THE STORY OF MY GIBSON LG2 ACOUSTIC GUITAR'S BROKEN NECK: AND HOW SALVADOR GIARDINA FIXED IT

It’s been nonstop touring lately, which means the wear and tear on my precious guitars have been adding up. Although I fly with my two favorite guitars on the plane, in a special double acoustic/electric guitar bag made by Mono, heavy playing and transporting them around can cause problems. Last year, my Gibson LG2 acoustic fell off a guitar stand on stage. The neck broke-off at the headstock. You can imagine how unhappy I was. Normally, I request Hercules guitar stands because they are sturdy. However, some venues don’t invest in professional guitar stands. I thought the guitar was ruined. I phoned Gibson about maybe getting a replacement, but unfortunately, the Gibson company are having some problems of their own these days. They were unresponsive, I wasn't surprised.

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My Gibson LG2

A sad sight. My favorite acoustic with a broken neck. (Photo taken summer 2017)

Then I remembered, when I lived in New Orleans — before Katrina washed me a few miles north of the city — I would take my acoustic guitars to Salvador Giardina, a master luthier, in Old Metairie (New Orleans). I called Sal and explained the break and he just laughed. I thought to myself, why he is laughing? Turns out Sal has seen hundreds of panicked guitarists. He laughs because they needn’t worry. He said he could have it as good as new in 24 hours. I left my LG2 with Sal and returned the next day hoping for the best. I was pleasantly surprised to find my favorite acoustic looking good as new. I could hardly believe it! Sal did such a great job I couldn’t even see where the break was. Since then I’ve had Sal work on several of my acoustics.

A note about my Gibson LG2 parlor guitar: Because I mostly use the LG2 with a slide, I use very heavy gauge strings. I use a customized set, .018 (naked) .022 (naked) .026, .035, .045, .056 Elixir poly-web warm strings. The heavy strings provide the tension I prefer but, it stresses the neck and bridge. To prevent stress problems, I always detune when the guitar is idle.

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Salvador Giardina

Holding my repaired Gibson LG2 in his shop in Old Metairie. Sorry for the blurry picture.  

Last week Sal worked his voodoo on three of my acoustic guitars. A Gibson J-45, a Steel Dobro, and a Fender Classical. The body of the J-45 was split in the back and was coming apart. It happened on a flight because of air pressure, I believe. The Dobro’s neck was broken, similar to the LG2. The classical only needed maintenance.

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I'm All Smiles.

 

I'm holding the repaired Dobro, Sal is holding the repaired J-45.

It took about a week to repair the J-45. Cosmetically, the scar is still there, (I wasn’t interested in a major refinish) but Sal fixed it right up. The break on the Dobro was undetectable. Sal also did some fretwork and adjusted the neck. The Dobro feels and plays better than ever. The classical guitar's frets were honed, and the neck adjusted. It too, feel better than before. Next up for Sal is my Martin 12-string and a Martin 6-string. I’ll also take the J-45 back to him soon to have the frets redone. I’m very pleased with the way my week went. Now if I only can find the time to play them all. So many guitars and so little time.

 

Grammy Winner Chris Thomas King Returns Home For Rare Blues Fest Concert

“Spend one night in Chris Thomas King’s “Hotel Voodoo” at this year’s fest, and you may never want to leave.”

March 15, 2018

Chris Thomas King is Louisiana blues royalty. The son of blues Icon Tabby Thomas will headline the Baton Rouge Blues Festival Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Downtown Baton Rouge. There is great anticipation among blues festivalgoers. The rare hometown concert will mark the first time in more than a decade King has returned home to headline the annual event.

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King will Reign

At 2018 Baton Rouge Bluesfest

Since his last headlining Baton Rouge Blues Festival appearance, in 2007, the Grammy and Country Music Award winning guitarist's passport has been stamped throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. Closer to home, the multi-talented virtuoso has performed on America's most prestigious stages to sold-out audiences, including the Ryman in Nashville, Carnegie Hall, and the Apollo in New York City.

