Music is a universal language understood across cultures. Victor Hugo once said, “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” The Blues you feel to your core and express all the emotions you can’t explain.
The Blues are the people behind the music, their pain, struggles, cultures, movements, and The Blues Foundation and Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee, is here to preserve those stories. The Blues Foundation has run the Blues Hall of Fame and inducted more than 350 artists and industry professionals since 1980.
In the spring of 2015, at 421 S. Main St. in Memphis, Tenn., a brick and mortar location opened, taking the Hall of Fame from virtual to reality. The foundation also recognizes organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions with their work in the blues genre by way of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” Awards. The awards banquet is held during the International Blues Challenge week. This year’s award ceremony was held on January 29 at the Doubletree Inn in downtown Memphis.
One of the 15 recipients is Como, Mississippi, artist Sharon McConnell-Dickerson. Sharon has worked with many musicians to create their life-cast images, which she makes in a similar process as when a dentist takes molds of teeth. Dickerson takes molds of musicians’ hands and faces, preserving their life image for future generations. Over the past 16 years she has cast over 60 musicians, including Bobby “Blue” Bland, Pinetop Perkins, Little Milton, and Blind Mississippi Morris.
“There are people who make music recordings, but I make human recordings of musicians,” says Dickerson.
For Dickerson, this passing on a piece of Blues history represents her own unique way of keeping the blues alive. Sharon’s exhibit, A Cast of Blues, may be viewed and touched at the Blues Hall of Fame Museum through Memphis in May, 2016.
While Dickerson is preserving familiar faces and hands of musicians in the United States, across the Atlantic, in France, fellow 2016 recipient and writer/photographer Fred Delforge is working to spread the Blues in Europe and bring in new faces. “The best future for me is to continue to share a passion and to help fans discover new bands, new musicians with Zicazic,” says Delforge.
With the help of a friend, Delforge launched zicazic.com in 2011. The name serves as a nickname of sorts, referring to “musicians to musicians.” The site was started as an idea his friend had while playing a Punk show at the Bataclan in Paris and became a resource to give answers to every question a musician might ask. Today, the site operates as a magazine and includes reviews and live reports from festivals such as the International Blues Challenge held annually in Memphis. When in Memphis for IBC, Delforge says he only sleeps one or two hours a night to publish for the French and American people.
Besides Zicazic, Delforge also is a member of the European Blues Union Board of Directors. Also in 2011, Delforge co-founded France Blues, which works to get more people involved with blues and helps bring artists to festivals such as EBC and IBC. According to Delforge, European Blues is becoming more ambitious incorporating genres like Hip Hop to create a new kind of Blues.
“Blues is the roots,” he says. “Without Blues there is no Rock ‘N’ Roll, no Rap, no Soul. Everybody is listening to the Blues everyday, but a lot of people don’t know this is the blues. We have to explain Blues is a language supposed to be international. Blues have no borders, no countries, no religions.”
A Touch of the Blues
The Blues Foundation honors Blues’MidSouth artists and
musicians with “Keeping the Blues Alive”
Story by Mary Eckersley