Hill Country Music

World Music Foundation Podcast | Season 1, Episode 12

This is sacred ground.

About this Episode

John travels down to Coldwater, MS for the 69th Annual Goat Picnic in honor of fife & drum legend, Otha Turner. What started off as something else, ends up being a a good handful of great conversations with musicians (and even some audience members) about the Hill Country Music of Northern Mississippi, USA.

R.L. Boyce, Earl “Little Joe” Ayers, Dom Turner, and Ricky Stevens are all featured.

(Intro Music Plays)

John Gardner: Hello, hello and welcome to the World Music Foundation podcast. I’m your host, John Gardner, and today we traveled down to Coldwater, Mississippi to attend the 69th annual Goat Picnic in honor of fife and drum master, Otha Turner. 

Now, I’ll let you know right up front that this episode did not go as initially planned. We traveled down to Coldwater, Mississippi after making arrangements to interview Shardé Thomas- Otha Turner’s granddaughter and basically the last living master and proponent of fife and drum music. Now, when we got there, for whatever reason, Shardé wasn’t able to do the interview. So we’re sitting there thinking “Oh, man we traveled 8 hours, we’re gonna have to go home with nothing.” Ah, since it was a great music event anyways, we said well let’s stick around and enjoy the music. And then, we started to realize “wait a minute, we’re surrounded by, in some cases, living legends of this music”. And the more we talked to people, the more we learned, we said there’s a lot around us, let’s see who we can talk with. And we are thrilled to bring you the interviews that came from this visit. 

This episode ends up being about Hill Country music. Okay, so, we would call it Hill Country Blues but it’s the Blues of Northern Mississippi. Now, you’ll hear later on in the interview with Little Joe, he tells me he’s teaching guitar, so my thought on the spot was “Well, what would be your advice to a new student who’s wanting to learn the Blues?,” and he just looked at me crazy and said, “the Blues? I play Hill Country.” Oh yea! Okay, so that put me in my place and made it real clear that we’re not just talking about the Blues. We’re talking specifically about the regional music of North Mississippi. This is Hill Country Music. 

But now the good luck started when we were sitting there thinking we were going home with nothing. Just killin’ some time and talking to a couple of representatives from the Shrine Club. See, the event was held at the Shrine Club this year and they do great work, I was really enjoying learning about the way they transport children to receive medical attention that they couldn’t get in the area or wouldn’t have funds to be able to afford. They transport them hundreds of miles, in some cases, to make sure they see the specialist they need. So I was already enjoying our conversation but then one of the gentlemen just seemed to know quite a bit about music, the blues in general, and specifically from this region. So, I just asked him how and why he knew so much. Well, I’ll let him explain to you but there’s a pretty good reason he knows so much. He’s actually quite involved with the music.


John Gardner: Alright now the way things work out good sometimes, wasn’t expecting this. Found myself sitting here with a gentleman that helped host this event at the Shriners Club here. And turns out, he’s a bit of a blues historian himself. So we’re going to let him introduce himself, and just give us a little bit of background maybe on the blues from Mississippi.

Ricky Stevens: I don’t know if I would use the word blues historian, but my name is Ricky Stevens. I’m just a guy that lives here. I know a little bit about a lot of things, and I can fake the gaps in between the few pieces of things I actually do know about. We’re here at the Northwest Shrine Club here in Coldwater, Mississippi. It’s part of the Shriners International group that operates the hospitals for the crippled children, and this year Shardé Thomas decided to move the Othar Turner Goat Picnic that has been at Como for the last sixty-eight years to our building here in Coldwater. So we’re here at the 69th annual Othar Turner Goat Picnic. So far we’ve had a really great time. Had some fantastic music last night. Course Shardé came out with her fife and drum and the Rising Fife and Drum Band. Mark Massey, Muleman, closed it out late last night. I’m not sure who’s on right now, but whoever it is sounds really, really good.

John Gardner: And what is your role with the Blues Foundation?

Ricky Stevens: Okay. With the Blues Foundation I was a member of the Board of Directors for six years. During that time we raised the money and opened the Blues Hall of fame at 421 S. Main in Memphis, Tennessee. And now that was a big deal. For about thirty years we had had a Hall of Fame, but we never had an actual, physical building. People would come in, they would get inducted into the hall of fame, they’d get a really nice little, nice little trophy or a certificate and a plaque, their name would be written down somewhere, but there wasn’t a place for blues fans to go and say “oh yeah, look at this!” So we fixed that. A lot of that was the vision of a guy named Jay Sieleman who was the executive director of the Blues Foundation at that time, and really oversaw the whole fundraising effort and got the thing done. Can’t say enough good things about Jay on that account. It was a really fun six years on the most part. I was involved a little bit in that. Some with the International Blues Challenge, which is like a worldwide battle of the bands. Last year we had about 250 acts from more than forty states and more than twenty countries. So it truly is an international effort.

John Gardner: So from that many countries you have people out there playing the blues. During your time and from your experience, and especially with that, that blues challenge, how have you seen the blues is being received by people in other places. It seems like it’s grown out further from where it started here in Mississippi.

