Alabama Makers Programming continued...GREAT NEWS---the NEA will provide funding through 2019 to "Share Our Stories" in recognition of Alabama's 200th Birthday---! So, come share the story of The Blues and Americana Music!!
Funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), AFA's recent programs showcasing Alabama's traditional artists continued through April 30, 2017. Held in Florence, Livingston, and Midfield, previous events not only fulfilled the goals and objectives in the the original proposal, but also supported and enhanced the work of our partners and represented several important collaborations. As part of a very competitive process, the NEA Alabama Makers grant included supporting materials that demonstrated the merit of several master artists. We are so fortunate to be able to showcase many more artists from Alabama as a result of support from individuals and other organizations. The Salt and Pepper Series, held at The Mane Room, University of North Alabama, Florence. Produced by RadioVizions in collaboration with the Muscle Shoals Music Association, and the Department of Entertainment Industry, UNA, featured the roots of blues music in order to present the influences on W.C. Handy, "The Father of the Blues." Performances were held Thursday, Feb. 23, Thursday, March 23, and Thursday, April 27. The third concert featured a guest from Georgia, Jontavious Willis, who also provided an education residency workshop funded through a Traditional Arts Touring Grant from South Arts in partnership with NEA and the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA).
Alabama Blues Masters: A Tribute to "Birmingham" George Conner
The Magic City Blues Society partnered with the AFA to launch a series dedicated to master artists of the blues tradition. The first event was held at Henderson's in Midfield, Saturday, April 8, 2017. Doors opened at 7 p.m. and the show started at 8 p.m. $10.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door. Tickets were available at Ranelli's Deli and Henderson's. Will Call TICKET(S) were available online HERE. NOW...just look for postings of upcoming events.
Visual Artists and Music Makers will be featured in Livingston.
Partner: Sucarnochee Festival, University of West Alabama.
Folk potters, basket makers, and quilt makers will be demonstrating their skills and selling their works of art. Performances will feature some of the great master artists from the region and present the next generation as well.
Learn more about the Artists
VISUAL ARTISTS MUSICIANS AND SINGERS
The grandson of potter Hendon Miller, Allen Ham also trained in his maternal grandfather’s shop in Brent. Originally working alongside his uncle, Eric Miller, and his cousins, Allen contributed during the 1970s and 1980s to the Miller's Pottery workplace located on Highway 5. A full-time employee of the Alabama Department of Transportation, Ham now operates his shop out of Selma.
As a sixth generation potter, he continues the family tradition of producing utilitarian wares, but also makes some beautiful decorative pieces and face jugs.
Steve Miller of Miller's Pottery in Brent, Alabama is a member of a long- standing family tradition that began during the 1800s on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. Steve carries on a pottery business featured in documentary films, books, and articles. The son of Eric Miller, Steve manages the store and studio located on Highway 5.
Vine & Branch Creations are natural works of art by Andrew and Etta McCall, self-taught basket weavers and furniture makers. Using recycled and natural materials, the McCalls have been making their artwork for more than twenty-five years and share their experience with their children so that they can learn the tradition.
To make baskets and furniture, they collect wisteria, grape, and kudzu vines that they twist together by hand. The wood used in their crafts is heart pine lumber recycled from buildings being torn down. By mixing pine and vines, they fashion original works of art that are functional as tables and chairs.
Using local clay to create their pottery, the Millers are known for their glazed stoneware, utilitarian items, and works of art. Once produced to serve the needs of rural customers, their pottery is now sought after by collectors.
The Gee's Bend Collective
Mary Ann Pettway & China Pettway
A member of the Bennett family of Boykin, Alabama, Marlene grew up learning the Gee’s Bend tradition from her mother, Agatha, and other relatives. All of her quilts are still hand-sewn and made of scrap materials. Using clothing from her parents, she created a masterful collection of heirloom quilts. In their memory, these quilts provide comfort to her many brothers and sisters and now, she continues to produce them for the second and third generations.
