MEMPHIS, Tenn.—The Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Week delivers an abundance of amazing events for acclaimed musicians, industry professionals, ardent fans, and the general public to experience in the cradle of blues, Memphis, Tennessee. This popular annual gathering provides an exhilarating opportunity to pay tribute to today’s top performers along with saluting blues’ vital history and heritage.
The Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame welcomes its 40th class Wednesday, May 8 in an Induction Ceremony at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts (225 S. Main St.). Inductees and their families will be in attendance to accept this prestigious honor that covers five key areas of the blues music world: Performers; Individuals from Business, Production, Media or Academic; Classics of Blues Recording (Singles); Classics of Blues Recording (Albums); and Classics of Blues Literature.
The iconic singer Aretha Franklin,the legendary composer/pianist/band leader Count Basie, 1920s-era blues queen Ida Cox, influential guitarist Pee Wee Crayton, and the revered Memphis-based band Booker T. & the MG’s are the musicians joining the Hall this year, and Folkways Records founder Moses “Moe” Asch is the non-performing individual inductee. The recordings being added to the Blues Hall of Fame are B.B. King’s “Every Day I Have the Blues,” Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone,” Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” Bessie Smith’s “The St. Louis Blues,” and Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker” as well as his album The Sky Is Crying, while Lost Delta Found: Rediscovering the Fisk University —Library of Congress Coahoma County Study, 1941-1942 is 2019’s Classics of Blues Literature entrant.
The Blues Hall of Fame evening starts at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception honoring the BHOF inductees and BMA nominees, followed by the ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased at this link. (THIS EVENT HAS NOW SOLD OUT).
The cream of today’s blues scene will convene for the 40th Blues Music Awards the following night, Thursday, May 9, at Memphis’ Cook Convention Center (255 N. Main St.). Steven Van Zandt will return to host the event and award presenters will include Maria Muldaur, who has earned multiple Grammy® and BMA nominations over the years, recent Juno Winner Colin James, Blues Hall of Famer and soul icon Latimore, Steppenwolf’s John Kay, and more. Awards will be handed out in 25 categories, with keyboard dynamo Anthony Geraci, majestic songstress Shemekia Copeland, and Chicago-based guitarist Nick Moss leading the way in this year’s nomination count. Blues Hall of Famers Bobby Rush, Joe Louis Walker, and Buddy Guy also are up for awards, and the room will be filled with BMA nominees, many of whom will perform during the course of the evening. The pre-event reception, featuring nominee music and a silent auction, commences at 5:30 p.m. The awards show, which begins at 7 p.m., includes a seated dinner and nominee performances. Individual BMA tickets are $150, while Regular Tables for 10 are $1,500, tickets are available at this link. (THIS EVENT HAS NOW SOLD OUT).
Blues Music Week offers even more than those two illustrious events. On May 8, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum (421 S. Main St.) will open a new exhibit, “The Blues According to Arhoolie,” which comes packed with memorabilia and historic items celebrating this important roots-music label. Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz will appear that day, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., to greet visitors and answer questions about his career and the label and its music. Following that, at 1 p.m., is a book signing for Dick Waterman — A Life in Blues, by Tammy L. Turner. The author and her subject, the noted blues historian/photographer Dick Waterman, will be there for a short Q&A and to sign books (which can be purchased in the Museum’s gift shop).
On May 9 the Blues Foundation will curate a special BMA panel, “The Blues and Race – Part II,” a continuation of the keynote panel at January’s International Blues Challenge. Noelle Trent, PhD., the Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education at the National Civil Rights Museum, will moderate as musicians Bobby Rush, Billy Branch, Thornetta Davis, Terrie Odabi, and festival promoter Paul Benjamin explore the historical significance of race within the blues genre, and what the future holds for the next generation.This event will take place at the Blues Music Awards’ host hotel, the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel (250 N. Main St.), from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The panel is open to the community and free of charge.
Also on May 9 are the Blues Foundation’s BMA HART Fund Musician Health Screenings, occurring from noon-2:30 p.m.in the Sheraton Hotel. Doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners will provide blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, PSA testing, vision and other health screenings. The HART Fund will also offer ear molds for custom-made professional-quality ear plugs for all musicians or qualified members of the music industry. Also that day is the Recording Academy Reception at the Sheraton, 1-3 p.m. Blues musicians and blues music industry members are invited to celebrate with food and drinks and to learn how they might get involved in the GRAMMY Awards process, from submitting current projects for awards consideration to voting.
May 10 finds another prominent label founder, Alligator Records’ Bruce Iglauer, visiting the Blues Hall of Fame. From 1-2 p.m., Igluaer will share stories about his career and answer questions relating to his new memoir, Bitten by the Blues. He will sign copies of the book that are available for purchase.
Blues Music Week concludes on May 10, from 4 p.m. and on into the night, with what this event is all about — music, as the Hard Rock Café (126 Beale Street) hosts a benefit for the Blue Foundation’s youth program, Generation Blues. Many BMA nominees and other musicians will perform at this show, hosted by the Andy T Band. All of Beale Street, in fact, will be alive with the sounds of blues, as BMA Fest presents blues musicians, including many nominees, from 4-9 p.m. in clubs along this iconic blues street. BMA Fest wristbands can be bought on Beale Street that day for just $10.