equipment to record our Festivals. We determined that one of our goals should be to acquire equipment that would at least allow us to go to the musicians and get their stories, particularly those of the elder masters no longer performing. 

It is still a goal. Being an "arts and culture" non-profit, particularly in Michigan, presents a tough row to hoe.

In the meantime, we figured we should use this year's festival to present artists who may not perform much longer. This was the genesis of the "Detroit Blues Legends" program. When we all sat down to start considering specific artists for the event back in February, Joe was at the top of the list.  We knew at the time that he was ill, and determined that we would try to get his interview recorded before the festival.

For a variety of reasons, we didn't. And I know I can speak for all of us at the AMRF when I say that with Joe's passing, a bit of all our souls has died. Joe Weaver was a gentleman, and his role in the evolution of the Detroit music scene cannot be overstated. We will miss him.

Below is Susan Whitall's piece from the Detroit News.


July 6, 2006

Joe Weaver: 1934-2006

Musician pioneered R&B in Detroit

Susan Whitall / The Detroit News

Joe Weaver, one of the key figures of the 1950s Detroit R&B scene, died Monday in Providence Hospital in Southfield of complications from a stroke. He was 71.

Weaver, pianist and bandleader with his Blue Note Orchestra, was a human thread linking the 1940s big band era with the '50s R&B era, a musical mix that led directly to Motown.

First, he performed jump blues and jazz in the very early '50s, then throughout that decade performed as the Fortune Records house band, backing up the Fortune roster, including Andre Williams and Nolan Strong and the Diablos.

"Joe was playing some pioneering funk grooves and R&B, way back in the early '50s," said his friend and manager, R.J. Spangler, on Wednesday. "Joe had it all. He could play New Orleans-type beats, doo-wop, jump blues, soul and down and dirty, lowdown blues."

Later, Weaver and his band, the Blue Notes, worked for Berry Gordy Jr., playing on early Tamla sessions such as "Shop Around" for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

A lifelong Detroiter, Weaver was still a student at Northwestern High School when he met guitar player Johnnie Bassett. With several friends they formed the Blue Notes and started winning talent shows at the Warfield Theater on Hastings Street.

Bassett remembered his friend and colleague fondly as someone who didn't spend a lot of time analyzing his musical importance.

"Joe wasn't the type of person who was seeking to be a big name," Bassett said Wednesday. "He just liked to be in the limelight and have fun with what he was doing at the time. He was always laughing and joking. He was always upbeat, regardless of what was going on."

Weaver, Bassett and the Blue Notes would practice in the back room at Joe Von Battle's record store on Hastings, since they were friends with Von Battle's son.

Von Battle had a primitive recording machine in his back room, and he recorded one of those sessions and titled it "1540 Special" (alluding to the street address of King Records). The record, Weaver's first, was released on the Deluxe label, a subsidiary of Cincinnati-based King.

Weaver and the Blue Notes won "best band" so often at the Warfield Theater in the early '50s that they were made the permanent backing band. They performed that function for top Detroit acts such as Little Willie John and John Lee Hooker at the Warfield and at clubs around town such as Basin Street in Delray and the Phelps Lounge on Oakland.

Once at Fortune Records, the legendary Detroit record label located (later) on Third Avenue, Weaver cut many records as an artist with the (then) Blue Note Orchestra.

Several of the Funk Brothers, Motown's famed session band, have credited Weaver's early work for Tamla/Motown as being key in the formation of the Funks since many of them cycled in and out of Weaver's band.

Despite all his work, in the '60s Weaver packed in the precarious life of a musician to work on a Ford assembly line for 30 years.

It was at a backyard barbecue at Bassett's house in the early '90s that blues promoter/musician Spangler first met Weaver and persuaded him to play out again.

"He was still working at his day job, but he was getting ready (to play)," said Spangler. "It didn't take much persuasion."

Weaver was a bubbly raconteur, regaling friends and reporters with colorful tales from his long musical career.

He liked to tell of the time he and the Blue Notes were backing up the volatile Andre "Bacon Fat" Williams.

