Alabama Blues Project Update - Summer 2006



Welcome to our Summer 2006 Newsletter! Please click a link on our menu or just keep scrolling . . . .

  1. Vera Hall Memorial Fund and Marker
  2. Willie King's 9th Freedom Creek Festival
  3. Alabama Blues Musician Awards
  4. Adolphus Bell
  5. Farewell to Clarence and Curtis Butler
  6. ABP Hires First Full-Time Staff Member
  7. Upcoming Events

We hope you will join us for a very exciting fundraising event on July 21st at the L & N Train Station (formally the Old Train Station) in downtown Tuscaloosa. The fundraiser will feature live music from The Project, Willie King, Caroline Shines, and Debbie Bond, and also an amazing silent auction starring a guitar autographed by B.B. King!







2006 After-School Programs


Our Beginning Spring Blues Camp after-school program was again a huge success. We had more students than ever – averaging over forty-five kids each week through the semester. We continue to recruit children from some of the most underserved areas of our community – local housing projects, children in the custody of the state, foster children, as well as the wider community. Our life-skills curriculum along with the blues is a great combination for these kids and it is wonderful to see our program continue to impact the lives of children who really face tremendous challenges in their life. If you would like more information about our beginning blues camp please email

Our Advanced Blues Camp Band, now calling themselves “The Project,” has also been very busy! We are so proud to see how they have progressed in just over a year. We were particularly proud of their showcase performance at the Blues Foundation’s KBA Awards ceremony in Memphis, Tennessee, this February. In addition, over the last three months they have performed at a lot of events, including the Market Street Festival in Columbus, Mississippi, the Tuscaloosa Crawfish Festival, and a festival near and dear to us, Willie King’s Freedom Creek Festival in Pickens County, Alabama. Recently, along with Caroline Shines, the Project entertained on Family Day for the Mercedes Benz Corp, in Vance, Alabama. At each performance it’s amazing to see the expression on people’s faces as they witness a group of twelve kids singing the blues and sounding so great! They also recently recorded a great live DVD at the local Alabama Public Television studios.

Our two after-school programs are made possible by the generous support of our sponsors, including the Children’s Trust Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alligator Records, Mercedes Benz USA, Bonnie Raitt, and many other kind organizations and individuals.




2006 Rural School Tour

As well as our after-school blues camp, we have been busy visiting schools throughout the state on a rural schools tour, educating students with our “Blues in the Schools” programs. This program impacts many schools in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt, one of the most underserved areas of our state. Some of the schools we visited do not have any art or music instruction. Caroline Shines (daughter of the late, great bluesman Johnny Shines) and Willie King have been our featured artists and we have presented to well over 3,000 K-12 students this year. Special thanks for this program go to the Alabama State Council on the Arts.





Celebrating Alabama Blues History


Over the past decade we have also been working on various archival projects documenting the lives of Alabama blues musicians. We are very proud of our exhibition “Red, Hot, & Blue: A Spotlight on Alabama Blues Women” – a beautiful educational exhibit with period artifacts – that has been touring throughout the state at libraries, colleges, and festivals, including Auburn, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, and Livingston, Alabama.


The exhibition has been presented together with live shows through the year that have included Alabama blues women Caroline Shines, Sweet Claudette, Debbie Bond, Elnora Spencer, B.J. Miller, Lisa Mills, and others.

Our next goal is to document the rich story of the Alabama blues men, and our long-term dream is to establish a cultural arts center and archive to celebrate the much-neglected story of Alabama blues.

This exhibition project was made possible by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and the Tuscaloosa Consortium on Higher Education.




The Vera Hall Memorial Fund A Success!

Alabama songstress Vera Hall was born in Livingston, Alabama and was recorded first by the folklorists John and Allan Lomax. Although she was largely unrecognized in her lifetime, her talent and artistry continue to touch and speak to millions of people around the world through the extensive number of recordings that have been released in the last decade. As part of our campaign to celebrate Alabama blues women, we successfully raised the funds to create a historic marker in the honor of her musical legacy. The Livingston Historical Commission is making arrangements for the marker and we plan to have a celebration and dedication ceremony later this year when it is unveiled.

This marker has been made possible through generous donations from Moby, the Sikes Family, Anna Lomax, Innes Tart and many others thoughtful individuals. It is our wish this marker will not only celebrate Vera Hall's life, but also raise awareness of the contribution of African Americans from the state and help in a small way to increase cultural tourism in this very impoverished Black Belt region of Alabama. The marker will be placed outside the courthouse in Livingston. This site was chosen because it will get maximum exposure.






Willie King's Freedom Creek Blues Festival 2006

Record numbers came to Willie King’s 9th Annual Freedom Creek Blues Festival at his home in the Alabama backwoods. Due to popular demand, the festival became a two-day event for the first time, and featured headliners Honeyboy Edwards and Willie King and the Liberators. Other great blues acts included Mudcat, Caroline Shines, Reverend Little, Sweet Claudette, Little Lee, "Birmingham" George Conner, Debbie Bond, Clarence Davis, Jesse Daniels, Taylor Moore, the Old Memphis Kings, Grapevine, Todd Johnson, Jock Webb, and more!

