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


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

Watch the first 5 minutes.

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

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

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

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

DVDs are available at the AMRF’s online store.

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



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Mike Montgomery


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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • We called him "The Encyclopedia Montgomrica." This is a terrible loss....more
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Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Watch the first five minutes of the program here 

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


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



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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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A New Look for the AMRF Website


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


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


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


American Music Research Foundation

30733 West Ten Mile Road

Farmington Hills, MI 48336-2605






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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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International Boogie Woogie Honored in Houston


The American Music Research Foundation’s “International Boogie Woogie” was honored with a 2009 Gold Remi Award for Television or Cable Documentary at Worldfest, the 42nd Annual Houston International Film Festival. WorldFest is one of the oldest and largest film & video competitions in the world, with more than 4,500 category entries received from 33 countries in 2009. Awards were determined by points accumulated in juried viewings.

“International Boogie Woogie” documents solo and trio performances by four internationally acclaimed pianists at the 7th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, augmented by interviews with the artists: Switzerland’s Sylvan Zingg, France’s Philippe LeJeune, and Canadians Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne and Michael Kaeshammer. Wayne emigrated from California, and Kaeshammer from Germany.

“International Boogie Woogie” was originally uplinked by NETA in MAy 2008, NOLA INBM OK1. It is the most recent of four nationally distributed documentaries produced by the AMRF, a non-profit based in Farmington Hills, Michigan dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and documentation of American music. “Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival” was released in 2005, “Boogie & the Blues Diva in 2006, and “Gen2 Blues” in 2007.

The AMRF will release three new programs this year. Companions “Big Band Blues” and “Big Band Boogie Woogie” feature the Paul Keller Orchestra with pianists Charles Boles, Mr. B., Bob Seeley, and Axel Zwingenberger; saxophonist Red Holloway; clarinetist Dave Bennett, and guitarist George Bedard. “4 Shades of Blues” features Ruthie Foster, Ana Popovic, Tommy Castro, and Koko Taylor.

Executive Producer and AMRF Founder Ron Harwood said of the award, “I began filming these shows 10 years ago simply to document and preserve the excellence and elegance of underappreciated artists and genres. I never expected to win awards, but I am proud of our group’s achievements.” Producer and AMRF Director John Penney added, “It’s particularly appropriate that we received this award in Texas, the birthplace of boogie woogie.”

For a DVD containing the complete program
and an additional 45 minutes of bonus footage
call toll free 866-270-5141.
$25 includes postage and handling.

CONTACT: John Penney 248- 478-2525


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A Great Weekend at the Detroit International Jazzfest


Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us and sharing your e-mail address. We promise not to abuse the privilage and assure you we will not share your information with anyone else.

The American Music Research Foundation, better known as the AMRF, is a non-profit dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and documentation of American music and the artists who create it, paying particular attention to the blues and boogie woogie, jazz, R&B, stride and ragtime. Being non-profit means we're in it for the music. Nobody makes a dime off of our efforts except for the musicians, and we do our best to help them.

Watch a slideshow of images from the Detroit International Jazz Festival.  view slideshow

Our primary activity is production of the Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, now in its ninth year. We do professional video shoots of the performances and of extensive interviews with the artists, in which they tell their stories and talk about their music. This raw documentary footage is preserved in our archives and available to historians, film makers, and other interested parties. We are blessed to have documented such seminal artists as Jay McShann, Johnnie Johnson, Harold McKinney, Joe Hunter, Alberta Adams, Johnnie Bassett, and "Sir" Mack Rice, to name but a few among the well over 50 artists represented.

From the raw footage we produce nationally distributed programs for public television. "2003 Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival" and "Boogie & the Blues Diva: 2004 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival" have been aired over 300 times on over 140 stations around the country, accessible to over 124 million viewers.

Our newest program, "Gen2 Blues," will debut on Detroit Public Television Saturday September 29th at 7pm before being released nationally through WGVU-TV in Grand Rapdis. DVDs including over an hour of bonus material will be available for purchase at this year's festival.  

The 9th Annual Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Fesitival promises to be bigger and better than ever at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Detroit. On Friday night October 5th it's Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine, the Tommy Castro Band, Ruthie Foster, and Ana Popovic. On Saturday October 6 Marcia Ball headlines, with The Deanna Bogart Band, Leon Blue, Matt Wigler, and Frank "Sugar Chile" Robinson. For more information follow this link. 

As a non-profit we are dependant upon the support of sponsors and members. We hope you will consider making a donation to the AMRF. Basic membership costs only $15, and all donations are tax deductable as allowable by law.

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First Annual Great Lakes Blues Society Summit


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AMRF Invites Evacuees to Attend Blues & Boogie Fest

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

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Katrina's Piano Instrument Purchases

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

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AMRF Katrina's Second Line Coalition


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

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

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

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

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

Katrina's Piano Fund

Greenfield Savings Bank, attn: Alexa

400 Main St.

P.O. Box 1537

ph: 888-324-3191


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

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

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

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

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