It was an evening of soul, gospel, jazz, and blues at the 22nd Annual W. C. Handy Heritage Awards celebrating the 145th birthday of the “Father of the Blues,” W. C. Handy.
Presented by the W. C. Handy Memphis Home and Museum and Heritage Tours, the awards paid tribute to the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, and honored “Authentic Memphis Musicians.”
The setting for the occasion, the Guest House at Graceland, was the perfect backdrop for the stellar event co-hosted by the “International Queen of the Blues,” Toni Green and TV and radio personality, Leon Griffin. Elaine Lee Turner, owner of Heritage Tours, set the stage for the evening with a heartfelt dedication to Memphis native, Aretha Franklin.
Kicking off the entertainment, blues & jazz artist Cequita Monique pleased the audience with a taste of Mr. Handy’s Blues, accompanied by the dynamic Lyte Speed R&B Orchestra directed by Mark Anthony Lee.
Receiving the Lifetime Music Achievement Award was Stax veteran and music educator Floyd Newman, who recently donated his 100-year-old saxophone to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Royal Studios was presented the Music Business Award for 60 years in the recording industry by R&B singer Percy Wiggins and received by Ona Mitchell co-owner of Royal Studios, along with her brother Grammy Award winner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell.
The Music Legacy Award was given to Royale Johnson, jazz historian extraordinaire and radio personality for his dedication to sharing his extensive knowledge of jazz history with audiences world-wide on The Jazz Lover-WUMR.
Each of the honorees for this year’s “Authentic Memphis Musicians” showed the audience why they deserved such an honor. After being presented her award by musician, Delores Crawford, gospel recording artist Sonji Wright brought the audience to their feet as she paid tribute to the “Queen of Soul” with her powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace” and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”
Blues guitarist “Daddy Mack” Orr then had the crowd rocking with him and his guitar with “Rock Me Baby” after he received his award from fellow bluesman, Earl “The Pearl” Banks.
Blues artist and award recipient, Ms. Zeno “The Mojo Queen” proved her royal status as she paid tribute to the “Queen of Soul” with “Baby I Love You.”
Willie Covington, a veteran R&B singer, graciously accepted his award and gave the audience a sample of his smooth, soulful style.
As the evening’s event came to a close, co-host Toni Green paid her tribute to the “Queen of Soul” with a show-stopping performance of “Dr. Feelgood” before all the honorees gathered on stage for the grand finale to give Aretha Franklin her “RESPECT.”
It was indeed a “Tribute fit for a Queen!”