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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


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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


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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

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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.

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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


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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 



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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.


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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.  

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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

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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.

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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.






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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. 








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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


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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


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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]

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One magical evening, Two extraordinary programs...


There was magic in the air long before the band hit the stage for the 8th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival. The Award winning Paul Keller Orchestra had been rehearsing with local soloists Bob Seeley, Mr. B, Charles Boles, Dave Bennett and George Bedard for weeks during their regular Monday night gig at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, and the buzz in the street was palpable.

Three days before the show, Red Holloway arrived from California, and Axel Zwingenberger flew in from Germany. The interview shoots left the crew giddy. The dress rehearsal vibrated with chemistry and camaraderie. We knew we were going to capture something very, very special.

Within the first few bars of the opening number, Buddy Rich’s classic, “Basically the Blues,” the audience was whistling and cheering. Lindy-hoppers hit the dance floor. Executive Producer and AMRF President Ron Harwood drolly commented, “Well, I guess this was a good idea.” When the band launched into a rollicking version of “Sing, Sing, Sing” to close the first half of the show, he was on the dance floor himself.

It was well past midnight when the ecstatic house, still packed, demanded a second encore. By then it had become clear that one hour would not suffice to present this unique and exciting event. Instead we are proud to present two extraordinary programs: BIG BAND BLUES and BIG BAND BOOGIE WOOGIE. The programs are built around distinct narrative threads and stand alone, but when presented in this sequence they weave a tapestry illustrating the connections between blues, boogie woogie, swing music and jazz.

BIG BAND BLUES  SD Feed:  Friday, June 26 at 1200 et / SD 07
   (simultaneous HD feed on HD 03)
"If you cannot play the blues, you cannot play good jazz."
Red Holloway
"Some of the stuff John Coltrane and Miles Davis did was very, very innovative, but it was still the blues in the end."
Charles Boles

BIG BAND BOOGIE WOOGIE SD Feed:  Friday, June 26 at 1300 et / SD 07
   (simultaneous HD feed on HD 03)

"Boogie Woogie is happy blues." Bob Seeley 
"If it weren't for the big band movement and swing, boogie woogie would have been forgotten." Axel Zwingenberger


Coming August 1: 4 Shades of Blues

The American Music Research Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and documentation of American music.

AMRF ON TV  Blues  Boogie Woogie  Jazz  


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Life, History, Music


The words, “Life, History, Music,” loom large on the AMRF letterhead. If you have any questions about what those words mean to us, look no further that the cover story in the October 1, 2008 edition of Detroit’s Metro Times on Little Sonny Willis, a featured artist in our 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival at the Music Hall. See the pictures and read the article here.


Artists  Blues  


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Remebering Muddy Waters 1915-1983


The Classic Studio T label and Blues Legacy would also like to take the opportunity of commemorating the life and music of the legendary Blues artist Muddy Waters who passed on this day (April 30th) 25 years ago.

As many of you know, British trombonist Chris Barber introduced Muddy Waters to UK audiences in 1958.The outcome of the tour with The Chris Barber Band was nothing short of a magnificent milestone in history.The recordings recently discovered by The Blues Legacy are now available on The Blues Lost & Found – Volume 2 album and it is possible to find out more details and purchase online via:


If you wanted to just hear a few Muddy Waters tracks for free, simply check out our My Space page:

Muddy Waters was a huge inspiration for musicians in the British scene and is known as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Not only did the tour with Chris Barber enhance Muddy’s reputation in Europe, but in turn, reawakened an interest in the blues from the other side of the Atlantic. Arguably, it was this visit to British shores, with Muddy on electric guitar, which led to the phenomenal rise of the blues explosion. We salute you Muddy!


Remembering Humphrey Lyttelton 1921 - 2008

The Classic Studio T label would like to extend their deepest sympathy to the friends and family of the late, great musician and broadcaster Humphrey Lyttelton.

It was announced on the 25th April that the legendary Jazz musician died aged 86.  ‘Humph’, as he became known, was a towering figure in the world of music and also a respected presenter on BBC Radio 2 and 4.

The Classic Studio T label, based at Shepperton Filmed Studios first worked with Humphrey Lyttelton when he was invited to our Classic T Stage recording studio by vocalist Elkie Brooks in 2005 for the recording of her Pearls Live DVD.  You can see footage of this on You Tube:

Elkie and Humph had worked with each other extensively over the years and our label was also proud to release another collaboration from the two on the ‘Trouble In Mind’ album.

