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2010 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees

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The Blues Foundation has announced the artists that it will be inducting into its Hall of Fame this year, and they've really done a great job with their choices--much better, in my humble estimation, than the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation has done lately with their inductions.

Chaired by publisher Jim O'Neal, founding editor of Living Blues magazine, the Hall of Fame committee is comprised of blues scholars, historians, record producers, and radio programmers.

The Blues Hall of Fame committee has chosen six worthy blues artists, two non-performing supporters of the genre, and a handful of recordings for induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010. The induction ceremony will be held at the organization's annual dinner the night before the 2010 Blues Music Awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday, May 6th, 2010 at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis.

Contemporary Blues Inductees
The Blues Foundation's 2010 Blues Hall of Fame inductees include Chicago blues guitar great Lonnie Brooks; harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite; and popular blues-rock singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt among its contemporary artists. Lonnie Brooks has forged a distinctive style that is often described as “voodoo blues," mixing elements of R&B, Chicago blues, Memphis soul, and Cajun music into an intoxicating brew. A master showman and charismatic performer, Brooks has often branched out beyond records to take advantage of other mediums. The guitarist appeared in the movie Blues Brothers 2000 as well as various television shows, and co-wrote the book Blues For Dummies with his son Wayne Baker Brooks, and roots-rocker Cub Koda.

Harp blaster Charlie Musselwhite rose out of the Chicago blues scene of the 1960s and, along with Paul Butterfield, helped bring blues music to a young white audience. His move to Northern California late in the decade brought his blues to the children of flower-power and, in the decades since, the artist has been an effective ambassador for blues music. More than anything, however, Musselwhite has helped expand the stylistic barriers of the blues, bringing elements of jazz, Tex-Mex, and even world music into his traditional mix of Delta and Chicago blues styles.

Bonnie Raitt is, perhaps, the best-known of this year's Blues Hall of Fame inductees, a popular blues-rock performer with a string of hits to her credit. Although best-selling, chart-topping albums like Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw and multiple Grammy Award wins often overshadow Raitt's blues roots, as a guitarist she is respected enough to perform alongside legends like John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Taj Mahal, among others, on both the stage and on recordings. Raitt is committed to blues music as an art form, and as co-founder of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, she has helped older artists with royalty recovery, and she had frequently helped fund headstones and memorials for deceased artists.

Early Era Blues Inductees
Its surprising, perhaps, that it's taken this long, but W.C. Handy, “The Father of the Blues," will be inducted this year, along with jug band pioneer Gus Cannon and Cannon's Jug Stompers, and boogie-woogie blues piano great Amos Wilburn.

W.C. Handy, for whom The Blues Foundation originally named its Blues Music Awards (pre-2001), was better-known as a music publisher than as a musician and performer. Adapting the blues tunes that he heard on his travels through the South, Handy would go on to compose such blues music standards as “St. Louis Blues" and “Memphis Blues." Handy would go on to pen a best-selling autobiography, titled Father of the Blues, and a statue of the influential songwriter stands quietly in his honor on Beale Street in Memphis.

Memphis blues legend Gus Cannon originally recorded as “Banjo Joe" during the late-1920s, but it was his recordings for the Victor label circa 1928-30 with his band Cannon's Jug Stompers, that would create his legacy. So popular and influential were the Cannon Jug Stompers' recordings that rockers like the Grateful Dead and the Lovin' Spoonful would later cover the band's songs. Cannon would record a final album for the Stax label during the 1960s, passing away in Memphis in 1979.

Pianist Amos Milburn was one of the lucky artists that would make the transition from straight blues to R&B, Milburn's combination of rollicking piano blues and soulful ballads would score the singer a string of hits during the 1940s and '50s, including songs like “Chicken Shack Boogie," “Bewildered," and “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer." Sadly, the hard-living bluesman would be sidelined by a stroke in 1970 and had virtually disappeared from the music scene before his death in 1980.

Non-Performing Inductees
The Blues Foundation also recognizes excellence in other creative areas that surround the blues, and in the “Non-Performers" category this year they'll be honoring one of my favorites, noted music writer Peter Guralnick. The author of definitive biographies on artists like Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke, as well as books like Sweet Soul Music, Lost Highway and Searching For Robert Johnson, Guralnick is one of music's hardest-working historians, his work offering insight into, and documenting blues, early rock, and roots music.

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