(JACKSON, MS) – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi’s Cathead Distillery has shifted their operations to produce hand sanitizer. Today, it expanded its support of the arts nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation by sending their elderly partner artists bottles of their Comfort and Mercy hand sanitizer. The partnership between the distillery and the nonprofit has thrived for over 10 years.
The need among Music Maker Relief Foundation partner artists is dire. These artists are over the age of 55, living in poverty, and have had their shows canceled for the foreseeable future. Ester Mae Wilbourn, Robert Lee Coleman, Mary Lane and Chuck Bush are four of the elder musicians that will receive hand sanitizer from Cathead.
Based in Como, MS, Ester Mae Wilbourn is the eldest member of the Como Mamas (Daptone Records). Ester recently had a new roof put on her house with the help of Music Maker and is glad to be in a safe place during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Guitar hero Robert Lee Coleman is based in Macon, GA and formerly played with James Brown and Percy Sledge. He was slated to play with the Music Maker Blues Revue at Jazz Fest for the very first time but the festival has been postponed to the fall of 2020 with no firm dates in place. Additionally, all of Coleman’s local gigs have been canceled. He’s been featured in Premier Guitar and was gifted a PRS guitar by Paul Reed Smith himself.
Born in 1936, in Clarendon, Arkansas, Mary Lane grew up picking cotton until moving to Chicago where she quickly became a staple on the Westside Blues scene, playing alongside greats such as Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, and Junior Wells. In 2019, Mary released the album Travelin’ Woman; was the focus of a feature length documentary about her life and struggles; and was featured on NPR Weekend Edition.
Lafayette based Zydeco legend Chuck Bush will also receive the much-needed hand sanitizer. Last week Chuck tested positive for COVID-19 after being hospitalized with pneumonia. He is back home now and expected to make a full recovery. The hand sanitizer will help prevent Chuck from spreading the disease further.
Music Maker Relief Foundation is further helping these musicians by providing grants for lost performances, grocery deliveries, and emergency funding as needed.
Cathead is rooted in respect for blues culture. The term “Cathead” is a compliment in Mississippi, first coined back in the day by blues musicians as a nod to artists they respect. Mississippi artists and musicians went on to use “Catheads” in many forms of folk art, as a way to pay the rent and share their legacies.