The sounds, and the stars, of the blues rule Memphis when Blues Music Week kicks off on May 8.
(MEMPHIS, TN) — There has never been a Blues Music Week quite like one that will be happening this May, and it all starts and ends with Little Steven Van Zandt. Back in January, Little Steven served as a finals judge for the International Blues Challenge, and came away so impressed with The Blues Foundation’s work to preserve blues heritage and celebrate blues recording and performance that he offered to return as the host of the Blues Music Awards in order to help bring even greater awareness to the significance of this music form. He will launch Blues Music Week with a special Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul show at Memphis’ Minglewood Hall on Tuesday, May 8. Then, on Thursday, May 10, he’ll emcee the biggest awards show in Blues at the Cook Convention Center, where he will be joined on stage by such big-name award presenters as Steve Miller, Joe Louis Walker, Janiva Magness, Tito Jackson, Candi Staton, and Tony Joe White.
Wednesday, May 9 holds its own rewards for music fans when The Halloran Centre for Performing Arts will open its doors for the Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. There is a cocktail reception at 5:30 pm, which leads into the ceremony at 6:30 pm. This event is open to the public; tickets are $75 per person and are available at 2018 Blues Hall of Fame Ceremony Tickets.
The 39th class of Hall of Fame inductees features an illustrious lineup: guitar great Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the incomparable drummer Sam Lay, the renowned blues pianist and songwriter Georgia Tom Dorsey, the acclaimed Chicago blues band The Aces, and the first “Queen of the Blues,” singer Mamie Smith.
After the joy-filled BHOF ceremony concludes, everyone is invited attend Big LLou’s 6th Annual Blues Hall of Fame Tribute Jam & Juke Joynt Party at the Warehouse. The show, which begins at 9 pm, serves as a fundraiser for the Blues Foundation and Generation Blues, a program that sends qualified music students to blues camps or workshops to study their instrument of choice.
The Blues Hall of Fame Museum is the starting point for the festivities on Thursday, May 10. Visitors will get a first look at newly installed memorabilia from its 2018 inductee class, to include such items as Sam Lay’s cape and cane to Aces’ member Louis Myers’ harmonica. Then, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., the museum will host a special meet-and-greet with painter Michael P. Maness, whose art is currently on display in its Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise Gallery. The exhibit showcases his portraits of Blues Hall of Famers and past Blues Music Award winners, and many are signed by the performers represented in the works. Don’t be surprised if a number of the musicians depicted in the paintings visit this program to sign paintings. All the artwork is available for purchase, with a portion of each sale being donated by the artist to the Blues Foundation.
Also May 10, from noon-2:30 pm, the Blues Foundation’s HART Fund will hold health screenings for all musicians, free of charge, on the mezzanine level of Sheraton Hotel, which is the official BMA host hotel. MusicCares will be on hand to fit musicians who qualify for custom-made ear molds to protect their hearing. Additionally, The Memphis, Chicago and Texas chapters of the Recording Academy will host their annual BMA reception, at 1 pm. Taking place at the Sheraton Downtown Memphis Hotel, this event is open to all BMA attendees.
The day’s main event is the Blues Music Awards, which starts off with a reception beginning at 5:30 pm in the Grand Lobby of the Memphis Cook Convention Center. There will be live music from various nominees, along with a cash bar. The BMA ceremony, hosted by Little Steven, commences at 7 p.m. sharp in the Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom. The exciting evening includes a seated dinner, 26 award presentations and a full night of nominee performances. The fun will spill out into the Grand Ballroom’s foyer, where you’ll find a one-of-a-kind silent auction. BMA tickets are available to the public and are on sale now — $150 per person or a table of 10 for $1500 — at www.blues.org.
The first big event for Little Steven during Blues Music Week is the Minglewood Hall concert on Tuesday, May 8. This Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul show is part of their landmark tour benefiting the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s TeachRock initiative, which is centered around a national middle and high school curriculum. This outreach program fits in with the Blues Foundation’s own educational mission to bring more blues to the next generation. Before the concert’s sound-check, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation will also host free TeachRock Professional Development Workshops, and educators who attend will receive a complimentary ticket to that evening’s show. Educators in the Memphis area can contact Christine@RockAndRollForever.org for more information.