Pictured (l-r): Rep. Joe Towns Jr., Rick Estrin, Tracy Sow and Big Llou Johnson. (Photo: Mark Caldwell)

by Tracy Sow

The world of Blues recently celebrated the 39th Blues Music Awards (BMA’s) in downtown Memphis. The BMA’s are the highest honors in Blues and many consider it as the “Grammy of Blues.” It was an exciting week of inductions into the Blues Hall of Fame, awards and after parties.

Events kicked off with the Blues Hall of Fame Induction-ceremony recognizing five categories:

Performers – The Aces, Mamie Smith, Georgia Tom Dorsey, Roebuck Pops Staples and Tom Lay;

* Individuals – Al Benson;

* Classic Blues Literature – “I Feel So Good”;

* Classic Blues Recording (Song) – “Blues is King,” B.B. King;

*( Classic of Blues Recording (Single) – “Green Onions,” Booker T & the MG’s (Stax); “Cross Cut Saw,” Albert King (Stax); “I’m A Man,” Bo Diddley; “Roll ‘Em Pete,” Joe Turner and “See See Rider Blues,” Ma Rainey.

Since 1980, there have been 130 performers inducted and 120 of them are African Americans.

Immediately following the induction ceremony, Big Llou’s Hall of Fame Tribute is where the stars come to let their hair down in an intimate setting with fans, peers and blues lovers. The Blue Carpet event was a parade of stars and a stage of performing artists paying tribute to inductees.

I reminisced with Latimore about his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame last year.

“It is always an honor to have your life’s work be recognized by your peers and it is important to keep Blues music alive for future generations,” Latimore said.

We also caught up with state Rep. Joe Towns Jr., who presented proclamations to inductees and our 2nd place International Blues Challenge Winner, Fuzzy Jeffries and the Kings of Memphis.

After stopping Rick Estrin, (winner of Song of the Year and Traditional Blues Male Artist), I commented on his acknowledging African Americans as creators of the Blues genres during his acceptance speeches.

“That is what we should all do,” said Estrin. “Give credit to those that gave us the music.”

Big Llou”s Hall of Fame Tribute Jam paid special tribute to the lives of Denise LaSalle, Queen of the Blues, and Eddie Shaw, both members of the Blues Hall of Fame. Proceeds benefit blues programming and activities of blues’ nonprofits.

Festivities culminated with the Blues Music Awards.

Memphis’ own Southern Avenue won for Best Emerging Artist Album. Taj Mahal garnered several awards. Mavis Staples won best Soul Blues Female Artist, with Vanesse Thomas (daughter of Rufus Thomas) and Denise LaSalle competing in the same category.