Mississippi Blues Trail Winds Its Way to The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles

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On Thursday, February 10, this year’s “Mississippi Music Celebration at The GRAMMY Museum” at L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles will celebrate that unparalleled musical legacy and specifically honor Mississippi’s pivotal role in the establishment of blues music and that genre’s influence across the music industry.

“Trace the lineage of music in this country, and you’ll find the roots here in Mississippi. We’ve been blessed with a long, rich history of musical traditions that have expanded to a worldwide audience.”

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour

Mississippi blues, country, gospel, soul and rock 'n' roll artists are at the center of American popular music and that legacy is apparent in the number of Mississippians who have been recognized by The Recording Academy® with GRAMMY® Awards, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame® inductions and Lifetime Achievement Awards. On Thursday, February 10, this year’s “Mississippi Music Celebration at The GRAMMY Museum” at L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles will celebrate that unparalleled musical legacy and specifically honor Mississippi’s pivotal role in the establishment of blues music and that genre’s influence across the music industry. The event is part of GRAMMY Week, a preamble to the GRAMMY Awards ceremony scheduled on Sunday, February 13.

On February 10 at 5 p.m., a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker will be unveiled at The GRAMMY Museum and Nokia Plaza L.A. LIVE. At 7:30 p.m. at The GRAMMY Museum’s Clive Davis Theater, a Mississippi musical showcase will kick off featuring Jimbo Mathus, Shannon McNally and The Homemade Jamz Blues Band.

“Mississippi’s influence on America’s music stretches from coast to coast – and beyond,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. “Trace the lineage of music in this country, and you’ll find the roots here in Mississippi. We’ve been blessed with a long, rich history of musical traditions that have expanded to a worldwide audience.”

“As the birthplace of America’s music, Mississippi’s influence can be heard everywhere,” noted Bob Santelli, executive director of The GRAMMY Museum. “We’re thrilled to showcase Mississippi’s blues heritage for the second year in a row here at The GRAMMY Museum. The artists participating in Mississippi Night perfectly highlight the tremendous range of Mississippi’s musical legacy.”

The annual GRAMMY Awards celebrate the wealth of American popular music, whose development is hard to imagine without the contributions of Mississippi blues artists. The blues emerged in Mississippi and other states around the turn of the 20th century, around the same time that the phonograph was gaining popularity. With the success of blues recordings by African American singers in the 1920s, the music became an economically important, though initially low-status, sector of the recording industry. In later decades, mainstream acknowledgement of the blues increased dramatically, a development that was both reflected in and aided by various forms of recognition by The Recording Academy.

The GRAMMY Awards were first presented in 1959, a time when blues was being eclipsed in the charts by R&B music. During the first decade of the awards, several Mississippi blues artists were nominated in the Best R&B Performance category, and the first to receive this award was B. B. King for his 1970 breakthrough hit, ”The Thrill Is Gone.” Blues gained more prominence with the creation of the award for Best Ethnic Or Traditional Folk Recording in 1970, which Muddy Waters received for six of his albums between 1971 and 1980. A Best Traditional Blues category was established beginning in 1982, and between 1983 and 2008, B. B. King was the recipient ten times. He also received awards in Best Pop Instrumental Performance, Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals and Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Other Mississippi-born artists who received GRAMMY Awards in the Best Traditional Blues category include: John Lee Hooker, who received three, Ike Turner, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Henry Townsend, Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. In 1995, Roebuck “Pops” Staples received an award in the Best Contemporary Blues category, which was established in 1988.

The Recording Academy has also retroactively acknowledged the role of Mississippi music with several inductions in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, established in 1973, which honors recordings of historical significance. The dozens of songs featuring Mississippi natives include pioneer recordings by Charley Patton, The Mississippi Sheiks and Jimmie Rodgers, early electric blues classics by Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker and soul anthems by Sam Cooke, Rufus Thomas and Ike and Tina Turner. Mississippians who have received The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award include B. B. King, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Muddy Waters, Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, the Pops Staples-led Staple Singers and opera diva Leontyne Price.