Williams was complaining all through his set about how badly he thought the band was playing, which wore on Weaver's nerves, so the bandleader instructed his musicians to stop playing. "Don't play another note, let Andre sing a cappella!"

In 2002, Weaver got together with two old friends, Stanley Mitchell of Stanley and the Hurricanes and solo singer Kenny Martin, both '50s hitmakers out of Detroit, to form the Motor City Rhythm and Blues Pioneers.

The R&B Pioneers released a self-titled CD that year. In May of this year, in one of his last public appearances, Weaver was honored at the Detroit Music Awards with a Distinguished Achievement Award.

Weaver is survived by three daughters; Zenobia, April and Belinda, and his girlfriend, Sue Williams. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


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Pianist Hilton Ruiz Dead at 54


Hilton Ruiz was a featured performer at Mr. B's Boogie & Blues Piano Celebration at the Ark in Ann Arbor just a few months ago. He was a brilliant musician and a gracious man, and we will miss him.

Laura Smith    Jazztimes Magazine

Internationally acclaimed Afro-Cuban pianist Hilton Ruiz died yesterday at 3:51 a.m. in New Orleans' East Jefferson General Hospital. He had been comatose in the intensive care unit since May 19, when he was found along Bourbon Street with massive head injuries. He was 54.

Ruiz enjoyed a long, dynamic career. Born in New York City on May 29, 1952, he began building his musical resume at an extraordinarily young age. At eight years old, Ruiz played Carnegie Hall and was a guest on the Sandy Becker television show. At nine, he took part in an accordion symphony and gigged with various Latin bands as a teenager. In addition to studying jazz with Mary Lou Williams, Ruiz received training in both classical and Latin piano styles. His musical expertise was eclectic, extending far beyond Afro-Cuban music into bebop and blues. During his career, he played with other musical notables such as Freddie Hubbard, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, Frank Foster, George Coleman, Charles Mingus, Clark Terry and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

From 1974-1977, Ruiz was Roland Kirk’s main pianist and appeared on Kirk recordings including The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color and The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man. On his 1993 work Manhattan Mambo, Ruiz skillfully placed bop-influenced improvisation atop infectious Latin rhythms. Ruiz's later work as a leader includes 1994’s Hands on Percussion (featuring the late Tito Puente) and 2003’s Enchantment.

Ruiz also made a foray into film music, contributing tracks to the musical scores of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989 and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty in 1999. Ruiz was scheduled to play at the Ottowa Jazz festival, where fellow Latin jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera will perform in his absence.

“He's one of the few musicians on the scene that is equally at home in both the jazz genre and the Afro-Cuban genre in a complete sense ... He really can play the blues, too. For real,” longtime friend and trombonist Steve Turre told the Associated Press. He continues later, “There's a lot of people who dabble with both worlds. But very few can authentically deal with both. And he's one of them. That's your rarity.”

Ruiz is survived by his daughter and wife, who share the name Aida.

For updates on this story, including viewing and funeral information, check back at For details on the May 19 incident, visit’s May 27 report.

Artists  Jazz  


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First Annual Great Lakes Blues Society Summit


AMRF Director John Penney attended the first Great Lakes Blues Society Summit in Windsor Ontario over Memorial Day weekend. While we are not precisely a blues society, our mission certainly includes the maxim of "keeping the blues alive," and we have collaborated with the Detroit Blues Society since the beginning - they are always at our Festivals.

John made a lot of new friends, a lot of new contacts, and had a lot of fun. We will shortly receive and post links to all the blues societies that participated so that you can keep up to date with blues news you can use. In the meantime, here is the press release from Big City Blues Magazine:

Great Lakes Blues Society Summit, May 26-28, 2006

Eight states, two countries and twenty blues societies and organizations met May 26, 27 and 28, 2006 in Detroit, MI and Windsor, Canada to form a partnership and establish regional live blues music tours and beyond.  Plus by working together blues societies and organizations that reach thousands of blues enthusiasts will attract more sponsorship and support for blues music.