Mrs. Jones recently taught a workshop on heirloom quilts in Birmingham as part of the Alabama Folklife Association’s programs called Common Threads. In 2015 and 2016, she completed her first year as an instructor in the Folk Arts Apprenticeship program. She will have a display and can tell stories about each quilt and how she made it.
China Pettway and Mary Ann Pettway represent the The Gee’s Bend Collective. While they can often be found at their shop in Boykin, Alabama, these two ambassadors of the tradition are teaching artists, who contribute to workshops at the Alabama Folk School as well as programs at many arts and cultural institutions. They also present at regional festivals. While sewing or teaching Mary Ann and China can sometimes be heard singing spirituals. At some events, you might have the chance to enjoy a special performance.
Well-known as one of the leading singers from the community, China Pettway returned to Gee’s Bend after college. She learned to quilt from her mother, Leola. Her profession is in home health care and in this capacity she enjoys working with the elderly.
The manager of the quilt collective, Mary Ann Pettway graduated from high school and furthered her education by studying book keeping and accounting. After working for a sewing factory for twenty years, she returned to making quilts. Mary Ann is one of the singers of the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
Mary Virginia and
Mary Hicks is a pine needle basket maker from Eutaw, Alabama. She studied under the late Mabel Means. Over time, she developed her own style adding decorative elements and expanding her products to include hats, placemats, and purses.
Her many students include her daughter Annette Jordan, who now joins her mother to sell and present at festivals. Ms. Jordan also assists in teaching the next generation and providing workshops in the schools. They are regular participating artists at the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival held in Eutaw for over forty years.
That's Sew Gee's Bend
Tinnie and Minnie Pettway &
Claudia Pettway Charley
That’s Sew Gee’s Bend is a family business and collaboration of Claudia Pettway Charley, her mother Tinnie Pettway, and her aunt, Minnie Pettway. Their hot pads, wall hangings, and quilts are featured around the state and elsewhere. In 2008, they published, Gee’s Bend Experience, Poems and Tidbits About Life by Quilter Tinnie Pettway. Tinnie and Minnie have spent years providing programs in libraries, schools, and cultural institutions, not only showing their quilts, but telling stories about their lives and folkways.
Growing up Tinnie and Minnie completed chores and farmed in the fields alongside their father and brothers, while their mother taught them to quilt. The family sold from their garden, eventually founding the Boykin Mercantile Store. Tinnie and her siblings moved away to Connecticut. Tinnie worked professionally as a nurse. After having her daughter Claudia, she returned home to Boykin where she ran a daycare and operated the mercantile store.
Vine and Branch Creations
Andrew and Etta McCall
Minnie returned home after earning both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees. For over 25 years, Minnie taught physical education and served as a guidance counselor in the Wilcox County School System. Now, she helps run the family land and care for the livestock.
Claudia lives in Pell City with her husband, musician DeLon Charley, and their children.
Mary Hicks &
Mary Virginia and Dannie Pettway are the husband and wife team, "Anvil Forge,” a twenty-year collaborative effort. Raised in Gee’s Bend, Mary Virginia learned to quilt from her mother. Using her own creative vision, she makes quilts that are works of art representing the Gee’s Bend tradition.
As a pair of artists, Mary Virginia and her husband Dannie, who is a certified welder and fabricator, use different materials including wrought iron, wood, fabric, and more. Dedicated to their heritage, they have produced “Airing of the Quilts” events in Boykin, their hometown in Gee’s Bend. They currently reside in Montgomery, Alabama.
A lasting practitioner of a family tradition in making white oak baskets, Estelle Johnson Jackson is the daughter of Sterling Johnson. Along with his brother, R.C. Johnson, Sterling learned to make baskets from his father. During their childhood, the family spent the winter months making baskets used for gathering cotton and sold them for 25 cents each. Johnson taught the craft to his wife Mary Ella and his children. His daughter Estelle worked her day job and then made baskets in the evening to help her parents finish orders.
Auburn University’s Rural Studio architecture program built a basket shop for the family in 2000. Today, Estelle sells baskets at festivals and events throughout the Black Belt region.
