August 18 · 5:00pm – 7:00pm
DCC Visitors Center
141 Cherry Street
Delta Cultural Center
HELENA-WEST HELENA – An evening of song and celebration on Cherry Street is slated Wednesday, August 18, as the Delta Cultural Center hosts an opening reception for its new “Rhythm & Roots: Southern Music” exhibit with music from Mississippi bluesman Earnest Roy and Blues Bayou Restaurant & Blues Club presents the slide guitar technique of Arkansas’s own acclaimed Joe Pitts Band.
Festivities at the museum and visitors center, loc…ated at 141 Cherry Street, get underway at 5 p.m., with music beginning at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend. The evening’s performance by the Joe Pitts Band at Blues Bayou, located at 115 Cherry Street, begins at 8 p.m.; a $5 cover will be charged. Those attending the DCC event, however, can receive a stamp permitting them free admission to the Blues Bayou event.
The new “Rhythm & Roots” exhibit examines the rich variety of traditionally recognized Southern music forms – including blues, bluegrass, Cajun, country, gospel, Appalachian, and bluegrass — as well as musical traditions less readily associated with the South, including the cultural sounds of Native American, Asian, Caribbean, and Latino communities. The exhibit was created by South Arts, the Atlanta-based regional arts organization.
“Rhythm & Roots is a tribute to all of the musical forms that come together to create the Southern sound,” says Gerri Combs, executive director of South Arts. “The Rhythm & Roots exhibit, part of our Southern Visions program, showcases key Southern musicians and the instruments they play.”
The exhibit is augmented by handheld audio guides that allow museum visitors to hear samples of the music referenced in “Rhythm & Roots.” Also, the DCC is displaying a number of related museum artifacts with the exhibit.
Among musicians recognized in “Rhythm & Roots” as early Southern innovators are: Thomas A. Dorsey, the prolific songwriter called the “father of African-American gospel music” (and a blues performer earlier in his career); pioneer Mississippi Delta blues singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist Charley Patton; Kentucky thumb-picking guitarist Arnold Schultz; and North Carolina banjo pickers Dewitt “Snuffy” Jenkins and Earl Scruggs, both of whom drew on local traditions in which players plucked the strings with the thumb, index and middle fingers.
The exhibit also notes two musicians who brought the unique sounds of their homes to Northern audiences — Dewey Balfa, who pioneered Cajun music performance outside Louisiana, and Wade Mainer, whose bluegrass sounds entertained Michigan and Ohio industrial workers in live settings and on record. Cherokee musician Walker Calhoun and the music of the corn dance are noted, as is the increasingly international flavor of music in the multicultural South.
“Rhythm & Roots” is the latest addition to South Arts’ Southern Visions: The Southern Arts & Culture Traveling Exhibits Program. Since 1995, Southern Visions has provided more than 500,000 people with access to exhibits celebrating the South’s artistry and cultural heritage. “Rhythm & Roots: Southern Music” is presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional corporate support was provided by Hart Law Firm of Atlanta.
Clarksdale native Earnest “Guitar” Roy was taught to play bass guitar at age five by his father, Earnest Roy Sr., a guitarist who worked with Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, John Lee Hooker and many others; by age eight, he was performing in his father’s band, the Clarksdale Rockers, and had switched to lead guitar by age 11. He was fronting his own band at 14. Roy has since worked with many luminaries, including Albert King, Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, and Joe Turner. From 1993 to 2001, he performed with televangelist Rod Parsley. Several years ago, Roy returned to the blues and formed his own band, naming the group in honor of his father’s band, Earnest “Guitar” Roy and the Clarksdale Rockers.
Roy provided the headliner closing performance of the 2010 DCC Mother’s Best Music Fest in June.
Joe Pitts studied at the Berklee College of Music and credits Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, and Roy Buchanan as influences. He has been compared to a number of renowned guitarists, including Warren Haynes, Michael Burks, Larry McCray, and Walter Trout.
“One of the most soulful blues rock guitarists of our time,” Nightflying magazine wrote in describing Pitts’ sound.
Constantly gigging and touring internationally, he released his “Just A Matter of Time” CD in 2007 and followed it in 2008 with “Joe Pitts Band: One Night Only.”
Gallery hours at the DCC Visitors Center at 141 Cherry Street and the nearby DCC Depot at 95 Missouri Street are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. “King Biscuit Time,” the nation’s longest-running blues radio program, is hosted each weekday at the DCC Visitor’s Center by “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. “Delta Sounds,” hosted by DCC Assistant Director Terry Buckalew and Payne, is broadcast each Friday at 1 to 1:30 p.m.
For more information, call the Delta Cultural Center at (870) 338-4350 or toll free at (800) 358-0972, visit the DCC online at www.deltaculturalcenter.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested persons can contact Blues Bayou at (870) 405-4979.
The Delta Cultural Center shares the vision of all seven agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage – to preserve and promote Arkansas heritage as a source of pride and satisfaction. Other agencies within the department are the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Natural Heritage Commission.