After “too much fun” from Friday night’s Motor City Pub Crawl, May 26th with unforgettable highlights of Pricilla Price and Artie “Blues Boy” White’s performing together at Detroit’s #1 juke joint—The Mississippi Connection and next at Detroit’s downtown river front club--Currents where Luther “Badman” Keith and Lady Sunshine sang together for the first time ever, the Great Lakes Blues Society Summit began their business meeting the following morning on Saturday, May 27th in Windsor.

Discussion topics included issues that such as increasing membership, fundraising and blues education. The primary goal for the 2006 Great Lakes Blues Society Summit was accomplished and eight blues societies made a commitment to work together for a fall acoustic tour with Bobby Rush “unplugged.” A spring electric tour will follow.
Future partnership projects for the Great Lakes Blues Societies were discussed and may include a compilation blues CD, blues calendar, working with Koko Taylor’s Celebrity Aid Foundation, Gimme 5! fundraising for New Orleans musicians and a possible project with Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians Village in New Orleans.

 The Great Lakes Blues Society Summit received a very positive response. Thanks to everyone who attended and especially to Robert Jr. Whitall and Ted Boomer for organizing this groundbreaking event.
Mark your calendars for 2007 Great Lakes Blues Society Summit – May 25-27, 2007.

Great Lakes Blues Society Steering Committee: Ted Boomer, Robert Jr. Whitall, Shirley Mae Owens, Danny Graham, And Rolly Hough

Great Lakes Blues Societies/Organizations Summit 2006 Roll Call:
American Music Research Foundation
Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Black Swamp Blues Society
Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine
Bluesfest International
Blues Foundation
Canada South Blues Society
-Windsor Chapter
-Bruce County Chapter (Incardinate)
-London Chapter
-Kitchener Chapter
Charleston West Virginia Blues Society
Detroit Blues Society
Hot Blues & Barbeque
Kitchener Blues Brews & Barbeques
Koko Taylor’s Celebrity Aid Foundation
Mid-North Michigan Blues Society
Saginaw Bay Blues Society
West Michigan Blues Society
Western New York Blues Society

Other Great Lakes Blues Societies & Organizations that are interested but were unable to attend: Alpena Blues Society, Capital Area Blues Society, Chicagoland Blues Society, Cinci Blues Society, Marquette Blues Society, Monroe Library Series, Tawas Bay Blues Society

For more information about the Great Lakes Blues Society Summit/Organization contact: Ted Boomer – - 519-977-9631 or
Robert Jr. Whitall – or 248-582-1544

AMRF News  Blues  


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John Hammond's "From Spirituals to Swing"


 The New Masses Presents
“From Spirituals to Swing”
         Carnegie Hall

John Hammond conceived of this concert as a political statement set to music:  “...the Negro people have produced some of the most amazing musicians the world has ever known,” and they deserved better than the oppression and discrimination they were subjected to.

Hammond was born on December 15, 1910 in an eight-story mansion on New York’s upper east side, an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune. As a child he discovered a Columbia Grafanola in the servant’s quarters, and by the age of 12 was collecting recordings of “early Negro and country artists.” His grandmother had a player piano and he also began collecting jazz rolls. At the age of 17 he snuck up to Harlem to hear Bessie Smith, telling his parents he had to go out to play string quartets. For the rest of his high school days he inhabited the Harlem clubs, frequently the only white face in the room.

While a student at Yale Hammond returned to New York on weekends and spent his nights in Harlem. During his sophomore year a recurrence of jaundice forced him to drop out, but by then Hammond had determined that he wanted a career in the music business.

His father sent him to “The Millionaire’s Club” in Georgia to recuperate. As Hammond says in his autobiography, “I returned to New York physically recovered and emotionally enraged. The habit of discrimination was so encrusted by centuries of acceptance that both black and white knew no other way to act. I had walked through my first southern Nigger town, the son of the president of a private club for millionaires, many of them Southern, all of them white and Protestant. To know better was no longer enough. I had to do something.”

For Hammond doing something meant promoting the artists and music he loved. As an independently wealthy man he was able to pursue his passion as he saw fit. As a young man he wrote about jazz for music magazines, invested in concerts, produced his first records, and hosted the first ever radio program devoted to jazz. He traveled the country by car, seeking out new talent.