In accordance with Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, all programs of the AFA are held in venues that meet these standards. Special accommodations for persons with visual, hearing, and other disabilities will be met upon request. Please contact 205.956.9888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Rosedale, AL, Jock Webb, Sr. is a blues harmonica player who perceives his career as continual process of learning. Life in Jefferson County exposed Jock to a wide range of musicians including Cleve Eaton, John Lee Hooker, William King of the Commodores, and Sonny Boy Williams. Like many harp players, he has no formal training, but learned through practicing and playing with mentors who nurtured his talent and interests. His style is very traditional and reminiscent of juke joints and the down home style. Back in the 90s, he formed the Back Porch Blues Band with the late Rufus Harris Jr. on Bass and Fred Spraggins on drums. A regular feature at the Black Roots Festival in Eutaw, Jock Webb also travels and plays with Clarence “Bluesman” Davis. They were 2015 semi-finalists at the IBC in Memphis and returned in 2016. As a recording artist Jock has worked with Clarence Davis, Willie King, and "Birmingham" George Conner. He plays regularly at the Red Wolf Lounge and Henderson’s in Midfield. Jock has been featured on television and radio and played with numerous legendary musicians as the late Willie Earl King, the late Hubert Sumlin, Sam Lay, and the late Johnny Shines. In addition to performing, Jock has taught harmonica for Morehouse Colleges Senior Citizen’s program. Jock owns his business in automobile repair. He served as a member of the United States Coast Guard for eleven years.
A blues singer and guitarist from Eutaw, Alabama, Clarence "Bluesman" Davis began showing interest in performing music at the age of seven. After experiencing the frustrations of organizing and managing a band, he pursued a a one-man band style playing guitar, bass, and keyboards while singing. After his retirement, he was able to devote more time to music. A long-time friend of Webb's, he shares a devotion to the same traditional style, making them an excellent duo. Clarence has done some recordings including two CDs. The second released in 2009 and titled 'Before You Accuse Me Take A Look At Yourself," contains eight songs including several he wrote such as 'Pants Too Tight', 'Blues All Over Me' and 'Shake 'Em On Down." Mr. Davis has also been a featured artist on other recordings such as a CD by fellow musician and singer, Shar Baby. A regular at Willie King's Freedom Creek Festival, Mr. Davis is a founder and long-time participant of the well-established Black Belt Folk Roots Festival in Eutaw. Davis has played often at the Howlin' Wolf festival at West Point Mississippi and the casinos in Tunica and opened for the likes of Bobby Rush and Sam Lay.
Born in Birmingham in 1935, Sam Lay is a drummer and vocalist who has been performing since the late 1950s. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, he began as the drummer for the Original Thunderbirds then went on to perform as the drummer for Little Walter. During the 1960s, Lay performed and recorded with prominent blues musicians Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Eddie Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Bo Diddley, Magic Sam, Jim-my Rogers, Earl Hooker, and Muddy Waters. Lay recorded and toured with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in addition to performing and recording with Bob Dylan. A professional studio drummer, Lay can be heard on over 40 recordings for Chess Records. Lay is an inductee of the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, the Jazz Hall of Fame in Los Angeles, and the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He received eight nominations for the W. C. Handy Award for Best Instrumentalist.
The duo group 2Blu consists of Bruce Andrews on harmonica and vocals along with George Dudley on guitar. A seasoned song writing group, they have played festivals, clubs and juke joints throughout the southeast for over twenty years. As students of American roots music 2BLU is a five-time semifinalist in the International Blues Challenge (IBC) held each year on Beale Street in Memphis, Tn. In 2007, they were finalists. Their original music has been incorporated into two feature length films : ‘Dead in Five Heart Beats”( 2013) and “Company M a Mob of Soldiers”. Bruce is the Executive Director of the Shelby County Arts Council and a member of the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame. George is a skilled craftsman and a first call blues guitarist for many of the region’s top working bands.
