A Hollywood audience recently got a dose of some down-home Southern blues, thanks to two men who have both called Clay County home. When Richard Ramsey moved to California from West Point a year or so ago, the blues preservationist and Howlin’ Wolf Museum curator didn’t know he would find a fellow expatriate on the other side of the country — especially one who shared some of the same musical passions. This past fall, however, Ramsey and John D. Tucker collaborated in launching the Ghost Blues series of events. It kicked off with a Happy Howlin’ Ween at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood and featured “Jimmy Kimmel Live” band guitarist Toshi Yanagi among performers.
Tucker’s existing TBBLESEvent Production umbrella and experience, and Ramsey’s blues knowledge and background with West Point’s Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival were key assets in developing the Ghost Blues series of “conversation and concerts.” Events are designed to include live performance, but also Ramsey’s presentations about Clay County native Howlin’ Wolf, his bandmate Hubert Sumlin and other influential Mississippi blues artists.
“John called me out of the blue and, with his groundbreaking experience in producing and promotion, suggested the Ghost Blues lecture series,” said Ramsey. “To have a fellow West Point native out here with John’s production knowledge is priceless.”
Ghost Blues was formed to educate and celebrate the most important, influential, groundbreaking music genre in history, he continued.
The blues “changed it all,” Ramsey said. “This is the music that influenced everything we’re listening to today. Charley Patton, Sam Phillips, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and many others laid the foundation for what the world knows now as rock and roll and the British invasion.
“Absolutely amazing. To think that Mississippi influenced it all is mind-boggling!” said Ramsey.
Spreading the word
At the inaugural event, which included a VIP reception hosted with the Orange County Blues Society, Ramsey shared stories about Howlin’ Wolf and Sumlin and their impact on generations of musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, B.B. King and the Rolling Stones. The audience saw clips of the documentary, “Smokestack Lightnin’: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf.”
Tucker said helping to educate and inspire has always been important to him, thanks to the examples of his parents, teachers and leaders while growing up.
“After speaking with Richard several times, it clicked,” he said of the Ghost Blues concept. It dovetailed with his desire to let Southern Californians know more about Mississippi’s cultural impact on the world of music.
“I had a relationship and partnership with the Musicians Institute’s College of Contemporary Music in Hollywood, who jumped at the chance to be the host venue for this important blues music history (event) to reach a multi-ethinic and multi-generational demographic … ”
Southern California is already home to a blues following, with the Doheney Blues Festival, a host of blues societies and local blues bands Ramsey described as “incredible.”
Both former West Point residents look forward to promoting the genre, and Mississippi’s role in it, to a West Coast audience.
“John and I take pride in the fact that our home state of Mississippi has a rich blues history that’s being recognized by artists of all ages worldwide interested to hear and learn more,” said Ramsey. “Together we hope to continue to celebrate our region and the contributions of the known — as well as other unsung — blues greats.”
The next Ghost Blues event is being planned for February.
Tucker added, “It’s our desire to eventually return to West Point, incorporating similar programming into the West Point school district, benefiting the community that raised us, and even taking the event to area colleges.”
The Happy Howlin’-ween event Oct. 30 designed by Tucker’s @TBBLESEvent Production featured Richard Ramsey/Ghost Blues in partnership with KJAZZ 88.1 and MI Hollywood. The event had giveaways from W Hotels Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, California African American Museum and GIBSON.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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