Blues Music Now! Grapevine

May 23, 2002

W.C. Handy Awards draw biggest names in blues

By Jake Roussel
MEMPHIS — The biggest names of blues were all brought together for the 23rd annual W.C. Handy Blues Awards held in Memphis, Tenn. at the Orpheum Theater.

The lineup included B.B. King, Corey Harris, Deborah Coleman, Ike Turner, Kid Ramos, Marcia Ball, Ruth Brown, Sam Phillips and others along with a special appearance by Steven Seagal. "I have loved the blues since I was a little boy," said Seagal. Seagal later performed, playing guitar at B.B. King's club that evening after the ceremony.

The evening began with a red carpet pre-party for VIPs at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase Lounge, including Little Milton, who said: "This is like a homecoming and I am going to just relax and enjoy the festivities. I have tried to attend every awards show unless I am overseas. By the way, tell everyone in Europe, 'hello.'" The crowd was entertained by a rare appearance from Germany bass guitarist Louisiana Red.

During the pre-party, four legends of blues were honored with a brass note to be placed on the Beale Street Walk of Fame: Ike Turner, the late John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. There were several legendary ladies of the blues in attendance, including the talented music icon Odetta, "Miss Rhythm" Ruth Brown (2002 Blues Hall of Fame inductee), and the "Queen of Blues" of Detroit, Alberta Adams, who has more than 50 years of blues under her belt and is still touring promoting her latest CD, "Say Baby Say."

At the Orpheum Theater, the show started with Dr. John, the host of the night. There were several jam sessions, including Charlie Musselwhite and Keb' Mo'; Otis Taylor along with his 15-year-old daughter, Cassie; Shemekia Copeland and Dr. John; and Maria Muldaur, who noted, "I am glad to be in the home of my all-time favorite, Memphis Minnie," along with Alvin Youngblood Hart.

Although Jimmie Vaughan was on tour in Japan, Marcia Ball and her band represented Texas well, and Ike Turner dazzled the crowd with his change of colorful outfits ... he's no doubt "The Father of Rock and Roll." Ike's recording of "Rocket 88" for Sun Records is believed to be the very first rock song.

The presenters included singer Carla Thomas and brother Marvell Thomas (the children of the late Rufus Thomas, who was honored in a video tribute), Odetta, Bobby Rush, blind composer and musician Henry Butler, Steven Seagal and Sam Phillips. Phillips, former owner of Sun Records, was acknowledged for the label's 50th anniversary with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Phillips is best known as the man who found Elvis Presley, releasing Elvis' first single, "That's All Right, Mama" on the Sun label. The highlight of the night was the reunion of Sun's label mates, B.B. King, Little Milton, Roscoe Gordon and Ike Turner, who performed together.

After the show, everyone headed to the New Daisy Theater for an post-awards party and jam session. Henry Butler, Robert Belfour, Shemekia Copeland and a handful of others were asked to provide music for the party. "It is great to have young blood," said Copeland, who is in her early 20s. The rest of the weekend included a tribute to Howlin' Wolf at the New Daisy. Also, artists including B.B. King, Otis Taylor and daughter Cassie Taylor, Charlie Musselwhite, Louisiana Red and Ann Rabson all performed at different venues on Beale Street to round out the weekend.

2002 W C Handy Winners

Entertainer of the Year: B.B. King (fourth straight year)
Band of the Year: Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers
Album of the Year: "Presumed Innocent," Marcia Ball
Song of the Year: "Charliešs Old Highway," Charlie Musslewhite
Best New Artist Debut: "White African," Otis Taylor
Contemporary Female Artist: Shemekia Copeland
Contemporary Male Artist: Buddy Guy
Soul Blues Female Artist: Etta James
Soul Blues Male Artist: Little Milton
Traditional Female Artist: Koko Taylor
Traditional Male Artist: R.L. Burnside
Acoustic Blues Artist: Keb' Mo'
Guitar: Buddy Guy
Keyboards: Pinetop Perkins
Bass: Willie Kent
Drums: Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith
Harmonica: Charlie Musselwhite
Horns: Roomful of Blues horn section
Instrumentalist, other: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, violin
Contemporary Blues Album: "Sweet Tea," Buddy Guy
Soul Blues album: "Feel It," Little Milton
Traditional Blues Album: "Burnside on Burnside," R.L. Burnside
Acoustic Blues Album: "Wicked Grin," John Hammond
Comeback Blues Album: "Here and Now," Ike Turner
Historical Album: "Fathers and Sons," Muddy Waters

The W.C. Handy Awards is a yearly event held in Memphis, Tennessee and sponsored by the Memphis Blues Foundation and their sponsors.

Click here to read an interview with award winner Otis Taylor.

Go to Grapevine 2001.

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