Born and raised in northwest Alabama, Maxwell D. Russell grew up in Colbert County area and started playing guitar when he was young. During his 20s, he branched out into forming bands and playing gigs. He writes original music influenced by a variety of genres, in particular the blues, but also country and rock 'n' roll. Max has played throughout the southeast for festivals and clubs. In 2006, he entered and won first place in the blues competition in Birmingham, sending him to the international event in Memphis. He has two albums of original music with his band The Shakedown Kings. He hosts events while continuing to play at venues throughout the southeast. A regular performer at Swampers, Marriott Hotel, in Florence, Russell is dedicated to continuing his music and contributing to the scene in his hometown.
Gloria A. Sitz, "Alabama Annie" is a singer, storyteller, songwriter, and performing artist, who performs on piano or with a guitar. Over the years, she has performed with several legendary musicians including Pinetop Perkins, Johnny Shines, Jerry “Boogie” McCain, and John Lee Hooker. Filled with memories and experiences, her songs are stories about trains, rivers, southern nights, and tall tales about life in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. She says ghosts are a part of the blues and walk about as freely as we. A natural storyteller, Stitz's repertoire places you on the front porch an old-house on a warm night in Alabama surrounded by the sites and sounds of a farm surrounded by woods with family and neighbors repeating local lore about places, travels, and people. Stitz has been working on her craft since she was a child. She recently released a publication of her writings, A Collection of Stories and Tales. Organized into three parts, Sitz covers the history and lore of Lookout Mountain spanning over thousands of years to present day, the collections includes legends and ghost tales. Second two features the Trail of Tears and time frame up through Indian Removal and the final focuses on U.S. hhistoric Highway 11, the location of her homeplace in North Alabama on historic. In add tion to all of this work, "Alabama Annie" often travels to Santa Cruz, California where she performs with her son, Chas.
Jontavious Willis is an immensely talented musician and singer from Greenville, Georgia. He started singing in church at age 3 and grew up listening to gospel, soul, blues, and more as his family always had music playing in their house. His grandfather was a singer at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Greenville,GA and served as a major influence on Jontavious. Inspired by the sounds of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Papa Charlie Jackson, Jontavious began to gravitate towards the blues, in particular, the old country blues. At age 14, he started playing guitar and taught himself to play other instruments as well including the harmonica, 5-string banjo, and cigar box guitar. According to Willis, times have definitely changed in that his church has embraced his talent in the blues genre and his fellow parishioners are pleased he is studying old-time music that they grew up on.
Performing locally at churches and then, later at festivals around Georgia, he developed friendships with fellow artists Mrs. Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and Mr. Tony Bryant, a fourth generation traditional blues musician. In a radio interview, he mentioned John Dee Holeman as an influence and mentor. As Willis quickly progressed, performing through the South, he developed several friendships in Alabama including Mr. Jock Webb, a west Jefferson County musician, who plays harmonica, and Mr. “Gip” Gipson, who is a guitarist and the owner of Gip’s Place, a famous juke joint in the backyard of Gip's home in Bessemer. Willis has been performing annually at the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival in Eutaw, Alabama since 2012, when he was 16. He notes the 2012 event, as his first real festival performance. In 2015, Taj Mahal invited Willis on stage. Since then, they have become friends and Taj continues to serve Jontavious as a mentor. Willis is set to release his first album in February of 2017 and in March of 2017, Jontavious Willis will be opening for Taj Mahal during several performances in the state of Florida.
The versatile young bluesman plays a variety of styles to include country, Delta, Piedmont, Texas, and gospel blues and he is proficient as a fingerpicker, flat-picker, and slide player. In interviews, he has sited other notable traditional blues artists including Peg Leg Howell, Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, Buddy Moss, Josh White, Barbecue Bob, and Smokey Hogg as sources of inspiration.
Accompanying his fast-track to becoming a prodigy of the blues, Willis has received much attention in the media to include feature articles, radio shows, and podcasts. He has been interviewed and covered in Living Blues Magazine, LaGrange Daily News, Blues America Radio, Rollingout, and Blues.GR, an online community in Greece. Very grounded and rooted in family, church and school, Jonatvious Willis is now a sophomore at Columbus State University. Majoring in sociology and anthropology, he plans to finish his college studies before going into music full time.