New festival celebrates blues connections
Organizers of Saturday’s Southern Durham Blues & Heritage Festival say they want the event to spur greater appreciation for Durham and the Piedmont’s deep connections to the blues.
The event will be held Saturday at Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, with stages inside and outside the restaurant. All proceeds will benefit veteran guitarist and bluesman John Dee Holeman, who also will perform at the festival.
“I wanted to bring more interest to the blues,” said Terri Robbins, community committee chair of the Triangle Blues Society, one of the organizing groups. “This is one of the places where the blues began. We have deep roots and they are sort of being forgotten,” Robbins said.
For that reason, the festival is family friendly, an effort to nurture the next generation of blues fans. Families can participate in a drum circle, face painting and other activities. “We need new minds and new blood,” Robbins said. Younger listeners “are where the future lies,” and she wants young people to know their musical heritage, she said.
The Triangle Blues Society is working with Hayti Heritage Center, another festival sponsor, to start a Blues in the Schools program, which supports guest artists who perform and teach classes in local schools. Robbins is a judge for the Memphis-based Blues Foundation’s annual International Blues Challenge. Organizers already have plans to get one of the winners of the foundation’s annual contest to put on a December Blues in the Schools program, she said.
Robbins said that Mary Melton, wife of Papa Mojo’s owner and harmonica player Mel Melton, has always wanted to present a New Orleans-style festival. Robbins has wanted to put on a blues and heritage festival. “We began brainstorming and decided we could do this,” Robbins said.
They also wanted to honor Holeman. Born in 1929 in Hillsborough, Holeman is one of Music Maker Relief Foundation’s artists. He has performed internationally, at the National Folk Festival and at Carnegie Hall. He moved to Durham in 1954, where he worked for Liggett & Myers, playing the blues on weekends for extra money.
Organizers purposely picked local artists who perform diverse styles of jazz – acoustic and electric. Local artists also were chosen “to show how much talent there is in this area,” Robbins said.
In addition to Holeman, scheduled performers are Tad Walters, the Tornado Blues Band, the Beauty Operators, Joe Bell and the Stinging Blades, Mel Melton, Jasme Kelly, Eric Manning, Buddy Black, Charlie Ward and the Sacrificial Poets.
The Bulltown Strutters also will be at the festival, encouraging the audience to participate.
Go and Do
WHAT: Southern Durham Blues and Heritage Festival
WHERE: In and around Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse, Greenwood Commons Shopping Center, 5402 N.C. 55, Durham
WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
ADMISSION: Tickets are $10 for individuals, $15 for families. Children 12 and under will be admitted free.