The Blues Foundation’s 2023 “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” honorees are notably international in scope. The eight individuals and organizations set to be honored hail from such far-flung blues outposts as Denmark, Poland and Colombia.
This year’s honorees will be recognized for their achievements at the Keeping the Blues Alive Awards brunch, taking place Jan. 27, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. CT in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Memphis.
The ceremony represents just one part of the Blues Foundation’s 38th annual International Blues Challenge. The IBC Week kicks off Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, with International Showcase performances on historic Beale Street, and concludes with the finals at Memphis’ Orpheum Theatre on Jan. 28 at noon CT.
The Blues Foundation has also programmed a variety of seminars, showcases, master classes, film screenings, book signings, exhibits, networking events and receptions.
For more information about the International Blues Challenge, including the full schedule of events, IBC merchandise and links to reserve discounted hotel rooms at The DoubleTree Hotel, visit Blues.org.
Recipients of the 2023 Keeping the Blues Alive Awards are:
The Little Village Foundation
The Little Village Foundation, formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2015 by Grammy-winning keyboardist Jim Pugh, focuses on seeking out, recording, and promoting artists whose music has not yet been discovered outside of their communities. Among the 51 recordings released by Little Village, the majority are blues related. CDs nominated for recent Blues Music Awards include albums by Tia Carroll, Memphissippi Sounds and Sonny Green.
For more than 40 years, John Guregian has been spinning the blues on his radio show, “Blues Deluxe,” hosted on WUML-FM in Lowell, Mass. Starting in 1979, when Guregian was still a student, the show aired for four hours on Saturdays. This led to a stint as blues director for the station, along with subsequent work emceeing many blues festivals and club shows. “Blues Deluxe,” which is now on the air every Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at www.wuml.org.
Marilyn Stringer is among the most prolific photographers currently documenting the blues. She began covering the blues in earnest in 2006 and has since become the head photographer for some of the top blues festivals in the U.S. Stringer has also published three books in her Blues in the 21st Century series. She recently started her fourth book, Blues Souls, which will feature black-and-white photos of renowned blues performers.
The Sierre Blues Festival
In 1995, Swiss native Silvio Caldelari established the Blues Bar music club in Sierre, Switzerland. Fourteen years later, Caldelari and a group of volunteers founded the Swiss Blues Society. After affiliating their new organization with The Blues Foundation, Caldelari’s group decided to launch the first-ever Sierre Blues Festival. Since that inaugural event, the three-day festival has grown in popularity. Caldelari has continued to work with European blues leaders to nurture the European Blues Union and its partnership with The Blues Foundation.
In 1982, at age 15, Franky Bruneel started his blues radio show, “Back to the Roots.” His show ran on several local and national radio stations throughout Belgium, his native country. In 1991, Bruneel began organizing blues concerts and created a link that brought American artists to Europe for short tours. In 1995, Bruneel created a modest fanzine named after his old radio show. Back to the Roots is now one of the most important blues magazines in Europe.
Blues journalist Ron Wynn began his career in the 1980s as the chief music critic for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. He currently writes for the Nashville Scene, the Tennessee Tribune, the Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society, and Jazz Times, among other publications and websites. Wynn’s liner notes for From Where I Stand—The Black Experience in Country Music received a Grammy nomination in 1998. Wynn has contributed to three books, including Ain’t But a Few of Us: Black Music Writers Tell Their Story, slated for publication in December.
Blue Front Cafe
Located on Highway 49 in Bentonia, Miss., the Blue Front Café has been the home of the Bentonia School blues tradition since 1948, when Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ family opened the café. The café is still open daily and presents live blues performances every weekend. As the headquarters of the Bentonia Blues Festival, which Holmes started in 1972, the Café has become a beacon for blues fans. A series of videos shot at the Café for The Black Keys’ Mississippi hill country-inspired album, Delta Kream, put even more focus on the Blue Front as a musical mecca.
Teddy’s Juke Joint
Teddy’s Juke Joint, owned by Lloyd “Teddy” Johnston, sits at the end of a dirt road off Highway 61—one of the last remaining juke joints on the Chitlin’ Circuit. Johnston was born in this shotgun shack in the woods north of Baton Rouge. After touring the country in the ’50s and ’60s as a DJ, he returned to Zachary, La. in the early ’70s to expand his childhood home into a bar. He allowed gospel groups to practice in the building, and when they began to form blues bands of their own and needed a place to perform, Teddy’s Bar & Lounge became Teddy’s Juke Joint.