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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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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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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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  • i had the pleasure of working with red holloway in the 2006 concert and I must s...more
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The AMRF Presents Corey Harris and Rasta Blues Experience



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

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

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

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

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




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




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


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


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


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


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


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




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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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We Need Your Help


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


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


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


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


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


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


The American Music Research Foundation

30733 West Ten Mile Road

Farmington Hills, MI 48336-2605


Thank you for your support!

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


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


This year, it was time to breathe.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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In Words and Pictures: 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival


Over the past decade the AMRF’s annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival has presented 59 artists (not counting supporting players) in 14 concerts and produced four nationally distributed public television programs. Three more programs will be on the air soon and four more are in production.

Our live audiences each night are treated to three or four hours of incredible performances by both legendary artists and those deserving wider recognition. Audiences are aware that we are filming for television – it’s hard to miss the looming  26ft. boom of the jib camera as it swoops in and away from the stage – but that’s about as far as it goes.

Each television program presents an hour of the best performances viewed from the best seats in the house, enhanced by interviews that bring viewers closer to the artists and their music. The DVDs contain about an hour of “extras,” including additional performances and extended interviews with the artists.

That’s a total of six hours of entertainment from each concert, 12 hours per year since the Festival expanded to two nights in 2005. Producing those 12 hours requires hundreds of hours of work by dozens of people. Planning for the next festival begins shortly after the last one ends.

We have written thousands of words about what we do and why we do it and could write a few thousand more about how our 10th Annual Festival was one of the most challenging but ultimately gratifying and important we have ever produced. But the cliché is that pictures are worth thousands of words and we have an unsurpassed collection of thousands of photographs documenting all of our festivals, including a few hundred from this one.

The photographer is John Collier, our long time friend who won many awards for his work at the Detroit Free Press. The slide show/photo essay linked below takes you behind the scenes with us during the final, frantic four days of this year’s production. We hope that the artistry of the photographs and the events they capture bring you as much joy as they have brought us.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the American Music Research Foundation 




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10 Years Young!


The Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival has always been about more than just presenting a great annual concert or two. From the beginning it was conceived as a vehicle that would bring great artists together so that their performances and stories could be captured on videotape.The goal is to document and preserve our musical and cultural heritage so that future generations will have an opportunity to understand it. This is the mission of the American Music Research Foundation.  

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary we can look back with satisfaction on the history we have preserved and even some history we have made. We have documented the music and stories of over 59 artists, including such seminal figures as Koko Taylor, Johnnie Johnson, and Jay McShann. (For a complete list visit the artists page of our website.)

In 2004 Maria Muldaur recreated the sound and look of the Classic Blues singers of the 20's with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, a performance that inspired the best selling album, "Naughty, Bawdy & Blue," and the title of our TV show and DVD, "Boogie & the Blues Diva."In 2006 we presented 22 artists on stage for a night of Big Band Boogie Woogie, including performances in which world renowned solo pianist Bob Seeley played with a big band for the first time. In 2007 we reintroduced Frank "Sugarchild" Robinson, who disappeared from the scene after having been one of the biggest stars of the day as a child in the 50's.

We have produced seven public television programs that have aired over 1,500 times on over 300 stations across the country. Three additional hours of programming are in production, and there are many more to follow.

Throughout our 10 years, our good friend John Collier has documented our festivals with his brilliant photography.

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  History  


  • Beautiful slideshow. I can't wait for the show this weekend!
    - [ryan]

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Gen2 Blues comes to Public Television



Childhood is different when your father is a famous blues musician; if you follow in his footsteps you bring a different perspective on music and history to your own artistry.  This is what unites the performers in Gen2 Blues: Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival. Kenny Neal is the oldest son of Raful Neal, Tasha Taylor grew up on the road with her father, Johnnie “The Wailer” Taylor, and Bernard Allison learned his first guitar licks by copying father Luther’s records.  Special guest Tito Jackson broke father Joe’s rule to not touch the guitar but if he hadn't it might not have been the Jackson 5.
Backed by the Phantom Blues Band these stellar performers create a joyous celebration of the blues. This program was recorded at the Royal Oak Music Theatre during the 7th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Festival in October 2005.