Chris Thomas King is likely the best-known blues artist of his generation having sold over 10 million records. As an actor, King starred in Oscar-winning films Ray and O Brother, Where Art Thou? in which he plays a bluesman who claims to have earned his chops through damnation. The man himself, however, earned his skills by playing the blues in his father's legendary juke joint Tabby's Blues Box.

King's new studio album, "Hotel Voodoo," finds him at the peak of his powers on electric guitar rockers, "Voodoo Child (On Hell's Highway), and "Rock And Roll Conjurer." Another highlight is the King-penned second-line stomp "Tabby's On The Bayou," an ode to Tabby's Blues Box and Heritage Hall, his late father's Louisiana juke joint, razed in 1999. Spend one night in Chris Thomas King's "Hotel Voodoo" at this year’s fest, and you may never want to leave.

Komet 19, The Best Guitar Amp For Blues Tone

 Komet 19 Amp Head

Komet 19 Amp Head

My pedal board is an essential part of my tone. Most of my tours are fly tours. Meaning, promoters, and venues supply all back-line including amps and cabinets. Until my endorsement from Komet Amplifiers, I only traveled with my guitar and effects. Now, in addition to my effects and guitars, I travel with a Komet 19 head, the perfect guitar amp for my tone. The Komet 19 has only three knobs, volume, saturation, and tone. It also has a bright switch which I engage on occasion.

Touring with the Komet 19 means I travel with a much smaller pedal board. My main pedal is the TS808 Tube Screamer which provides midrange boost and sustain. When the amp is set to low volume (club setting) this combo works great. However, the TS808 Tube screamer is not necessary for larger venues where the amp is louder because the amp has a purity when driven hard that a pedal can’t match. In larger venues, the volume knob on my Stratocaster act as my boost. The Komet 19 cleans up well when I turn my guitar volume down. And as for that clean chime Strat tone, well, that’s where the Komet 19’s bright switch shines. My Komet amp has its own sound, but it can be set to overdrive similar to a Marshall or an Orange. It can also give me the clean chime of a Fender but only better because it’s warm not piercing like recent Fender Amps. 

Prior to switching to the Komet 19 head, I flew around with a large pedal board. I needed several layers of overdrive and sustain because Fender Twin amps are not built to overdrive its tubes until its volume is on 8 or 10. A Fender Twin with its volume cranked to 10 would be unbearable in a club or small theater setting. Therefore, to get my blues driven tone at low volumes, 3 to 4, I relied on pedals such as my trusty TS808 Tube Screamer. For heavier solo’s I would use a Fuzz Face. For a simple clean boost, it was the EP Booster. Currently, the only drive pedal on my board is the TS808 Tube Screamer. I still place the EP Booster before the TS808 Tube Screamer, but I rarely use it.

 TS808 Tube Screamer

TS808 Tube Screamer

Today’s Fender and Marshall amps are not the same as those of the 1960s and ‘70s. I think the Komet 19 is the best amp for blues tone I’ve played through in the 21st century. All its tone and boost was designed to be operated from my guitars’ tone and volume knobs, as it was in the ‘60s and 70s. The Komet 19 is not cheap, it’s an investment. 

I am endorsed by Komet but that’s not why I praise their handmade amps. My quest for tone led me to try Komet amps. After I tried them I was sold. Their amps are intuitive. They operate the way I think my guitar amp should. But to each his own. My suggestion would be to invest in the perfect amp head for your style when you can. It will pay-off by making you a better player in the long run.

The Best Guitar Pick for Blues Tone

In subsequent blogs, I will write about my preferred amps, tubes, types of speakers, pickups and such, but for now, I want to focus on something that’s an afterthought, the guitar pick. 

    About five years ago I grew frustrated with my tone. I felt I’d hit a sonic wall. I expanded my harmonic vocabulary far beyond the usual pentatonic major and minor scales. Yet I couldn’t soar over the proverbial sonic wall. A Fender guitar, plugged into a Fender amp, is a classic blues setup. Adding an overdrive pedal for sustain is standard. After all, on gigs with Albert King, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Hubert Sumlin and B. B. King, over the years, I saw them plug their guitars (be it Fender or Gibson) into an amp, most often a Fender Twin, and achieve their unique tones effortlessly. 