Classic have also been working with another of Humph’s good friends in recent years.Jazz legend Chris Barber surprisingly found some previously unreleased material now survived on the Blues Lost & Found – Volume 3 album, which features Chris Barber, Ronny Scott and Humphrey Lyttelton performing on stage together at the Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival in 1964. This was released on the Blues Legacy imprint:



Artists  Blues  


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Buddy Miles 1947-2008


OUR FRIENDS AT THE ILLINOIS BLUES SOCIETY  PASSED ON THIS SAD NEWS: is saddened by the passing of drum legend Buddy Miles.  He will be missed!

Buddy Miles  9/5/1947 -  2/26/2008
Legendary Drummer Buddy Miles  passed away this Tuesday, peacefully at his home in Austin, TX. He was (60) sixty years old. He suffered from congestive heart failure but the official cause of death is not known.

Buddy performed with some of the greatest names in music including Stevie Wonder, Muddy Waters, Michael Bloomfield, Wilson Pickett, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, David Crosby, Jack Bruce, Eric Burden, Peter Torque, Billy Gibbons, Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Vaughan, Rick James, Kool and the Gang, Jr. Brown, Ike Turner, Pinetop Perkins, Jr. Wells, Koko Taylor, Johnny Taylor, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Carlos Santana, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Billy Cox, David Bowie and others.

Buddy Miles recorded over 70 albums and performed in numerous world tours, television commercials and videos. He is best known for his work with Jimi Hendrix and bass player Billy Cox in Band of Gypsys.

Band of Gypsys recorded one album appropriately titled “Band of GypsyS" in 1970 at Fillmore East in New York. Two of the songs on the album were written by Miles. ("We Gotta Live Together" and "Changes").
In lieu of flowers; the family has asked to please make donations to the Jazz Foundation of America specifically in Buddy Miles' name to assist with funeral, and other expenses at ; The Jazz Foundation of America, at 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY, 10036, Attn.: Amy Cusma.

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


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Blues Diva Maria Muldaur releases Naughty, Bawdy & Blue



"Naughty, Bawdy & Blue" in stores Now!

When most people think of the blues they think of a man with a guitar at the crossroads or on a back porch in the Mississippi Delta. But America's fascination with the blues began with a recording by a woman, a Vaudeville singer in New York City backed by a jazz band. The year was 1921, the singer was Mamie Smith, and the record was, "Crazy Blues." It sold over a million copies and demonstrated that there was a huge market for records by and for African-Americans. Record companies went into a feeding frenzy, signing women to sing what has come to be known as the "Classic Blues."

Over the next decade the likes of Mamie, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, and Victoria Spivey would sell millions of records, travel the country in their own Pullman railroad cars, and play to sold out houses wherever they went. As Maria Muldaur says in Boogie & the Blues Diva, "These women were America's first Pop Stars."

At the 2004 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival Maria and James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band recreated the look, the feel, and the sound of this seminal period in American musical history. But the concert and television program represent but two of three parts of the project. During the week before the performance Maria and the band recorded over a dozen songs at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The result is the new album on Stony Plain Records,  "Naughty, Bawdy & Blue." The album is dedicated to Maria's friends Sippie Wallace and Victoria Spivey, and includes a duet with Bonnie Raitt on Sippie's "Hesitation Blues." You can hear samples of all the songs in Maria's Musical Oasis.

Maria will be touring extensively to support the new album - check the schedule here - and will be performing with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band on Sunday September 3 at the largest free jazz festival in North America, the Detroit International Jazz Festival, held annually in downtown Detroit.



Artists  Blues  Jazz  


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Boogie woogie Great Big Joe Duskin Passes at 86


Boogie Woogie legend Big Joe Duskin died Sunday May 7 at his home in Cincinatti from complications arrising from a long battle with diabetes. You can read the obituary in the Cincinatti Inquirer here.

 Big Joe, the “gentle giant,” was a perennial favorite of ours, performing at the first three Motor City Boogie Woogie Festivals from 1999-2001. He was honored as the first inductee of the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame in 1999 in hometown Cincinnati, Ohio.  A professional musician since the age of 16, Big Joe’s grace and style belie his size and his other profession -- working 30 years as a Cincinnati police officer.  Big Joe has always mixed his musical talents with his love of gospel.  In fact, Big Joe’s love of Boogie Woogie got him in trouble with his Baptist preacher father. While in his 80s, Big Joe’s father made Joe promise that he wouldn’t play “the Devil’s music” until after his death. What no one could predict was that Big Joe’s father would live to 104 years of age.