At the center of his vision was a concert that would “bring together for the first time, before a musically sophisticated audience, Negro music from its raw beginnings to the latest jazz,” but it took years to find a sponsor that would underwrite the talent search and Carnegie Hall production. In early 1938, the Marxist publication, “New Masses,” agreed to sign on.

Hammond contacted a talent scout in North Carolina and set out to find his performers. Robert Johnson was at the top of Hammond’s list but had been killed by his girlfriend earlier in the year. “Big Bill” Broonzy was signed instead. Hammond also signed many of the performers he had discovered in New York, Chicago, and Kansas City.

In the printed program for the event Hammond laid out the show, not in the order of performances, but in the order by which the music evolved. There were eight parts:

Introduction During which recordings made by the H. E. Tracy expedition to the Africa were played.

I. Spirituals and Holy Roller Hymns
Mitchell’s Christian Singers were a group of laborers from North Carolina that sang a cappella on Sundays. Hammond went to their home, a back country shack without water or electricity, to sign them up.Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a forerunner to Mahalia Jackson, a singer and guitarist who played a “Holy Roller” style of hymns that straddled gospel and the blues. She played mostly in churches but had done one night at The Cotton Club, which brought her to Hammond’s attention.

II. Soft Swing 
The Kansas City Six featured Lester Young (cl. tsax.), Buck Clayton (tr.), Eddie Durham (electric g.), Freddie Greene (g.), Walter Page (b.), and Joe Jones (dr.) Their music straddled swing and dixieland styles of jazz.
III. Harmonica Playing
Hammond went to North Carolina to sign
Blind Boy Fuller, but Fuller was in jail. Living next door was blind harmonica player Sanford (Sonny) Terry, and upon hearing him Hammond signed him on the spot.

IV. Blues
It had been Hammond’s dream to feature
Bessie Smith, but she had passed on by the time the concert was in production, so he signed Ruby Smith – no relation to Bessie – accompanied by James P. Johnson, one of the originators of the “stride” style of piano that straddled the transition from ragtime to jazz.Hammond discovered blues shouter Joe Turner and his colleague boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson in Kansas City, and first brought them to New York to perform at The Famous Door in 1936. In 1938 he brought them back for a guest appearance on Benny Goodman’s “Camel Caravan,” and they stayed to perform in Carnegie Hall. Bill Broonzy had moved from Arkansas to Chicago in 1924, where he had become a major figure in the blues scene. The Carnegie Hall performance marked the first time he had played for a white audience. Jimmy Rushing was the vocalist in Count Basie’s band, and Helen Humes was a volcalist Hammond had discovered in Louisville, Kentucky and recommended to Basie. They both performed with small groups at Carnegie Hall before performing with the orchestra.

V. Boogie-Woogie Piano Playing
Pianists Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis had shared a rooming house with
Pinetop Smith in Chicago from 1927 to 1930. Smith had a hit with the recording of “Boogie Woogie” in 1928. After he passed away in 1929, Ammons and Lewis continued to develop the form. At Carnegie Hall they played solo, duo, and six-handed with Pete Johnson. The Spirituals to Swing concert began the boogie-woogie craze in this country. Ammons and Lewis were recorded together at the very first session for Blue Note Records in January of 1939.

VI. Early New Orleans Jazz
 Sidney Bechet (cl. ssax.), Tommy Ladnier(tr.), James P. Johnson (p.), Dan Minor (trb.), Jo Jones (dr.)

VII. Swing
 Count Basie and His Orchestra

The concert was oversold to the extent that chairs for an additional 400 people had to be put on stage, and a second “From Spirituals to Swing” concert was staged on Christmas Day, 1939.

Blues  Boogie Woogie  Gospel  History  Jazz  


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The copyright Law of 1909 - Mike Montgomery


Our"Boogie Beat" newsletter is published quarterly for members only.  In the current issue, independent music historian Mike Montgomery writes about the impact of the copyright law of 1909. An excerpt is reprinted below. To read the entire article, become a member of the AMRF. You will receive of Boogie Beat in the mail and become eligible member discounts on tickets and merchandise, including our forthcoming DVD from the 2004 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, "Boogie and the Blues Diva."