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Chris Thomas King

Guitar tone tips ...

    Modern mass produced guitars and amps don't sound the same as they once did for various reasons. A modern Fender amp cannot get you over the sonic wall unless you spend $1,000 on pedals, and still, to my ear, it won’t soar. Don’t get me wrong, modern amps work just fine for playing today’s popular music. But when it comes to in your face blues guitar, the tones we all love from bygone masters, modern Fender amps will not lift off. 

    While recording my latest album “Hotel Voodoo” I questioned everything about my guitar rig. I even questioned my technique. But I never questioned my ear, which told me something was amiss. The plectrum, in my opinion, is what most differentiates the guitar from other stringed instruments. For example, if played with a bow, the guitar wouldn’t sound much like a guitar.     

    Changing your guitar pick can change your tone dramatically. For years, I used only Fender medium guitar picks when playing electric guitar. Then I started experimenting with thin picks. Thin picks were fine when playing rhythm. Thin picks, on a song such as Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” works well on a cranked amp. The softness of thin plectrums acts as an attenuator. But when it comes to my solos, the thin pick was useless. I always found myself reaching for a medium plectrum.

    On the other hand, a small rock hard heavy pick, AKA the jazz pick, allowed me to play faster solos. But more importantly, it dampened the piercing bright tone of a modern Fender amp. The so-called jazz pick acted as a low pass filter. It allowed me to pick harder because I had confidence that doing so wouldn’t increase the annoying piercing tone of modern Fender amps. Jazz plectrums have become my pick of choice. However, I still find comfort in medium picks (perhaps out of habit) for rhythmic arrangements.

    Today, with the help of a jazz plectrum, I can achieve those classic blues tones. In summation, before buying new pickups, again and again, you should experiment with various plectrums. It’s the cheapest way to change your tone for the better. 

New Chris Thomas King “Hotel Voodoo” Album Coming September 14, 2017

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“Spend one night in King’s “Hotel Voodoo” and you may never want to leave.” 

 

“Hotel Voodoo” is the first new studio album in five years from Grammy winning guitarist, songwriter, and actor, Chris Thomas King. “Hotel Voodoo” is a blues rock guitar tour de force on par with legendary greats Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. Chris Thomas King, an electric guitar virtuoso, based in New Orleans, is at the peak of his powers on rockers, “Have You Seen My Princess,” “Voodoo Child (On Hell's Highway), and “Rock-and-Roll Conjurer.”

 

King conceived the album for vinyl as two suites, side A and B, not the linear CD sequence. Side A is the “Baron Samedi Suite.” (Baron Samedi is the lord of the crossroads in Voodoo religion). Side B is the “Jelly Roll Suite.” The “Jelly Roll Suite” is a nod to New Orleans as the birthplace of the blues. 

The long-anticipated ten-song album features nine Chris Thomas King originals and a cover of superstar Adele’s “Someone Like You,” which features King playing grand piano and singing lead vocal. The song, like several in the Jelly Roll Suite, was performed live in the studio as an acoustic jazz trio. Another highlight is the King penned second-line stomp “Tabby’s on the Bayou,” an ode to Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall, his late father’s Louisiana juke joint—razed in 1999.

King is supported on the album by his touring band, Jeff Mills on drums, and Danny Infante on bass guitar. Several outstanding New Orleans musicians join in the fun, too. Clarinet and upright bass are featured on the hot tune, “White Folks Call It Jazz.”

The multi-talented guitarist is also a celebrated actor. He co-starred in Oscar winning movies “O Brother Where Art Thou” and “Ray.”

The Chris Thomas King Band is on tour this fall, 2017, in the United States and Mexico.

