Tickets still available for Blues Gala in Baton Rouge Thursday night
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Don't let the blues get you down. Let the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation show you why Baton Rouge is home to the "Swamp Blues," and why the city's musical history is so rich. The foundation was set up to promote, preserve and advance Baton Rouge Blues culture.
Thursday's (8/13/14) event will be held at 6:30pm at the Capitol Park Museum in Downtown Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge Blues Foundation will numerous blues artists and celebrate their influence on the Baton Rouge music scene. They'll be honoring Robert "Pete" Williams, Otis "Lightning Slim" Hicks, Jimmy Dotson, Leslie "Lazy Lester" Johnson, and Ernest "Tabby" Thomas.
You won't want to miss the Red Carpet entrance of local blues stars and celebreties. At an opening reception, the legendary Henry Gray will be playing piano. There will be plenty of authentic Louisiana food and a cash bar available. Tickets are $35.00, and you can purchase them here.
Now - a little information about the honorees and their local connection!
Robert "Pete" Williams was born in Zachary, LA, in March of 1914. He was born to sharecroppers, he had no formal education, and he spent his childhood working in cotton and sugarcane fields. Believe it or not, Williams made his own guitar out of a cigar box and copper strings when he was 20 years old. Pretty soon, though, Williams bought a commercially made guitar, and he played music at church gatherings, fish fries, and dances. But Williams had trouble with the law, when he shot a man in a nightclub in 1956. He claimed it was self-defense. He spent time at Angola State Penitentiary, but was eventually released. He wrote music in prison. Once he got out, his music became popular across the world! Williams died on New Year's Eve in 1980.
Otis "Lightnin' Slim" Hicks was actually born on a farm just outside St. Louis, MO, but he moved to Baton Rouge, LA, when he was 13 years old. He recorded for Excello Records and was known around the world for his Louisiana Blues style. Blues critic ED Denson actually ranked "Lightnin' Slim" as one of the five great blues musicians of the 1950's along with legends Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter. He toured around the world, and he's been credited as a major musical influence by quite a few blues artists.
Jimmy Dotson is being honored as a living legend. He was born in the Baton Rouge, LA area in 1933. Dotson has been playing guitar and writing songs for more than 60 years! He played with "Lightnin' Slim" and dozens of other well-known musicians including Isaac Hayes thoughout the years. He's credited with keeping Swamp Blues alive and making the music genre even more popular.
Leslie "Lazy Lester" Johnson will also be honored as a living legend. He was born in Torras, LA, which is in Pointe Coupee Parish. Johnson sings, plays guitar and harmonica. Legend has it, Johnson's career really took off during a bus ride when he found a seat next to "Lightnin' Slim" on a bus when they were on the way to a recording sesson for Excello Records. Someone was supposed to play harmonica on Slim's album and never showed up. Johnson volunteered, and the rest - as they say - is history. Music producer, Jay Miller, came up with the name "Lazy Lester," because of the way Johnson played his harmonica. Martin Scorsese put together a blues tribute concer at Radio City Music hall in 2003, and "Lazy Lester" was in the musical lineup along with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, The Neville Brothers, Dr. Joh, John Fogerty, and Aerosmith - just to name a few. A record of this musical event came out, called "Lightning in a Bottle," and proceeds from the sale of the CD went to the Blues Music Foundation.
Baton Rouge lost a legend when Ernest "Tabby" Thomas died in January, 2014, just days before he turned 85. He'd suffered a stroke and cancer. He raised a son, Chris Thomas King - who went on to win a Grammy Award. But Thomas was probably best known for his music, including "Hoodoo Party," and "Popeye Train." For more than two decades he ran Tabby's Blues Box which was THE home for Louisiana Swamp Blues music. He hosted a radio program in Baton Rouge, and he was a US Air Force Veteran. One of the coolest facts about Thomas - he entered into a talent show in San Francisco after he got out of the military. He reportedly won that talent contest, beating out Etta James and Johnny Mathis (yes, THAT Etta James and THAT Johnny Mathis).
So, now you know! Baton Rouge has been the birthplace and home to terrific and incredibly talented musicians. The people at the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation work tirelessly throughout the year to make sure they keep the blues alive so future generations will know the rich history and culture Baton Rouge has to share. The Baton Rouge Blues Foundation puts together a Blues Education program, the Blues Music History Project, and a free yearly Baton Rouge Blues Festival. Click here for more information on how you can be a part of their organization.