Click here  for rough-cut 3-minute sampler



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9th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival moves to Music Hall in Downtown Detroit


The American Music Research Foundation is pleased to announce that the 9th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival will take place in downtown Detroit at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts on Friday October 5th and Saturday October 6th. The performances will be recorded for public television.

Headlining on Friday night are Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine. With two Grammies, eight Grammy nominations, and a record 24 W.C. Handy Awards, Koko Taylor is one of the most celebrated blues performers alive today. She got her big break from Willie Dixon, who produced her first hit, “Wang Dang Doodle” in 1966.

 The Tommy Castro Band is simply one of the most exciting live blues bands on the circuit today. Guitarist/vocalist Castro was voted 2006 Blues Artist of the Year by readers of BluesWax, the largest subscribed blues publication in the country. Texas’ Ruthie Foster has been compared to Aretha, Ella and a young Tina Turner. The Austin Chronicle writes, “Foster’s deeply soulful vocals dip into gospel and swing towards contemporary folk with R&B panache. When she sings a cappella, the heavens part.”  Finally, Ana Popovic was born and raised in Belgrade, but her soul resides in Memphis, where she has recorded three critically acclaimed albums. In 2003 she received a W.C. Handy nomination for “Best New Artist,” and in 2006 was nominated for six Living Blues Awards.

Saturday night’s performance celebrates boogie woogie and blues piano. Headlining is the bayou queen of southern boogie, long, tall, Marcia Ball. Her performances never fail to raise the roof and bring down the house. Deanna Bogart is as proficient on the saxophone as she is on the piano, and The Deanna Bogart Band serves up the energy of 30’s style boogie woogie with the contemporary blues of places like Memphis, New Orleans, and Chicago. Leon Blue may just be the finest blues piano man you’ve never heard, but only because he has spent most of his career as a sideman, including lengthy spells with The Ike & Tina Turner Review, Lowell Fulsom, and Albert Collins to name but a few. In the early 50’s, Frank “Sugar Chile’” Robinson was a child star, playing boogie woogie on record, on television, in movies, and on tour with Count Basie among others. He gave up the big time as a teenager to pursue other interests, which included earning a PhD, but he continues to play piano in the church, where the music is the same but you have to call it something different. Rounding out the bill is today’s teenage boogie woogie sensation, Maryland’s Matt Wigler. Matt has appeared on stage with Buckwheat Zydeco, Bobby Rush, Tab Benoit, Sir Mack Rice, and many others. His debut album, “Matt Wigler XIII” was produced by Deanna Bogart.

Tickets are $27, $37, and $47, available at the Music Hall box office and Tickemaster.

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  


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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!

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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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A Pictorial Recap of the 7th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival


Please click on the "view slideshow" icon below to see a pictorial review of the 7th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival.

For those of you who did not attend the festival, the slide show will give you an opportunity to see what you missed and will give you a preview of what we hope you won't miss in the coming year.  For those of you who did attend, these photos will surely bring back the experience. 

After you watch the slide show we encourage you to register on our website so that you may add your thoughts and opinions to the dissussion board, enabling us to gauge your likes and dislikes or anything else you might wish to express about the festival. 

Enjoy the show...

view slideshow


AMRF Festivals and Concerts  


  • Post your comments here. If you didn't attend the festival, did the photos of t...more
    - [ronda]
  • The Blues Festival at the Royal Oak Theatre was great fun. The show was fantasti...more
    - [name not provided]

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2005 Festival Announcement


Daimler Chrysler
presents the
7th Annual Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival

Friday, October 14th   &   Saturday, October 15th 2005
at the Royal Oak Music Theatre

Friday, Oct. 14th - Boogie Woogie Revue
Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne (Canada)
Philippe Lejeune (France)
Michael Kaeshammer (Canada)
Silvan Zing (Switzerland)

Saturday, Oct. 15th - "Gen 2 Blues"
Phantom Blues Band
Bernard Allison (son of Luther Allison)
Kenny Neal (son of Raful Neal)
Tasha Taylor (daughter of "The Wailer" Johnnie Taylor)
With a special guest appearance by Tito Jackson

Produced by the American Music Research Foundation.

AMRF Festivals and Concerts  


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