Contact:
Mariann Thomas
CTK Tours Agency, LLC
(225) 226-2820
Mariann@ChrisThomasKing.com

song listing
 

Baron Samedi Suite

1.   American Man (In the Key of Free)

2.   Voodoo Child (On Hell’s Highway)

3.   Friday Night Bleu

4.   Have You Seen My Princess?

5.   Rock and Roll Conjurer
 

Jelly Roll Suite

6.   Les Bleus Was Born in Louisiana

7.   White Folks Call It Jazz

8.   Tabby’s on The Bayou

9.   Someone Like You (Adele)

10.  Rainbow Lullaby

 

21st Century Blues Records

·      ARTIST: CHRIS THOMAS KING

·      ALBUM TITLE: HOTEL VOODOO

·      RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

·      LABEL: 21ST CENTURY BLUES RECORDS

·      PRODUCER: CHRIS THOMAS KING

·      PRODUCT NUMBER: 21CB-CD-2133

·      UPC: 6 7626121322 2

·      GENRE: BLUES/ALTERNATIVE ROCK/NEW ORLEANS/JAZZ

·      FORMAT: CD, Digital, Vinyl

·      TERRITORY: The World

·      DISTRIBUTED by Virtual Label, Brooklyn N.Y

New Double Album From Chris Thomas King This November

Chris Thomas King at piano

Hello friends, first allow me to thank you all for supporting my music, films and concert tours over the years. I would like to share some new information regarding some of my latest projects. I’m very excited to let you know my long awaited new album is nearing completion and should be officially released on my label, 21st Century Blues Records, in November. Its been a few years since my last album — do they still call them albums? 

My plan for the project was very ambitious. I originally wanted to release a 100 song album of new songs. It would’ve been the first of its kind. So far, I’ve only completed around 70 tunes. As many of you know, I would never include music I deemed unworthy, so in my humble opinion, there is no filler. Which means, that, in order to complete my 100 song album it would take at least another year. I know you didn’t want to wait that long. Neither did I. Therefore, the digital version may include up to 30 tracks. I will also release a physical CD, and a double vinyl album featuring between 18 and 22 songs.

My band, Jeff Mills (drums) and Danny Infante (bass), appear on several tracks along with several of the hottest musicians in New Orleans. For those of you who are electric guitar lovers, I dusted off my Marshall amps for some good old rocking blues tones. My fender stratocaster was plugged into a Fender Deluxe amp for that classic spring reverb tone on several straight ahead blues arrangements, “Have You Seen My Princess” an original, and the Freddy King classic, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” My Orange Amp distorts nicely on a few tracks too, actually, I think the Orange provided my personal favorite tones on the album. 

Those of you that have seen my live show recently, have heard me play and sing a piano set. There will be a piano suite within the new album. I wrote a new song “Tabby’s on the Bayou” about those nights at Tabby’s Blues Box, my dads ramshackle juke joint, before it was razed by the city of Baton Rouge in 1999. I pay tribute to my good friend, piano legend Henry Gray, who at 89 is still making it do what it do! 

The piano suite was record at the Shed in New Orleans. I played an upright piano and did most of the vocals live. If I recall correctly, most of the tunes were one take affairs. I covered a great piano ballad by Leon Russell, “A Song For You,” Leon is a wonderful lyricist. Some of you may know the song as a Donny Hathaway tune. I covered Adele’s “Some One Like You,” in a no frills arrangement. Some folks will be surprised by this cover. But one shouldn’t be. Ray Charles, one of my heroes, recorded all types of songs simply because they were great ones. Same with Louis Armstrong and so many others. Anyone remember Mile’s version of “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper? I rounded out the piano suite with an original honky-tonk blues, “One Strong Beer.” 

I’m off to tour Norway and Finland this week, therefore, post production will be put on hold — that’s one reason it has taken so long, I’m on the road a lot lately. When I return I plan to complete an acoustic slide guitar suite to complete the album. 

My long time fans will hear me introduce a new featured instrument, the clarinet. 100 years ago the clarinet was an essential solo instrument in New Orleans blues. I thought it’s about time it was reintroduced. These days I prefer the clarinet as a solo horn — nothing against the harmonica — but the clarinet says New Orleans blues. I feature two clarinetists over the course of the album. The opening track “The Blues Was Born In Louisiana,” another original, perhaps best illustrates what I wanted to express using the clarinet. New Orleans really is the birthplace of the blues and New Orleans blues is Saturday Night music. It puts a smile on your face; it makes you want to move.

