BLUES BALL 2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 12/14/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Welcome to our new location for all the news that is BLUES:

American Blues News!

(Memphis, Tennessee) We are very excited to introduce the new improved site and I am honored to submit the first article on our opening day. Please join us every day for a new article, a host of fine writers scattered across the fruited plain, and inside information on American Blues News!

Accept no imitations, this is it.

This week I donned the suit, tie and the faithful Biltmore eleganza homburg to face a cold, clear wintry Memphis night and take part in the city's best party of the year, the largest annual ball in the United States, the BLUES BALL which is held at the Gibson guitar factory one block south of Beale Street. After dropping off my car with the valet, we quickly headed inside to escape the cold and join the revelers to enjoy some great food and music. After checking the old overcoat at the door we settled in to some light wine consumption and mingling with loads of old friends inside of this huge facility.

Gibson Guitars decked the halls

Outside the front doors

Two huge murals of Elvis by LeRoy Neiman are about 60 feet tall

Here's why they have this very well attended $200 a ticket party every year:

"The Memphis Charitable Foundation is not your typical nonprofit entity. Lighting the Hernando DeSoto Bridge; dropping a giant shovel from a helicopter for the groundbreaking ceremony of The Pyramid Arena; and organizing a parade of Harleys, howitzers, and floats to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Elvis's death are just three of the many unique events orchestrated by the founder and general chairman, Pat Kerr Tigrett, of The Blues Ball, the largest annual ball in the nation, and The Jingle Bell Ball, " America's premiere holiday party for children" (CNN). These events have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and priceless awareness for local charities. The events and charities championed by the Memphis Charitable Foundation are intended to support Memphis music and musicians as well as children's charities.
Jingle Bell Ball
Jingle Bell Ball
"the premier children's holiday party in the nation"

Memphis Charitable Foundation beneficiaries have included LeBonheur Children's Medical Center, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital The Smithsonian Rock 'n Soul Museum, The International Children's Heart Foundation, Variety Children's Charities, Porter-Leath Children's Center/PaLs, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), The Isaac Hayes Scholarship/Manasas High School, Maternal Welfare League, Make-A-Wish Foundation, NARAS/MusiCares, and Madonna Learning Center, in addition to providing funding to Memphis musicians and area music scholarships."

Here's their address if you would like to contribute:

200 Wagner Place
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-5683
Fax: (901) 526-3578

A link to their site:

Pat Kerr Tigrett, Blues Ball Founder and General Chairman

"We always sell The Blues Ball out the first day, 2,500 seats," Pat Kerr Tigrett, founder and general chairman, said. "The secret is the extraordinary musicians. Despite the name, the focus at The Blues Ball is on all kinds of Memphis Music, from rock to gospel," she said. Each year the artists that shaped the Memphis Sound attend and perform at The Blues Ball. Legendary B.B. King, Soul Man Isaac Hayes, wild man Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Blue Bland, Reverend Al Green, Eddie Floyd, Jason D. Williams, Ruby Wilson, The BarKays, and the late Carl Perkins and Rufus Thomas have been just a few of the legends to play the Ball."

This year, Pat Kerr Tigrett received the Emmisary of Memphis Music Award from the Memphis Music Commission. My friend and bandleader of 20 years, Reba Russell, also received the award as did Ruby Wilson and Di Anne Price(pictured below). Here's the full list of recipients:

Joyce Cobb Jackie Johnson
Susan Marshall
Judy Peiser
Di Anne Price
Reba Russell
Linn Sitler
Pat Kerr Tigrett
Deanie Parker
Ruby Wilson

Santa used motorcycles this evening and gave the reindeer a night off
I drank with Blitzen at the bar

Event sponsors

Elegant party goers hit the enormous ballrooms

A painting of Steve Cropper at the silent auction

Steve Cropper

Steve was the Memphis Sound Award winner for 2009 and as many of you know he was a great part of what made STAX records and Booker T. & the M.G.'s sound so damn good. My partner in the Memphis Sheiks, Delta Joe Sanders ended up with Steve's 1968 rosewood Fender Telecaster that is now such a rare guitar. It was one of one or two that ever made it for sale in Memphis and the neck was broken by Steve one night at a gig. I wonder where that guitar is today.

A painting of B.B. King at the silent auction

Engineer, producer, studio owner, Knox Phillips
his father was the late Sam Phillips, owner of SUN Studios

"No event has ever fully embraced or publicly acknowledged
the spirit and achievements of what Memphis music represents
in Memphis and around the world until
the arrival of The Blues Ball 10 years ago.
Pat Kerr Tigrett's creation is the institutional definition of the truly good citizen."
Knox Phillips
Phillips Recording

Cool painted Gibson guitar bodies at the silent auction

My old friend Big Ed Kjellin and his wife, Connie

Preston Shannon accepts his award

' close friend, dj and emcee George Klein and Preston Shannon

2009 Pyramid Award Winner Preston Shannon

Blues man Preston Shannon

George Klein, G.K., was known as radio's "Gee-Ker in your speaker"
and hosted Talent Party on Saturday afternoons on WHBQ television for years

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
the late James Luther Dickinson

Bassist, friend, and band mate, Laura Hughes lights up the ballroom

Red, white and blue pianos from Baldwin, one of Gibson's many brands

It was one hell of a lineup of great music all night long:

The Queens of Zion
(3 cool reggae singing chicks)
15 year old Will Tucker
hip-hop star Al Kapone
my friend Preston Shannon
STAX singer/songwriter William Bell
wild-man piano player Jason D. Williams (who reminds me of a young Jerry Lee Lewis)

Di Anne Price

Ruby Wilson

My friends Ruby Wilson and Di Anne Price appeared in the piano bar. Ruby had a serious stroke last year after an out of town performance and she has healed remarkably well after lots of hard work at physical therapy. For years she was a mainstay at Beale Street's B.B. King's club and it is wonderful to see her back up and singing again. I will never forget her soulful, stirring voice, filling the Antioch Baptist Church the day of the funeral of my mentor, Earl Forest.

The Queens of Zion

Al Kapone

William Bell

Jason D. Williams

Will Tucker

Di Anne Price

We met lots of friends at the party and I had to take their pictures and share them with you here at the American Blues News as you don't get to see so many luminaries in one place very often.

Gigi Phillips and Mark Ramirez

newlyweds Camille and David Newby

Drummer and lifelong friend, Marty Hawkins

lots of guitars at the silent auction

Memphis Commercial Appeal writer Michael O'Donahue and the author

my girlfriend, Donna Donna Donald and Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis' Graceland

cool Gibson bus...wish they'd let me take it for a spin

Another magic night at the BLUES BALL

©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms


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American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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