Performances and extensive interviews with the artists are recorded on video at our annual Blues and Boogie Woogie Festivals. Excerpted footage is used to produce programs for public television and associated DVDs. The complete raw footage remains in our archives.
We are also engaged in an active quest to record the stories of the elder masters of American music, many of whom are no longer performing.
Pianist David Mathews performed with Maria Muldaur at our 6th Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2004. Two of his many tattoos pretty much sum up his musical breadth: One is of Tower Of Power, with whom he played during its heyday in the 80's. The other is of Fat's Waller. David is best known as long-time organist for Etta James, but he is also a master of stride piano and a regular performer at an annual boogie woogie summit in his home town of San Francisco.
Boston's David Maxwell has performed at three of our annual Blues & Boogie Woogie Festivals, most recently in 2003. His soulful, energetic, gospel, blues and jazz-tinged virtuoso playing reflects years as a sideman to such luminaries as Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Freddy King and James Cotton, and his long term relationships with Otis Spann, Sunnyland Slim and Pinetop Perkins.
Born in Detroit in 1928, pianist Harold McKinney was the patriarch of the city's leading jazz family and a driving force in Detroit's jazz scene for almost half a century. He played everything from bop to boogie woogie, and performed with such greats as Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane, and Wes Montgomery. He was a renown educator, teaching and inspiring generations of players. Harold's performance and an interview were videotaped during our first Blues & Boogie Woogie festival in 1999. Harold McKinney passed away in 2001.
Jay "hootie" McShann is a seminal figure in the history of jazz, and the videotape documenting his performance and interview at the 3rd annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2001 is a crucial part of our archive. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1916, Jay taught himself piano and began his professional career with Don Byas in 1931. In 1936 he moved to Kansas City, where he met pianist Pete Johnson and vocalist Joe Turner, both of would have a profound influence on his career. He formed the Jay McShann Orchestra in 1939, which defined the Kansas City sound.
Maria performed at the 6th annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2004 in a tribute to the blues divas of the 20's. Backed by James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, she recreated the sound of such greats as Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, and Ethel Waters. The video production is in the final stages of editing, and should be available for broadcast on public television, and for sale on DVD, by May of 2006.
Kenny, a multi-faceted musician who has mastered the harmonica, guitar, vocals, bass, trumpet and piano performed and was interviewed at the 2005 Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival. Kenny is the eldest of ten children and the son of blues harmonica player Raful Neal. All the Neals are skilled musicians, and Kenny has said that, "between the Nevilles and the Neals, there are so many of us that we could be an entire music festival by ourselves"
Pinetop is the last of the original boogie woogie pianists. Perkins spent 12 years playing with Muddy Waters before going out on his own. The Blues Foundation named him Blues Pianist of the year so many times that it eventually "retired" him from the award and named it after him. In 2005 he was given a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. Pinetop performed at the 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008.
The PBB was our "house" band at the 7th Annual Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2005, performing alone and with Tasha Taylor, Kenny Neal, Bernard Allison, and Tito Jackson. The band was formed to back Taj Mahal on his CD, "Dancin' The Blues," and its members are all successful artists in their own rights. The PBB are two-time Grammy winners and recipients of the 2001 W.C. Handy Award for Band of the Year for their work with Taj Mahal.
Ana Popavic was born and raised in Belgrade, where her father played blues guitar and hosted jam sessions at their home. Today she is a truly astounding player as well as a prolific songwriter. Ana has recorded four albums, three for Ruf and one for Delta Groove poduced by John Porter. She received w W.C. Handy Blues Music Award in but her soul resides in Memphis, where she has recorded three critically acclaimed albums. In 2003 she won three French blues awards and received a W.C. Handy nomination for Best New Artist. In 2006 was nominated for six Living Blues Awards.
Pianist Mike Przybylski began his career over 20 years ago performing with is father "Honky Tonk" Henry at Detroit's legendary Woodridge Tavern, and he has been performing professionally ever since. Mike is pictured here with the magnificent Redford Theater, on which he played some boogie woogie at our annual Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2002.
"Sir" Mack Rice and the Falcons (Joe Stubbs, Wilson Pickett, and Eddie Floyd) were one of the first black groups to appear on the Dick Clark Show in 1959. Rice then spent some 20 years commuting between Detroit and Memphis as he became a solo star and writer for Stax Records. Rice penned "Mustang Sally," "Respect Yourself," among many, many others. Mack performed at the 8th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2006.
Frank "Sugar Chile'" Robinson was one of the biggest child stars of the 50's, playing boogie woogie on records, 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. At the 2007 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival Frank performed a set he called, "That was then," featuring boogie woogie piano; and "this is now," featuring gospel music sung by his church choir.
Bobby began performing in the juke joints of northern Louisiana as a teenager. He moved to Chicago in the mid-50's, where his bands included the likes of Fredie King, Earl Hooker, and Luther Allison. Rush calls his music "folk-funk," deeply rooted in tradition but decidedly modern. Rush was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.
Hailing from the Netherlands, Martijn's brilliant performance at the 5th Annual Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival combined with his insightful interview illustrates the European demand for and appreciation of this traditional form of American roots music. Martijn was introduced to boogie-woogie at the early age of 15 and credits his influences as boogie-woogie legends Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. Martijn has played virtually all the great Dutch jazz and blues festivals both solo and with his trio and has released seven successful boogie-woogie CDs.
In the world of boogie woogie, Detroit's Bob Seeley is legendary. He has performed at two of our annual Blues and Boogie Woogie festivals. Bob's early influences extend to Pat Flowers, Fats Waller, Meade Lux Lewis, Art Tatum, and Eubie Blake, all of whom he knew personally.
Alma Smith performed and was documented during the 6th Annual Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival in 2004. Raised in Detroit's North End, Alma began playing piano as a child, encouraged by her mother. When Alma came of age in the 40's she joined one of a burgeoning group of piano trios. They went on the road, opening for Art Tatum in Cleveland. In her interview Alma speaks of how, when the band landed a gig in LA, this "fine looking man" would come from the club across the street to hear her play. When she finally met him, he introduced himself as Erroll Garner. Alma's other influences are Tatum, Fats Waller and Nat "King" Cole.
In 1957, Willie started sitting in on drums with Muddy Waters' band and soon became a permanent member, appearing on all of Muddy's Grammy-winning albums. In 1980 Willie co-founded the Legendary Blues Band with Pinetop Perkins, Louis Myers, Calvin Jones, and Jerry Portnoy. The group was nominated for several Grammy Awards, recorded four critically acclaimed albums on the Ichiban label, backed up Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf and Junior Wells, toured with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. Willie performed with Pinetop Perkins at the 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008.
The official pianos of the Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival have always been Yamahas, and as Coordinator for Yamaha Artist Services, James is one of our oldest friends. Born in Aruba, James started playing piano at the age of 5. He has a long association with the world of modern dance as an accompanist and composer. James is also an aficionado and performer of stride piano. While James attends our annual festival every year, he did perform and Emcee in 2002 for the 4th Annual Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival.