Bobby Parker was one of the highlights of the 1st DC Blues Festival. If you are going to celebrate a 25th Festival you could have brought back some of the local legends still with us.
As a Duke Ellington composition puts it, “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.” Looking back 24 years ago around this time I remember meetings that Michael Roach, Eleanor Ellis and I had at a District of Columbia recreation center near Dupont Circle. The DC Blues Society held instrumental workshops at that recreation center where the likes of Neil Harpe and Michael Roach (then the Society’s President) would teach guitar and Charlie Sayles teach blues harmonica. I would conduct listening sessions of recordings from different blues traditions there as well. That afternoon, Mike mentioned that there was interest on some folks in having events East of the Anacostia River, and one such event turned into the first DC Blues Festival.
In the intervening years a number of the performers, Flora Molton, Archie Edwards, Ben Andrews, Nap Turner and Jesse James (Johnson) passed on while the Uptown Rhythm Kings broke up. It should be noted that a number of the performers, Franklin, Harpe and Usilton, Daryl Davis, Bobby Parker and Charlie Sayles are still with us. Also with us are Eleanor Ellis who played with Flora Molton as well as Phil Wiggins, who sat in with Franklin, Harpe & Usilton.
Phil Wiggins and the Chesapeake Sheiks is a marvelous new group featuring one of the DC Blues Society's founders.
Which brings me to this year’s DC Blues Festival, the 25th and the 21st at the Carter Barron. One would think the festival would be a celebration of the Society and its heritage and that at least one or two of the performers from the first few festivals might have been included in the line-up on the main stage. I will let you go to the DC Blues Society’s website to view the line-up for this year's festival. In my humble opinion a line-up that included Franklin, Harpe & Usilton (and friends); Charlie Sayles, Daryl Davis and/or Bobby Parker would be at least as entertaining (if not more so) than the scheduled line-up. You could have celebrated Bobby's Birthday. I would not be as negative about this line-up if this wasn’t the 25th Festival and the line-up indicated some awareness of the Society and Festival's history. The Archie Edwards Barbershop Jambassadors (who usually include Eleanor Ellis and Rick Franklin) should have been on the main stage, not outside the main gate of the Carter Barron. Phil Wiggins could have been featured with his marvelous new ensemble the Chesapeake Sheiks. Even if just one or two of these performers had been part of the main stage, it would made things better. All I know is that the DC Blues Festival ain’t what it used to be.
The photos in today's blog entry are © Ron Weinstock