King Bolden, King Keppard, King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton, established the first dynastic period of Nola blues. I hope that after you have had a chance to experience my new album (yet untitled) you will agree that a new Nola blues dynasty is long over due. Yes, I hope to reintroduce the world to this music, but not in a conventional way, you know me, I have to play it forward.

 

B. B. King, Baltimore Riots, and the Poetry of the Blues.

By Chris Thomas King

The passing of B. B. King is sadly the end of an era. On September 30, 2005 Buddy Guy and I performed at an intimate concert and dinner in honor of our friend and mentor, B. B. King. The celebration was held at a private residence in Los Angeles, California. It was King’s 80th birthday, a joyous occasion that also raised money to help open the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi. I was asked to serve on a board of researchers for the museum. I am honored to have helped illuminate the story of B. B. King, a true American story.

Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Chris Thomas King Los Angeles 2005. Photo by John Heller

The blues, which began in New Orleans in the 1890s with Buddy Bolden, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong, was originally upbeat bawdy dance music but featured the occasional slow-drag. B. B. King, however, carved his niche in its historiography by specializing in the blues ballad. His songs were songs of pain and longing, down-tempo meditations on unrequited female love. His poetry on the surface worshiped women but the double entendre of his songs such as, “Ghetto Woman,” “Chains and Things,” and “Why I Sing The Blues,” also suggested a cry for racial equality:

When I first got the blues, They brought me over on a ship
Men were standing over me, And a lot more with a whip
And everybody wanna know, Why I sing the blues
Well, I've been around a long time, I've really paid my dues
I've laid in a ghetto flat, Cold and numb
I heard the rats tell the bedbugs, To give the roaches some
Everybody wanna know, Why I'm singing the blues
Yes, I've been around a long time, People, I've really paid my dues

For decades, King was relegated to the chitlin circuit. His crossover to a white audience began in the late sixties. “The Thrill Is Gone,” a rewrite of an old standard composed in 1951 by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell —Darnell was a close friend and writing partner of my father, the late bluesman, Tabby Thomas—solidified his crossover. The song became King’s signature hit in 1970. I rewrote “The Thrill Is Gone” as a socially conscious blues about my decaying and forgotten neighborhood—I was living in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans at the time. 

On my rap version, “Da Thrill Is Gone, From Here,” I invited my dad to sing a duet while I rapped and played guitar: 

Everyday that goes by it seem to get worst, What happened to my hood?
There must’ve been a curse
Liquor stores the only thing left, only trade is selling drugs or theft
They say it takes a village just to raise a child 
But here in the ghetto you know they running wild
Not long ago back in the days, use to have a different way of trying to get paid
And if you got crossed and had to scrap, just a fist fight and that was that
But in the 21st century it's the wild, wild west, can’t leave home without a bullet proof vest
Da thrill is gone, da thrill is gone away from here
Da thrill is gone, thrill is gone away
Da thrill is gone, thrill is gone, thrill is gone away  

B. B. King once told me it hurt him deeply when young blacks in the sixties booed whenever he was introduced on bills with what was deemed to be more progressive soul and rhythm and blues acts, like James Brown. The elite African-American class looked down on the Blues Boy (hence B. B.), a former sharecropper with an 8th-grade education. In the early ’70s, most blacks turned a cold shoulder to the blues and have never looked back. "Being a blues singer is like being black twice," B. B. King said in his book, Blues All Around Me. "While the civil rights movement was fighting for the respect of black people, I felt I was fighting for the respect of the blues."

The early blues, once neither singable nor playable by whites, has gradually become a white musical art, formularized, codified and transformed according to white esthetics. The blues exists today merely for white cultural consumption.

It has always befuddled me, how erudite blacks, who claim empathy for the less educated class left behind in decaying cities like Baltimore and Ferguson, can turn their backs on the art and culture of poor black communities.