The copyright laws enacted in the US in the late 1700s were intended to protect the OWNERS of written (and musical) material from unlawful (and unfair) infringement by others.  That simply means if someone publishes a book, or a music company publishes a song, no one else can legally appropriate it, without permission.  Let’s say it’s 1870, some years before the invention of paper music rolls and phonograph records (and cylinders).  You write (compose) a song.  To get it published for general sale you first need to “sell” an established music publisher to see merit in your song and to envision selling enough copies to make a profit....

..When a song is under copyright protection, no one else can legally appropriate your song (or any part of it).  But it’s up to you to sell your song to a publisher who will treat you fairly at the outset, if that’s possible.

The important concept to keep in mind is this:  ONLY ONE PUBLISHER CAN OWN YOUR SONG AT ANY ONE TIME...

Enter the Inventors

During the 1870s a variety of clever inventors were working on ways to make mechanical music and reproduce recorded sounds.  In the player field, John McTammany was developing his concept of creating perforated paper rolls which would be scrolled across a sort of harmonica by a crank.  With the right amount of air pressure, brass reeds would sound according to the notes that were cut into the paper roll.  This was the birth of the mammoth player industry.  At first, small perforated rolls, covering about 14 notes on the piano, were produced and were designed to play on small table-top “organettes."  Soon larger self-contained organs, operated by foot pedals became available, and these played many more notes.  By the end of the 19th century, the rolls had grown larger, and there were devices which could play the keys on a regular piano.  These devices are known today (to collectors and historians) as “push-ups.”   The German Welte Company called its push-up a “Vorsetzer” which translates into a “Sitter In Front Of” player.  In the meantime the phonograph inventors were perfecting the reproduction of sound using either cylinders or small flat discs which could play back sounds, voices and music on early phonographs....

At first the publishers, when discovering their tunes appearing on these small crude paper rolls, may have been pleased and even amused.  The rolls contained no lyrics (lyrics on rolls would come many years later), and if properly credited to the composers and publishers may have even been considered a sales stimulus to get people to go to their local music stores and buy the actual sheet music.  But later on, when scads of published and copyrighted songs were appearing on paper rolls, it was no longer amusing.  Publishers demanded royalties, and it was up to Congress to change the existing copyright law to cover this new development...



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Gumbo In Congo Square


The roots of blues, rhythm & blues, jazz, and rock 'n' roll are all in New Orleans, and the evolution of the music is inseperable from the evolution of the city.

"Gumbo" is the most common metaphor for New Orleans, and it most apt. A good homemade gumbo can take days to make - mine generally take three or four. The first thing you make is the roux, flour cooked in fat that provides the smoky foundation for the dish. Next you add stock, and finally you add the stuff - crawdads, shrimp, chicken, sausage, greens, whatever.

The gumbo that is New Orleans took centuries to make, and the roux was made in the earliest days of the original settlement.

The eminent New Orleans scholar Pierce Lewis has described it as, "an inevitable city on an impossible site." Inevitable because it is at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and impossible because there really isn't a "mouth." Rather, for 200 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, there is nothing but swampland.

The site of the original French city, commissioned in 1718, has been described as, "wretched." It is too hot, too humid, prone to flooding and hurricanes, and the swamps bred untold numbers of disease-laden mosquitos. Respectable Europeans who had a choice did not choose to live in New Orleans. The original settlers were mostly hustlers, thieves, and opportunists.

The first slaves arrived directly from Africa in the early 1720's. But the French Catholic attitude towards slavery was quite different from that of the English Protestant colonials, and it resulted in a relatively large population of "free people of color" from the earliest days of the colony.

In the first place, slaves were allowed to earn money. City masters often loaned their slaves to others as wage laborers, and slaves were given the weekends off, when again they could work for wages. They used the money to buy their freedom.

Additionally, the French were quite open about secual liasons with slaves. Their mixed race offspring were frequently raised as free men or given their freedom when the father died. Many received an education, some going back to France for it.

