Say “the blues” or “blues music” to the average fan, and you will stir up images of smoke-filled juke joints, bathtub gin, and brazenly bawdy lyrics. An accurate picture, no doubt, but Carroline Shines Edwards wants you to know that this snapshot is only a small glimpse of the art form that is nothing less than a building block—indeed, a cornerstone—of American music. For Edwards, “blues” also means family, church, and community. She wants the world to know and understand this complexity, so a few years ago, she founded the Johnny Shines Blues Festival to celebrate and share it. This year’s event, scheduled for August 30 in Edwards’s own back yard, promises to do that and more.
Blues and “family” have special meaning for Edwards. Her father, the legendary Johnny Shines, was a respected bluesman in his own right but also shared the stage with the likes of Robert Johnson. More importantly, though, he nurtured unknown musicians and helped foster countless careers.
Shines moved his family from Chicago to Holt when Edwards was a child, and she grew up attending church with her mother as well as sharing the dinner table with some of the twentieth century’s best-known and beloved blues musicians. No one had to tell her that the juke-joint sounds that put food on her family’s table had their roots in the South’s cotton fields and humble churches attended by slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She literally heard these links on a near-daily basis. This intricate connection between spiritual music and blues is part of Edwards’s DNA, so it is no surprise that this year’s Festival line-up includes a heaping helping of gospel.
As she helps keep the blues alive, Edwards wants to focus especially on young people and make sure they know their heritage. She sees this as a way to also honor both her father and his good friend, the late Willie King. Both men devoted countless hours to educating children.
“The Johnny Shines Festival will help teach our kids and the community the history of the blues. These kids need to know their origins, and they need to know that the blues is the basis for all [American] music. They need to have that sense of pride,” she says.
Edwards is unwavering in her determination to always hold the event at her house on Johnny Shines Street, not only because she wants to give back to her hometown of Holt, but also because she wants to emphasize that families build communities and that your community, in turn, becomes your family.
“Having the festival at my childhood home shows where my Dad stayed and where I’m from. It shows that we are simple, everyday people, and that good things come from Holt. Also, I feel closer to my Dad here,” says Edwards.
The festival is truly a family affair, as Edwards’s kin help her run it.
“They’re my eyes, ears, and legs,” she says. “Everything I can’t do, they do. Where I can’t be, they are.”
The last Johnny Shines Festival took place in 2012. Edwards skipped last year for personal reasons, but she and a dazzling line-up will be back in full force for the 2014 event. More than 200 came out two years ago, and Edwards hopes that this year’s attendance exceeds that.
The gates will open at 10:30 a.m., and the festival will kick off at 11:00 with the Tuscaloosa Community Heritage Chorale, a non-denominational and multi-cultural group dedicated to music ministry and educational outreach. Arkeithan L. Bivins, another gospel act, will follow. Next up will be Hattie B (Hattie Butler), a Tuscaloosa native who performs everything from gospel to R&B and Hip Hop, with a “touch of jazz.” Local favorite B. J. Miller will take the stage after lunch, and Tuscaloosa party-circuit mainstay Simple Interest will follow.
Mid-afternoon, Stephen “BluesDude” Duncan, an Athens, Georgia, native now based in Atlanta, will fill the air with traditional sounds. A familiar face in Atlanta, Clarksdale, and other venues throughout the region, Duncan will also play the Annual Pinetop Perkins Foundation Homecoming Celebration later this year.
Following Duncan will be SharBaby Newport, an award-winning songwriter and performer whose electrifying sounds are known worldwide. A 2012 Blues Hall of Fame inductee (as “Master Blues Artist”), SharBaby has also received numerous other honors, including three songwriting awards from the Indie Music Channel.
Neon Smoke with Shawn Battles will close the Johnny Shines Blues Festival.
General Admission price is $15. VIP tickets are available for $25.
VIP tickets include: a chair, tent, table, meal, signed poster, and swag bag.
WHEN: Saturday, August 30,
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (gates open at 10:30)
WHERE: 4017 Johnny Shines Street, NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404
(If you look it up on Google it’s 4017 11th Street, NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404)
11:00 – Prayer
11:15 –Tuscaloosa Community Heritage Chorale
12:00 – Arkeithan L. Bivins
12:30 – Hattie B (Hattie Butler)
1:15 – B. J. Miller
2:15 – Simple Interest
3:15 – Stephen “BluesDude” Duncan
4:15 – SharBaby Newport
5:15 –Neon Smoke with Shawn Battles

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