Joe first heard piano played in his local church.  “I used to have to walk through a swamp filled with alligators to get to church,” Joe recalls.  “And the only way I escaped a beating for being out late at night was because my uncle would find me behind the piano and take me home in his wagon.  He used to get me to slip under the porch when we got home, before my old man could come out. Then, when my father started hollerin’ for me, I would get out from under that porch and tell him I’d fallen asleep under there.”

When his family moved to Cincinnati, Joe was able to teach himself to play the piano.  “I used to play the same song over and over and over, the only song I knew, Coon Shine Baby.  Folks would close their doors when I came onto the porch.  They’d say, ‘Oh no, here’s the Duskin boy again.  Don’t let him near the piano.  He’s gonna play that damned song again.’  ‘Cause at the time, we didn’t have a piano at home.” 

Artists  Blues  Boogie Woogie  


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Funk Brother Joe Hunter Passes


Legendary pianist and Motown Funk Brother Joe Hunter was found dead in his apartment in Detroit on February 3, 2007.  Click here for Detroit Free Press writer Brian McCollum's obituary.

Joe was the Master and Ceremonies for the 2003 Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival. AMRF President Ron Harwood remembers Joe fondly:

It is a great loss to the music community and a great personal loss to hear of the passing of “Ivy” Joe Hunter. Joe was a very special person, kind to everyone and always with a smile on his face. Over the past few years I had the privilege to visit with Joe, interview him and have him perform on our 2003 AMRF Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival. His interviews were a special treat to an old ethnomusicologist like me, because Joe brought Detroit’s music history to a vibrant and lively – and sometimes romantic crescendo as he rollicked across two decades of Hastings Street stories.

To be sure, Joe Hunter was a terrific piano player, someone who could capture an audience with either a solo boogie number or a smile-filled vocal; but mostly, Joe was a unique character. There was never a time that I saw Joe off in a corner. On the contrary, he was always where the action was, filling his friends with stories of dozens of great recording sessions, personal histories of the great Motown singers and always recognizing the guys in the band who made such special backdrops for the gospel/soul voices that Barry Gordy discovered.

I was also blessed with the opportunity to hear Joe’s straightforward explanations on the evolution of R&B music from gospel and country blues – and of course – Boogie Woogie. Joe felt comfortable playing almost any style because he was an entertainer at heart with no special axe to grind for one musical genre over another. He simply loved to play, loved to talk, and loved life. I know for sure that he’s giving piano lessons on the other side and grinning from ear to ear. We will miss you Joe.

Here is a slideshow of pictures from 2003.                view slideshow

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


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Pictorial Review of the 2006 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival


The words may change, but it’s the same refrain every year: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” It’s Founder Ron Harwood, understated as always, saying 15 minutes into the Big Band Boogie Woogie show, “I guess this was a good idea.” And Judy Greenwald, the most expressive member of our group, standing by the sound board with her jaw on her chest saying over and over again, “Oh….my…..God!”

It was the Friday audience dancing all night long to Calvin Cooke, Alberta Adams, Johnnie Bassett, Sir Mack Rice, and the Howling Diablos. It was the Saturday house, still packed, demanding yet another encore from the big band at 12:30  in the morning.

We don’t put our shows together the way most people do. We don’t book artists just because they'll provide the biggest draw, and we don’t measure success by how many tickets we sell. We don’t try to make as much money as we can by paying the artists as little as possible and charging as much as possible for tickets. Rather, at the AMRF the artists come first, and we try to keep ticket prices as low as practicable in order to encourage folks to come see and hear music and musicians that they might not otherwise experience.

Our rewards come in the form of comments like these from audience members:
“Thank you one & all for the ALL-TIME BEST BOOGIE WOOGIE FESTIVAL to date!”
"…the BEST concert I have ever been to in my life with major dance parties in the   balcony!"
"… the best night of my life!"
"I thought I was in heaven!"
"I never knew what Boogie Woogie was, but NOW I do!"
"I'll never be the same!"
"Why wasn't EVERYONE THERE???"

