Let me start by thanking again everyone who helped make it happen. These folks especially because they know without them, I never would have been able to lead the jam at IBC Memphis 2013. Thank you Kyle Deibler, Terri Robbins, Pat Pepin, Betsy Lynne Paisley, Heidi Tuba Ho Knochenhaurer, John Lowe, Brian Wells, Eric Hughes, Victor Wainwright, Vinny Marini, Yellow Dog Records, Sweet Water Farms and of course The Center For Southern Folklore for allowing us use of their space.
Next I want to thank all the women who came to jam. Far more than I ever imagined took a spot on the stage and gave their music to a room packed with WiB supporters. I am gathering the list now and will be sharing it along with video and photos that are being gathered from multiple sources! Please keep an eye for that as I am expecting some great photos that perhaps you all will want to share with others and will make sure to set them for tagging!
Now I will get to the good bad and ugly, and it is mostly good with just a tiny bit of bad that can be fixed next time.
First the bad. We were set up to jam from Noon – 3:00pm. We actually ended up going til 4:00!! Even with an extra hour, some of the women who came to jam did not end up getting on stage. Not many but in most cases the delays with so many female blues singers in the house, a lot of the ladies had to leave and get ready for other events, and even some for semi-finals at the International Blues Challenge. To those who did not get on stage my sincerest apologies. It actually bugged me so bad I snuck off and had a quick cry and pout then snuck right back to lead the jam. If I had been in your shoes I would have felt a bit slighted or frustrated. If I left any of you feeling that way, my sincerest apologies and I will do all I can to make sure that does not happen at our next event. Better planning and more time to settle details should help prevent it happening again. Just know I will work on that and I do feel and understand if you felt frustrated or slighted. I never intended or meant for it to happen. That may not give a ton of comfort but I hope you know it will serve to lessen the potential for repeating that error on my part.
The only other bad I heard is that we did not have enough female instrumentalists which did mean we allowed a few men on stage. Mostly men from bands that were there behind a WiB in the blues challenge to begin with. This is something I tried to make clear had potential of taking place but many came to this last minute and were not aware. The one exception to the ‘male’ artists who was not from a band with a female up front would be Tom Holland who graciously came to watch all the ladies and sat back and enjoyed for some time. We finally let him do the closing tune with Cassie Taylor!
THE GOOD…AND PLENTY OF IT SO SIT BACK FOR THE RIDE!!!
We knew for sure that 18 women would come jam. You will see them on the poster I attached here. But we had nearly 40 show up. Their ages spanned from 16 to nearly 70. We even had a 12 year old female instrumentalist who debated getting up but felt content to watch the older ladies lead the way. The women did cover songs and originals. They did ballads and rockin’ tunes. The styles of blues were as varied as the women themselves. You heard a little Chicago, Memphis, Delta, Porch, even some with a funky or jazz edge. A hint of rock and gospel whispered through the Center too! No one argued about what was pure or modern. No one fussed or cared if one was old or new school. The women on this really came together. I loved this fact. I see so many debating what is or is not blues and if it should be kept like a museum piece or allowed to evolve. But not at our jam. The women just allowed each other to express themselves the way each knew how, from my perspective. I only heard one tiny fuss about ‘keys’. That was it. Come on ladies… ya’ll know for a roomful of women, that is pretty darned amazing!
Another great thing about our event was the sheer volume of people who showed up to watch and support the WiB jam. In my head and in planning I had anticipated maybe 80-100 people would come. After all, we were not on any schedule and it was not until I arrived in Memphis that there had been chance to put up a single poster or start getting hand bills out. Vinny Marini had done us a few radio plugs and the ladies on our poster and some WiB supporters shared the event and poster on their walls and in various blues groups. We sent out the event invite to plenty of people but we knew the KBA’s were taking place with a limited number of tickets and hoped we would at least get a little over flow. When we did a final tally while trying to compensate for the flow of traffic and comings and goings of new audience members. We came up with somewhere between 250-300 people having supported the WiB jam! OMG was I a bit shocked by the sheer numbers. At most points it was standing room only with a lot of folks standing. I was so happy for all the women who had CD’s and other merch to sell! Many of them did manage to make some gas money home via supporters who came to enjoy the day with us.
My favorite bonus comments did not actually happen at the jam itself. Nuts, right! But later that night I was running in and out of clubs trying to support various bands in the semi-final rounds of IBC by catching sets. I was stopped many times and thanked for running the event by people who had come to see all the women in one place. It was nice enough so many people stopped and thanked me after the fact but what was really great was that several people, including a few groups of 3-4 people said they heard about the WiB jam on the local public radio that morning. But they had not been aware of the IBC and because we told them all about it, they bought tickets for the semi-finals to support some women they had seen that day and catch some of the top blues acts from around the world! We helped sell at least a dozen or more wrist bands for the Blues Foundations event! That really did feel like a bonus to know we were also giving back a little to them because without the IBC there would not have been such a golden opportunity to gather so many incredible women in one place. Timing was everything!
Now I am back home nursing my own variation of the travel bug and pondering how much fun that was. Sure there were a few little kinks behind the scenes that I will keep to myself. But they did not effect the event or the women and that is all that matters. There are always gonna be things behind the scenes and that is part of what I do. Deal with it so you don’t have to! My goal and mission has never strayed. I have always been straight up about it. I make no bones how I feel about Women in Blues getting the short end of the stick and how it needs to end. The first recorded blues song was done by a woman. When WWII broke out and all the men folk went to war, who kept blues alive? Women. And I don’t mean they just sang. Those women wrangled musicians, sewed costumes, cooked dinner for the band, handled bookings and more. Tell me how many men have done that! Yet, in this one genre, I see a lack of equality I don’t see in almost any other genre of music. It made it hard for me to find female mentors though many men taught me well. It makes it harder to mentor other women. It leaves the WiB’s tweaking their tunes and style to get radio airplay on stations other than blues format and to book enough gigs to survive. Is that right? No.
So, on I go promoting my sisters in blues. Fighting to level the playing field. Striving to insure that they are treated as more than a side note. The women are behind me. The strong men with big ‘cahonies’ are behind me. Now, who wants to help me further this mission? Who wants to go to their next blues festival with 20 on the line up and not see only 1 woman artists listed? Who is with me? If you are… be a member of our National Women in Blues group on Facebook and keep an eye for me to post ways you can help. It won’t be long before I make a call to arms, as this jam proved my point. There are plenty who want to hear and see women sing the blues and more than most would have you believe! Now I know those numbers will multiply and make the case for me. And until I make a call to arms, you know you can influence radio folks and booking agents. Let them know you want more WiB’s. Request their songs and if the DJ does not have it, tell him why the station should have it. Get your blues society to have more than 1 WiB on stage. Write letters to the editors of your favorite blues publications and blogs asking them to feature your favorite WiB’s! Join me in the fight to give WiB’s their due!
Just remember, I am straight up, expect everyone to stay on mission and when I fuss I am seldom mad, only adamant! I am prone to remind people that my hometown sister Ruth Brown was never shy or coy when fighting to get artists their due. Don’t expect me to be either!
aka Woman WiB CBW
PS…to ANYONE I forgot to thank at any point….THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
This was not done by me alone and credit goes out to so many people who helped make this all happen.