These original settlers are the Creoles of New Orleans. They are French speaking Eurpoeans and Africans and, most importantly, everybody in between. In 18th century New Orleans there was no stark distinction between black and white, as there was in the English colonies. Africans and Europeans shared both genes and cultures, and the mixing of many rich shades of brown, both physically and culturally, was essential to the roux.

Another crucial ingredient was the infusion of Native American culture. Africans and Native Americans had much in common. They were both oppressed by the white man. They shared similar beliefs about nature and man's place in it. And they shared a love of music and dance. They were natural friends and allies.

Native Americans orchestrated the first documented escape of African slaves from the colony in 1725. The first account of Africans dressing as Native Americans - a sign of respect among neighboring tribes - comes from the Mardi Gras celebration of 1746.

Rampart Street in New Orleans demarked the inland boundary of the original city. Just outside the rampart was an open field. There are many conflicting stories, but it is apparent that it was a gathering place for Native Americans.

Creoles and Africans began to gather there too. There are stories about Creoles and Native Americans playing lacrosse together on the field. Over time, it evolved into a marketplace.

In 1744 this field was legitimized as the "Place de Negroes," where on weekends free people of color could gather openly to do business, trade news and gossip, and just hang out together. Slaves were allowed to join the congregation, and on Sunday afternoons they would come with traditional African drums and instruments. They would play music and sing, and dance.

Within a few years their numbers grew to hundreds, and Europeans, Creoles, African Americans, and Native Americans would all gather on this field for the weekly musical celebration.

The translation is not exact, but Place des Negroes became Congo Plain, and then Congo Square.

France ceded Louisiana to the Spanish after the Seven Years War in 1763, bought it back in 1800, and within three years sold it to the Americans. French Canadian refugees, the Acadians that came to be known as Cajuns, began arriving in 1764. And a few decades later black, white, and mixed race refugees from the slave revolts in Haiti began to arrive in large numbers. Sailors and settlers from all over the world would come, and some would stay.

Through all of this the Sunday afternoon gatherings continued in Congo Square, with more or less legitimacy. The Americans outlawed them in 1811, but the congregations simply reemerged elsewhere. So in 1817, in the interest of keeping them under watchful eyes, the city reestablished Congo Square as a place where, on Sunday afternoons, slaves could celebrate their heritage. As the city grew and flourished over the next century, this celebration of song and dance became renown throughout the world.

Congo Square is the cauldron in which the musical gumbo of New Orleans was cooked, and musicologists and historians point to all the stuff and stock added during the heyday of the 19th century as the source of most American musical genres.

But the roux was made much earlier, and without it the gumbo would not have been possible.

Blues  History  Jazz  


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DVD $25


This 90 minute program from our 2003 Motor City Boogie Woogie and Blues Festival contains performances from Joe Hunter, Caroline Dahl, Martijn Schok, Kelley Hunt with the Kelley Hunt Band, David Maxwell, and Henry Butler.

                       AMRF Tote Bag $20                                  AMRF Coffee Mug $10

Festival Posters: $15 each

               1999                           2000                       2001                       2002

                2003                        2004                   2005 Friday              2005 Saturday

Discounts not available on these items
All items are $20 unless otherwise marked


                Michael Kaeshammer CD                    David Maxwell CD 

                   Caroline Dahl CD                    Caroline Dahl Note Cards $15

                   Henry Butler CD                               Joe Hunter Book 

                    Kelly Hunt CD                                 Charley Booty CD             

                Charlie Booty CD                        Joe Hunter T-Shirt



Sponsorship Opportunities


National distribution of “Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival” by NETA means that sponsorship could deliver your company to upwards of 100,000,000 viewers with access to PBS programming. Additionally, the increased awareness of “Boogie Woogie Festival” nationally will vastly increase the potential to market DVDs of the program, which will contain the same acknowledgements. 

Direct Inquiries to:
The American Music Research Foundation
30733 West Ten Mile Road
Farmington Hills Michigan 48336-2605
tel. 248.478.2525 or toll free 866.270.5141

Donations to the AMRF are tax deductable as allowed by law


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Our basic membership fee is $15 per year. Benefits include a free subscription to our quarterly "Boogie Beat"  newsletter; discounts on tickets to our events when purchased in advance directly through the AMRF; and discounts on select AMRF merchandise such as Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival DVDs and posters; and AMRF tote bags and coffee mugs.