Although B. B. King reached worldwide acclaim, dining with Queens, Presidents, and Popes, he continued to perform for prison inmates. King used his gift to help bring a little hope to those ensnared in the prison industrial complex. “Live in Cook County Jail,” recorded in 1971 in the Cook County Prison in Chicago, Illinois, is a great example of his commitment to accentuating the humanity of poor people of color. 

There has been much debate lately about the broken prison system—sometimes referred to as the “New Jim Crow,” also the title of a notable book by the scholar, Michelle Alexander. However, we blues artists have written an exhaustive dossier of poetry on the conundrum, which dates back to the late 19th century, the start of the convict leasing system. The poetry that spring’s from poor black neighborhoods, such as Ferguson and Baltimore, is often crude when unfiltered by polite society. But it is also beautifully honest, unapologetic, and bursting with ageless wisdom.

Billy Holliday, once a young harlot in a Baltimore brothel, transformed her life through the poetry of the blues. Lady Day inspired us all with her recording of the poem, “Strange Fruit,” released in 1939. Holliday’s controversial protest song about lynching continues to echo 71 years later over the ashes of Baltimore. 

Booker T. Washington White, B. B. King’s cousin, in 1940 sang about the barbarous Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman Farm:

Judge give me life this morning, down on Parchman Farm (repeat)
I wouldn’t hate it so bad, but I left my wife alone
Oh, good by wife, all you have done gone (repeat) 
But I hope someday you will tell my lonesome song

Louisiana’s Angola State Prison, infamous for its cruelty, was the most notorious prison in America. Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and bluesman, Robert Pete Williams, both did hard time on The Farm and lived to sing about it. Leadbelly recorded “Midnight Special” in 1934 while still an inmate: 

Yonder comes Miss Rosie. How in the world do you know?
Well, I know her by the apron and the dress she wore.
Umbrella on her shoulder, a piece of paper in her hand,
Well, she come to tell the Captain, "Turn a-loose my man."
Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me.
Oh, let the Midnight Special shine her ever lovin' light on me

Midnight Special is said to be a reference to a passenger train that would depart from Houston, Texas, at midnight and steam past the nearby Sugar Land Prison. Every “Candy” Land prisoner longed to steal away on that train to freedom.

Much could be gained by studying the music and poetry of the blues. The unrefined poetry of the blues is the quintessential literature of a class of people marginalized and antagonized by mainstream society. In many ways, the blues was the social-media phenomenon of the 20th century.

B. B. King loved women, but no woman could ever steal B. B. King away from Lucille, the love of his life. Many times I stood backstage and watched him enthrall a crowd. B. B. King, the master showman, standing center stage, beads of sweat dripping from his brow, face grimaced, twisted, and contorted with joy. He would pull on Lucille’s pure nickel strings as if his life depended on it. B. B. King would stretch each note until Lucille screamed with passion. Each note, so carefully chosen, helped to create his unmistakable signature sound. 

Astute note selection is an indelible signature of the blues. It’s the age old credo instilled in the young Louis Armstrong by King Oliver, one of the earliest trumpet king of New Orleans. Guitarist Lonnie Johnson, one of B. B. King’s earliest influences, was the first to transpose this monophonic, or singing note philosophy, to the guitar. There are rare exceptional blues musicians such as, Charlie Parker, who could turn density into soulful expression; however, I have always chosen to perform my music—like B. B. King— with an artful measure. Muted trumpet and astute note selection also distinguished Miles Davis’ successful late 1950s albums from earlier dense bebop recordings. B. B. King knew that three or four notes expressed with various bends, pulls and sustained vibrato, best-expressed one's essence to the listener. Penetrating emotionally, rather than a less discerning guitar solo, which takes the long meandering road. 

I couldn’t help but wonder over the years, time and again if I were watching the aging master for the final time. It was always obvious, whenever I had the pleasure of spending a private moment with the King, that I was in the presence of someone very special. 

In New Orleans, we have what is known as jazz funerals. Customarily, my family and closest friends follow the ensemble playing melancholy dirges during the procession to the cemetery. Once there, we say our last goodbyes to our dearly departed. It’s a time to mourn.