 And like this, from Big Band Boogie Woogie Music Director, Bassist and Band Leader Paul Keller:

 “…everything about the show was great. I loved every minute of it! Again, thank you for the opportunity and the means for us to participate in this glorious project! It was an epic saga of immense depth, breadth and magnitude! It was a lot of work by a lot of people. The final result was spectacular!!!”

By the end of the weekend, we had turned some audience members on to music they either didn’t know existed or didn’t think they really liked, and had given the artists a weekend that bore little resemblance to “just another gig.” And we made many, many new friends.

Like I said, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Photography by John Collier, shown at work above.
(c) 2006 American Music Research Foundation


Sir Mack Rice works the crowd with Thornetta Davis up front

Watch the slideshow! view slideshow

l-r, Charles Boles, Mr. B, Bob Seeley, George Bedard, Dave Bennett, and Red Holloway do the boogie woogie!

Watch the slideshow view slideshow

Thanks to our Sponsors!



AMRF Festivals and Concerts  Blues  Boogie Woogie  Gospel  Jazz  Rhythm and Blues  


  • Nice shots Mr. Collier!
    - [ryan]
  • Wow! When can I buy the DVD?
    - [bugs]

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R.I.P. Ruth Brown


Ruth Brown was one of the most important women in the history of R&B, not only as a performer, but as a champion of artists' rights. I had the pleasure of working with her some years ago at the Detroit Jazz Festival, and came away from that experience with even greater admiration and respect for her. She was an incredibly gracious woman. We mourn her passing, but celebrate her life and legacy. You can find her music here.

l-r, Billy Eckstine, Ruth Brown, Count Basie, unidentified woman


R&B pioneer Ruth Brown dies at age 78

November 17, 2006 22:05:15

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pioneering rhythm and blues singer Ruth Brown, known as "the girl with a tear in her voice" for emotion-laden singing, died on Friday at age 78 after a stroke and heart attack in Las Vegas, friends said.

Brown was the best selling black female artist of the early 1950s with songs including "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean," "So Long," "Teardrops From My Eyes," "Oh, What a Dream," and "Mambo Lips."

Her hits for Atlantic Records were so huge that record company became known as "The House that Ruth Built."

But her work with Atlantic Records ended in 1961 as her gutsy, belting style fell out of favor.

Her career faded in the 1960s and she was reduced to taking menial jobs, including that of a maid, until a revival of her work in 1970s. In later years she hosted her own National Public Radio show, "The Harlem Hit Parade," on the great black blues and R&B singers of the 1940s, 50s and 60s and won a Tony award for her work in the musical revue "Black and Blue."

When she left Atlantic, the company said she owed them $30,000. When her career revived, she led a battle for artists to receive royalties from record companies.

Besides being known as "The Girl with a Tear in her Voice," she was also called "The Original Queen of Rhythm & Blues," "Miss Rhythm & Blues," and "Miss Rhythm," a nickname given to her by Frankie Lane,

When she revived her career, she starred in Allen Toussaint's off-Broadway musical "Staggerlee" and appeared in John Waters' film "Hairspray" as Motormouth Maybelle.

She was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Singer Bonnie Raitt said, "Ruth was one of the most important and beloved figures in modern music. You can hear her influence in everyone from Little Richard to Etta (James), Aretha (Franklin), Janis (Joplin) and divas like Christina Aguilera today.

"She set the standard for sass, heartache and resilience in her life as well as her music, and fought tirelessly for royalty reform and recognition for the R&B pioneers who never got their due. She taught me more than anyone about survival, heart and class. She was my dear friend and I will miss her terribly."

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


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"Boogie & the Blues Diva"on DVD



Watch the trailer!

"Recorded at the Redford Theatre in October 2004, this program highlights 60 years in the history of American music. Maria Muldaur performs with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, recreating performances of the Classic Blues divas of the 20's and 30's. Butch Thompson, of "A Prairie Home Companion" fame, performs turn of the century ragtime and classic boogie woogie from Pinetop Smith. Detroit's Alma Smith performs mid-40's boogie woogie and blues, and the amazing Jason D. Williams performs Louis Jordan's "Caldonia," from the mid 40's, and the seminal rock and roll of Jerry Lee Lewis in the 50's.

56 minutes + 40 minutes of bonus material.
$25 includes shipping and handling


OR CALL: 1-866-270-5141 between 9am-6pm Eastern


Blues  Boogie Woogie  Merchandise  Ragtime and Stride  


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