This year’s festival was made possible by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Music Maker Foundation, with assistance from the Alabama Blues Project.







Blues Musicians Receive National Recognition

Alabama has a rich blues culture that has often been over looked in the story of the blues. W.C. Handy, Wild Child Butler, and Big Mama Thornton are just a few great blues artists from the state. We are very happy to see so many contemporary Alabama Blues musicians getting some of the recognition they deserve. During 2005 and 2006 three noteworthy artists were recognized for their outstanding musical accomplishments.

Congratulations to Jerry “Boogie” McCain, from Gadsden, in North Alabama for being awarded Best Blues Harmonica Player by the Blues Critic, the Online Home of Blues and Southern Soul. Other nominees included the amazing Sugar Ray Norcia and John "Juke" Logan In the words of Jerry McCain or Sam Cooke, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”
We are very proud of Alabama ’s legendary Willie King who hales from Old Memphis in Pickens, West Alabama . He was nominated for the prestigious Blues Music Awards 2006 Traditional Album of the Year and 2006 Blues Male Artist of the Year by the Blues Foundation.
Congrats also to Alabama’s very own Lil' Jimmy Reed who was named Blues Harmonica Player of the Year by the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame. Reed, AKA Leon Atkins, is a self-taught guitarist and harmonica player who has been entertaining since he was just sixteen years old. He recalls his dad bought him a guitar on a Monday and he was playing it by Saturday. Lil' Jimmy Reed got his break when the real Jimmy Reed was too inebriated to perform one night. Jimmy Reed was snuck out the back door and Lil' Jimmy Reed was put on stage. Since then Lil' Jimmy Reed continues to make an impact in the blues and entertain audiences nationwide. Little Jimmy Reed makes his home in Enterprise, Alabama, where also works in his barber shop.







Adolphus Bell Cut's His First CD With Music Maker Foundation

We are very thankful to the Music Maker Foundation for their support and promotion of the wonderful the Alabama blues musician and one-man band, Adolphus Bell. We are very excited about Adolphus' debut release. Since joining forces with the Music Maker Foundation Adolphus has been globe trotting and touring around the world entertaining audiences with his house rocking blues.


Click to enlarge " Adolphus Bell's music stands so well on its own merits that the CD listener soon forgets that he's listening to a one-man band. He's got the same sort of idiosyncratic appeal as Juke Boy Bonner or Guitar Gabriel. This debut album should not be missed." - Jim DeKoster, Living Blues Magazine


Adolphus Bell was born on June 5, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama . His father a coal miner died two months before he was born. Growing up in Luverne, Alabama he went to work as a child as a farm laborer. His mother moved the family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. At the age of 22 he began his pursuit of music full-time, a few years later discouraged from keeping up with band members he developed his One Man Band. Adolphus has been playing on the streets and house parties and since the late 60s has been an activist, constantly performing on the streets of urban ghettos for the kids, trying to ease their frustrations with his music. In 2005 Adolphus has been booked at major European festivals and is looking forward to traveling further with his music. You can purchase this CD directly from the Music Maker Foundation.









On Sunday, March 26th in the Detroit Blue’s Society held a memorial benefit to celebrate two blues legends, Clarence and Curtis Butler. The brothers were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and were recipients of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society. Their impressive recording list includes five Butler Twins CDs, their own LP and contributions to four other CDs.  Clarence and Curtis Butler were born on January 21, 1942 in Florence, AL . They were introduced to the blues at a very early age by their guitar playing father, Willie “Butch” Butler and his harmonica playing friend, Raymond Edwards. Eventually the twins would start playing music as well and by the age of seven won a talent contest at the W.C. Handy Elementary School . At the age of 14 Curtis and Clarence had formed a band and by 16 they were touring small towns throughout the southeast. By the 1970’s they were already in Detroit making music together, with Clarence on harmonica and vocals and Curtis on guitar. Not only did they play the blues, they lived the lifestyle. The benefit on March 26th was held on behalf of the style='font-family: Arial;Butler twins to raise money for their unmarked graves and to give them the recognition they truly deserve.



ABP News

We are very excited to let you know how much we are enjoying our new full-time Program Director, Betsy Myers! Her wonderful positive personality, high energy and love of kids and our programs is making all the difference in the world and has really been a blessing to the on-going activities of the Alabama Blues Project.




Mark Your Calendar


All these events are in Alabama


July 1, Saturday

  Willie King and the Liberators at Little Willie's in Tuscaloosa (tel: 205 752 2060)
July 4, Tuesday
Willie King & The Liberators in Downtown Tuscaloosa
July 21, Friday
A Night Of Blues ABP Benefit with Willie King, Caroline Shines and Debbie Bond - and Lots of WAY Cool Auction Items!!!!!!! (tel: 205 752 6263)
August 12, Saturday
Alabama Blues Project band The Project at Snow Hinton Park, Tuscaloosa (tel: 205 752 6263)
September 3, Sunday
Magic City Blues Society Bluesfest (
September 30, Saturday
Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo at the Verizon Wireless Music Center, Birmingham
October 18, Wednesday
Eric Clapton and Robert Cray Band at the BJCC Arena, Birmingham
October 21, Saturday
Etta James and the Roots Band at the Alabama Theater, Birmingham