“Mississippi music is more than just a historical fact,” said Jon Hornyak, Sr. Executive Director of The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter. “The state is giving birth to more American music every day in a renaissance that spans genres and geography, from Biloxi to Clarksdale to the North Mississippi hill country. The Mississippi Music Celebration at The GRAMMY Museum will present some of the best of the new generation that is ensuring Mississippi has a musical future worthy of its illustrious past: Jimbo Mathus, Shannon McNally and the Homemade Jamz Blues Band.”

The Mississippi Blues Trail is a museum without walls taking visitors on a musical history journey through Mississippi. The trail started with the first official marker in Holly Ridge, the resting place of the blues guitarist Charley Patton, and now boasts more than 120 markers. The GRAMMY Museum marker is the ninth out-of-state marker. Other out-of-state markers are located in Chicago; Memphis; Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Ferriday, Louisiana; Helena, Arkansas; Rockland, Maine; Grafton, Wisconsin; and Tallahassee, Florida.

For more information about the Mississippi Blues Trail, visit http://www.msbluestrail.org or explore the official Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Web site, http://www.visitmississippi.org.

About the Performers

The great producer and Independence, Miss. native Jim Dickinson called Jimbo Mathus, “the singing voice of Huck Finn.” Outside the South, Mathus is likely known as the ringleader of the hyper-ragtime outfit Squirrel Nut Zippers, or as the catalyst for Buddy Guy’s breakthrough and GRAMMY-nominated 2001 recording, Sweet Tea. He worked on Guy’s 2004 GRAMMY-winning Blues Singer album and contributed vocals to the North Mississippi Allstars 2006 Grammy-nominated Electric Blues Watermelon. In his native Mississippi, and throughout the South, Mathus is recognized as the prolific songwriter of born-in-the-bone Southern music, the torchbearer for Deep South mythology and culture. Think Delta highways, bowling-pin Budweisers and “innerplanetary honky-tonk” for the masses. This year he earned a GRAMMY nomination for his participation in Luther Dickinson & The Sons of Mudboy’s Onward and Upward in the Traditional Folk category. Mathus is a member, along with fellow Mississippians Alvin Youngblood Hart and the aforementioned Luther Dickinson, of the South Memphis String Band, the retro-roots “supergroup.” His latest band, The Tri-State Coalition, features solid talent cut from the same Delta cloth. Mathus describes Tri-State’s sound as “a true Southern amalgam of blues, white country, soul and rock-n-roll.” Mathus’ next release is Confederate Buddha to be released by Memphis International Records later this year. Please visit Mathus’ website at http://www.jimbomathus.com.

A recently-minted Mississippian, singer-songwriter Shannon McNally makes her home in Holly Springs, but she’s long been steeped in a variety of Magnolia State musical traditions. She’s equally at home belting out a vintage blues, singing a heartfelt Jimmie Rodgers country classic (as she plans to do at The GRAMMY Museum) or soulfully performing one of her own well-crafted songs from her acclaimed albums Coldwater, Geronimo and Jukebox Sparrows. She worked with the late, legendary Mississippi musician/producer Jim Dickinson on what would be one of his final projects. She has been nominated for a GRAMMY for her work on the Dickinson tribute album, Onward and Upward, part of an ensemble featuring some of the finest of the new breed of innovative Mississippi musicians, including Jim’s son Luther Dickinson and Jimbo Mathus. Her latest recording project is Western Ballad, available March 22, 2011 on her label Sacred Sumac and through her website: http://shannonmcnally.com.

The future of Mississippi blues is in good hands with The Homemade Jamz Blues Band, a Tupelo-based family group with a funky, seasoned sound that belies the amazing fact that it features two teens and a tween. Fronted by 18-year-old guitarist Ryan Perry, who has been playing the blues since he started on his father’s guitar at seven years old, the group features his 16-year-old brother Kyle on bass and their 12-year-old sister Taya on drums. Despite their youth, their skills earned a second place in the 2007 International Blues Challenge, the youngest band ever to appear in the competition. Homemade Jamz has electrified audiences the world over at festivals and concert halls, winning new fans for their music and bringing the deep sounds of the Mississippi Delta to the hip-hop generation. Their latest CD, The Game, can be found at their website: http://www.hmjamzbluesband.com.

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