However, as we return from the burial, it’s a time to dance. The parading band strikes up a joyful refrain. Their spicy rhythm inspires friends, supporters and partygoers to form a second-line. Everyone joins in a celebration of life. Long live Riley B. King!

Louisiana Must Build Its Own National Blues Museum

By Chris Thomas King

I’m astonished and embarrassed at the lack of interest I’ve encountered in the preservation of Louisiana blues, an enlightened music. The blues was born here in Louisiana, before subsequently inspiring the world. Freedom of expression is an American virtue; it is also the very essence of the blues, America’s music.

As a blues artist from Louisiana, it is incumbent upon me to organize a campaign to build a National Louisiana Blues Museum. Any reasonable examination of the facts proves Louisiana is its birthplace. Consequently, we deserve to have the finest of all blues museums, one that will attract tourists the world over.

Fletcher Henderson Orchestra w/ Louis Armstrong

What is wrong with Louisiana when it comes to celebrating one of its greatest artistic achievements? In my travels, I have witnessed the financial investments others have made to appropriate our culture. Later this year, St. Louis will open a new, $14 million National Blues Museum. A $3 million Blues Hall of Fame will open soon in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Good for them. I helped B.B. King raise millions of dollars for his B.B. King Museum in Mississippi — a state heavily invested in the blues as an international tourist attraction with great success. Furthermore, Mississippi is also building a $15 million dollar Grammy Museum. The Grammys did not originate in Mississippi, but the blues did begin in New Orleans, which is why our lack of effort is bewildering. Here in Louisiana, there hasn’t been as much as a whisper to reclaim our homegrown culture.

It is beyond the scope of this writing to cite numerous documents, court records and facts to prove or disprove the origin of the blues. However, my extensive research will be published soon in a new book I’m writing.

The Cliff notes summary is as follows: The blues began around 1895 in New Orleans with Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and master guitarist Lonnie Johnson, to name only a few. It continued over the years with the likes of Leadbelly, Professor Longhair and Clifton Chenier. The blues began in black communities; however, the first phonograph blues record, “Livery Stable Blues,” was recorded by a white New Orleans band, the controversial, Original Dixieland Jass [sic] Band, in 1917.

  New Orleans blues guitarist  Lonnie Johnson 

New Orleans blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson 

St. Louis and Memphis cling to songs such as “St. Louis Blues” and “Memphis Blues,” both written by trumpeter W. C. Handy, as their claim to fame. But musicologist Ted Gioia questioned those claims in his recent book, “The History of Jazz”: “W.C. Handy may be lauded by his admirers as the ‘Father of the Blues,’ but he never encountered this style of music until around 1903, when Bolden was already twenty-five years old. … Bolden was likely incorporating the blues sensibility and structure into his music around this same time.”

I believe the museum should be a “living” museum, one that features a hall for live performances. Live music is fundamental to the way we express ourselves. Live concerts would tell our ongoing story in real time, a role the original Tabby’s Blues Box, my dad’s famous ramshackle juke joint in Baton Rouge, once played before it was razed in 1999. Through music and dance, Tabby’s had helped to bring our fractured community from post-Civil Rights-era race riots to the door of America’s promise and Martin Luther King’s dream. However, despite its significant cultural impact, it was not allowed to enter the promise of the 21st Century. I’ve been approached many times by investors to open a new Tabby’s. Some of those propositions have been tempting. But I’ve concluded that the best way to continue the spirit of Tabby’s is through a nonprofit entity.

Regardless of the location for this projected $15 million museum, I plan to raise awareness and support for my idea across the entire state, through speaking engagements, lectures and performances. It’s the main goal of the Chris Thomas King Foundation, with support by the Tipitina’s Foundation of New Orleans.

We Louisiana artists should not be forced to acquiesce the role of sidekick in the folklore of museums in Mississippi, Tennessee or Missouri. We deserve to play the protagonist in our great American story — in our own National Louisiana Blues Museum.