The Blues Foundation
The Blues Foundation - Memphis
The Blues Foundation, the world’s premier organization dedicated to honoring, preserving, and promoting the blues, was founded in Memphis in 1980. Mississippi-born performers and business professionals in the Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame outnumber those from any other state, and Mississippians have also won many annual Blues Music Awards, Keeping the Blues Alive Awards, and International Blues Challenge talent competitions sponsored by the Foundation.
The Blues Foundation, the headquarters of an international network of blues appreciation with thousands of members, grew from a small base of Memphis supporters that presented the first W. C. Handy Blues Awards at the Orpheum Theatre on November 16, 1980. Balloting for the awards (later renamed the Blues Music Awards) and the Blues Hall of Fame was initially conducted by Living Blues magazine by polling a worldwide group of blues authorities, deejays, musicians, folklorists, record dealers, and producers. The majority of the first twenty inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 were born in Mississippi: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B. B. King, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2 (Rice Miller), John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Son House, Otis Spann, Jimmy Reed, Charley Patton, and Memphis Minnie. By 2012, more than fifty Mississippians had been inducted. As the Foundation grew, paid members became the Blues Music Award voters, while a select committee of experts elected the Hall of Fame inductees.
Over the years, the Blues Foundation expanded its activities to include education programs, blues conferences, health care, the Handy Artists Relief Trust (HART) Fund, Keeping the Blues Alive Awards, Lifetime Achievement Awards, and the International Blues Challenge (IBC). Hundreds of blues societies and organizations around the world have affiliated with the Foundation and many have sponsored bands in the IBC competitions. While the blues has become an international phenomenon, the Blues Foundation has continued to acknowledge Mississippi for its crucial role in blues history and as the home of generations upon generations of blues musicians. More than two hundred Blues Music Awards have gone to Mississippi natives or one-time residents as Performers of the Year in various categories or for their contemporary, traditional, acoustic, soul-blues, or reissue recordings. Multiple award recipients include B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Pinetop Perkins, Little Milton, James Cotton, Willie Kent, Magic Slim, Albert King, Eddie Shaw, Eden Brent, Hubert Sumlin, Bobby Rush, Cedric Burnside, Honeyboy Edwards, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, R. L. Burnside, Sam Myers, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon, Carey Bell, Eddy Clearwater, Otis Spann, Sonny Boy Williamson (No. 2), and Snooky Pryor. Zac Harmon, Eden Brent, and Grady Champion are among the IBC winners with Mississippi roots.
Memphis has long been a major gateway to and from the Mississippi Delta, both for musicians and for blues fans worldwide. In 2010 the Blues Foundation, formerly housed in small office spaces without room for a Hall of Fame exhibit, acquired this building to make 421 South Main Street the permanent address of the Blues Hall of Fame and the “International Home of Blues Music.”
content © Mississippi Blues Commission
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