Make checks payable to, "The American Music Research Foundation," and mail to:

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30733 West 10 Mile Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI 48336-2605

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Donations to the AMRF are tax deductable as allowed by law. For more information call the number above or contact us at


AMRF Invites Evacuees to Attend Blues & Boogie Fest

United Way for Southeastern Michigan has been charged with coordinating basic care for evacuees who have come to our region. The AMRF has provided UWSEM with 100 tickets for each night of this year's Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, which will be distributed to evacuees who could use a night experiencing the joy that music can bring.

AMRF News  


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Katrina's Piano Instrument Purchases

Two large New Orleans music stores have reopened, and in pursuit of the mission of revitalizing the musical economy, Katrina's Piano is now routing  as many new instrument purchases as possible through C&M Music and Ray Fransen's Drum Center. 'Piano Principal Michael Paz, a NO resident who has returned to the city, is coordinating the acquisition and distribution of both newly purchased and donated instruments. He may be contacted at .

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AMRF Katrina's Second Line Coalition


Katrina's Piano  is the brainchild of New Orleans resident Juan Labostrie; and Klondike Koehler, owner of Klondike Sound  and for 28 years the Audio Director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. After Juan rescued some 15 of his neighbors in New Orleans (see for the inspiring story of Juan and his wife Vicki), he started thinking of what he could do next. He came up with the mission statement for Katrina's Piano:

" It's a simple economic equation: once a musician has an instrument in his hands, he can go back to work. Little economies will spin up around each instrument, in all the relocation cities. Money for the long trip home can be earned, and the soul of New Orleans will be saved."

Juan has served on the stage crew at the jazzfest for many years, and he contacted his good friend Klondike in Greenfield, MA. Klondike in turn contacted other friends and associates from the jazzfest, a provisional 501(c)(3) number was established, and Katrina's Piano was founded.

In addition to soliciting cash donations, Katrina's Piano is actively pursuing the donation of instruments, and is actively engaged in trying to form partnerships with instrument stores and manufacturers to provide instruments either for free or at cost. Available instruments are then matched up with the musicians in need and shipped directly to them.

Katrina's Piano will be accepting donations at the AMRF table in the lobby of the Royal Oak Music Theater during this year's Boogie Woogie and Blues Festival. If you would like to donate an instrument, the information will be taken and you will be contacted about where to send it. Cash donations may also be sent to:

Katrina's Piano Fund

Greenfield Savings Bank, attn: Alexa

400 Main St.

P.O. Box 1537

ph: 888-324-3191


Meanwhile, our friends at the Detroit Blues Society ( have mounted their Gimme 5 campaign, benefiting the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. The NOMC has provided comprehensive health care to musicians since 1998. (In the aftermath of Katrina the NOMC had relocated to Lafayette, LA, but Rita is forcing them to move yet again. Where they will land we do not know.)  The NOMC is collaborating with the Jazz Foundation of America to provide whatever form of relief is needed directly to musicians. The Detroit Blues Society will be accepting donations for the Gimme 5 campaign at the Royal Oak Music Theater.

Finally, the Nataional Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS, or The Recording Academy - these are the folks who present the Grammy Awards) established the MusiCares Foundation in 1989 to help musicians across the country cope with personal, medical, and financial hardship. In response to Katrina, MusiCares has established a Hurricane Relief Fund to provide for the basic needs of musicians impacted by the disaster. Musicare's website also provides en extensive set of links to other organizations providing assistance, including Katrina's Piano and the NOMC. Our good friend Howard Hertz is on the regional board of The Recording Academy, and he will be accepting donations to Musicares at the Festival..

As part of the AMRF's mission to care for the artists who create the music, we have been actively engaged in the work of matching people with resources, and faciltating communication between organizations that have resources to share, in an attempt to match supply with demand.

Again, the AMRF has partnered directly with Katrina's Piano, and we ask that you support their efforts. But also, we ask that you follow your heart and support any or all of the organizations represented in the Katrina's Second Line Coalition.  

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