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FW: [AlabamaFolklife] Alabama suffers loss of Blues Legend Big Bo McGee

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: alablues@aol.com [mailto:alablues@aol.com] Sent: Sunday, March 03, 2002 6:02 PM To: undisclosed-recipients
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2002
      fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: alablues@... [mailto:alablues@...]
      Sent: Sunday, March 03, 2002 6:02 PM
      To: undisclosed-recipients
      Subject: [AlabamaFolklife] Alabama suffers loss of Blues Legend Big Bo

      Sunday, March 3, 2001
      For immediate release:

      At 2 pm today the Alabama Blues Project received the tragic news of the
      of Alabama blues musician Big Bo McGee. Bo was found dead Sunday morning at
      his home in Eutaw, Alabama. His death is a tragic loss that will be felt by
      his friends, fellow musicians and fans around the world. Big Bo will also be

      missed by the many children whose lived he touched through his work with the

      Alabama Blues Project blues education programs.

      Big Bo was born October 9th, 1928, in Emmelle, Alabama. He liked to joke
      he was born in Alabama and Mississippi since his family's log house lay
      across the state line. He said he used to sleep in Mississippi and eat
      breakfast in Alabama.

      Big Bo learned to play harmonica from his grandmother Emma Williams who was
      locally well-known juke joint harp player and singer. Big Bo said that he
      never heard anyone who could play better than she could. She bought him his
      first harmonica for 25 cents when he was just five years old. Bo liked to
      practice for hours sitting in the pantry where he said the "sound wouldn't
      get away from me." At first Bo said he really did a lot of "squeaking and
      squawking...but after a while Grandma straightened me out. She always said,
      'I want you to have your own style, you go out there and play what you feel.

      When you put your feeling into it then it got a meaning.'" Eventually, Emma
      Williams took Bo, age 10, to a local juke joint, sat him up on the piano and

      launched a blues career that spanned sixty years.

      In his early years he continued to play local juke joints, house parties,
      suppers, and family reunions. Blind Lemon Jefferson and Washboard Sam were
      the first blues musicians he remembered hearing on records. He also listened

      a lot to "those hillbillies like Eddie Arnold and Jimmy Rogers." Big Bo
      always cited Little Walter as his biggest influence after his grandmother.

      In the early 1950s Big Bo joined forces with guitar player and singer Little

      Whitt Wells and called their band the House Rockers. Big Bo worked various
      day jobs including what he called a "suicide jockey," transporting hazardous

      chemicals and explosives. It was not until he was retired at 65 that he hit
      the road full-time and toured Europe with Little Whitt Wells.
      His list of accomplishments includes two tours of Europe, playing
      blues in Ireland, Scotland, England, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Holland,
      and Belgium. His CD, Moody Swamp Blues, recorded with Little Whitt Wells,
      picked as CD of the Year in 1995 by Scott Duncan, editor of Britain's
      Blueprint Magazine. He has performed on many radio and television programs
      including one on the BBC in England and one on the popular public radio
      program, "Whad'Ya Know?" hosted by Michael Feldman. He has always been a
      wonderful musical ambassador from our state. Bo McGee has performed at some
      of the major blues festivals in the world including the most prestigious
      the Chicago Blues Festival. He received the Alabama Blues Project's Alabama
      Blues Ambassador Award in 2000. In 2001 he was the recipient of the
      prestigious State of Alabama Folk Heritage Award.
      The Alabama Blues Project together with the Alabama Blues Society have
      set up a Bo McGee Burial Fund to assist the family with funeral expenses.

      Tax deductible donations can be sent to:
      The Alabama Blues Project
      Bo McGee Funeral Fund
      2620 2nd Street E
      Tuscaloosa, AL 35404

      The Alabama Blues Society has been planning their 10th anniversary blues
      which was to celebrate Johnny Shines' life and benefit the ABS Benevolent
      Fund. Microwave Dave and the Nukes, Kent Duchane, Candy Shines, Debbie Bond,

      and Tommy Gardner were scheduled to play. In the light of this tragic news,
      all proceeds will go to benefit Bo McGee's funeral fund, and the lineup will

      no doubt increase as more musicians volunteer to help raise funds. The
      benefit will be held at the Cotton Club in downtown Tuscaloosa, April 20th.
      For more information phone 205-339-6547.

      Asked to describe his music Bo replied, " I play the real Alabama blues, the

      heart of the blues, the core, the real thing from the real people raised and

      born into the blues. It's an everyday thing with me since childhood.

      The blues tells a story. You know everybody got the blues. Old and young,
      black and white. Every livin' thing got the blues. The blues is everyday
      livin'. This music is a mind-pleaser and medicine for the soul. Music is
      of like a telegraph. When you get something heavy on your mind, your music
      there to kind of calm you down. It is all about communication. When I play
      song it's like I am reaching out to someone to communicate from my heart -
      not my head - its the heart that really counts. "

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