Ricky Stevens: Okay, I grew up in a small town in the Mississippi delta. Drew, Mississippi, that’s famous for being the home of “Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples and Willie Brown. As far as I’m concerned that’s the epicenter of the blues, but i’ve been fortunate I have met blues musicians, blues fans from India, Iceland, Italy, if it’s any country I can imagine, Russia, Georgia, the country of Georgia, Norway, I met some guys from the Philippines, Japan. If you can think of a place the blues is there. Argentina. But it’s a worldwide thing. People just seem to be drawn to this very elemental style of music. It’s, the basics are very simple. It’s I IV V progression with simple lyrics, but the thing is somebody said one time that rock is the art of making something simple look hard, blues is the art of making something really, really difficult look easy. The lyrics, the sound, the soul of blues is what makes it different from so many other musics, and I think that really what appeals to people from everywhere.

John Gardner: Now we’re based out of Chicago, and we’ve got a, got a big blues history in Chicago, of course, and I’m the same way. Travelled to different countries, and I’ve been fortunate to come across people from several countries, and I hear great things from them about the blues. I hear in Australia they’re talking about how important the blues are. When I walk around Chicago on a regular day to day basis I don’t really get that same excitement for the blues. Just from an everyday Chicagoan. How is it down here, from, you live now in Coldwater?

Ricky Stevens: I live out in front of Coldwater.

John Gardner: Okay, so you live out here in this area around Coldwater. How’s the blues received? Kind of what’s the mentality? Is it seen as outdated music? Are people still celebrating it, or does that only happen at events like this?

Ricky Stevens: That’s a hard question. As far as day to day, you don’t hear much blues on the radio. You don’t hear that many people that play blues in their cars or in their offices. But everybody claims to like the blues. The ones that have actually heard it. And then some of them said, “oh yeah, blues, yeah, I know, I know, what’s his name, Junior Kimbrough, and R. L. Burnside and R. L. Boyce. I know, yeah, yeah, I know them. Oh, is that blues?” And they know the music, but they don’t really, for whatever reason, connect it with being blues. Blues here is, seems to be everybody’s second or third choice. There’s not that many hardcore blues fans, but there’s not, there aren’t many people who say, “oh god I can’t listen to that.” But it’s, in live performances like what we have here today, yeah there are a lot of blues fans. There are a lot of casual fans that say, “oh yeah, okay that sounds pretty good. I’m gonna go listen.” But that’s about it.

John Gardner: And as it turns out, the music that might be seeping into the microphone behind you is the sounds of the great R. L Boyce. He’s out there right now. That’s who’s on stage. So could you tell us some of these names. You mention R. L. Burnside and these others. Who would you say, for someone who’s not familiar with the blues specifically from this area, what are some names they might check out? Maybe some recordings? What comes to mind when you think of Northern Mississippi blues?

Ricky Stevens: Well, R. L. Boyce, R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough. Any, anything that includes the name Kimbrough or Burnside. Current recording artists I would say Cedric Burnside, the Northern Mississippi Allstars, Luther and Cody Dickinson are really carrying on this tradition, Shardé Thomas if you can find anything about Shardé you’ll hear music that you won’t hear anywhere else. She’s probably the last true proponent of the old fife and drum music. But, yeah, those are the people you need to hear.

John Gardner: Could you tell us some about that. What is this we’re here to celebrate, Othar Turner, could you tell us a little bit about him? What is this fife and drum music you speak about.

Ricky Stevens: Okay, fife and drum is a very old, old style of music. It’s not really blues. It’s different. As far as I can tell it’s derived from old African styles of music that survived the Atlantic crossing into the Americas, and survived through years of slavery and up until the present day. It’s a whole different chord progression made with homemade flute and backed by a variety of drums. The drums are played very intricate rhythms underneath the flute, the fife, solos with vocals thrown in. You may be familiar with some of Othar Turner’s music from the movie “Gangs of New York” where it was included as some of the background music in there. Othar lived outside Como, Mississippi which is about maybe fifteen miles from where we’re sitting right now. Lived on a farm, raised cows, goats, and was there, lived until his mid nineties, playing music up until the last days of his life as far as I can tell. But you can hear more of Othar’s style of music, Othar Turner, Napoleon Strickland, you can hear both of them, and they’re both from the same place from near Como. A lot of videos on YouTube you can hear that, there’s recordings available, some from the Library of Congress collection, some from the Lomax collections that were done back in the thirties. So it’s pretty, pretty good stuff if you can find it.

John Gardner: And there’s also some footage of Otha on “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”


Little Joe: Call me “Little Joe”… Most people.

John Gardner: Now Little Joe, you’re saying- Who’d you grow up with?

Little Joe: I grew up in Lamont, Mississippi.

John Gardner: And you said you grew up with Mr. Junior Kimbrough?

Little Joe: Around him- We grew up together, uh-huh. But, he was a little older than me.

John Gardner: How’d you get mixed up with him? Because y’all ended up making music together for several years, huh?

Little Joe: Was there for thirty-two years. My first cousin and Junior come up together. He was, my first cousin was a year older than Junior, and he was a great guitar player. And he and Junior would just go around and play that through the house. And after, I was a little boy, I’d be wanting to get in that with ‘em. I was watching them, I said to myself “one of these days I’m gonna do the same thing, I’m gonna be the same person”. And sure enough, my cousin, he’s got drafted to the army. Well, Junior stayed around. And therefore, I got my guitar from a Uncle.. He sold me one great big ol’ guitar for uh- four dollars.

John Gardner: Wow.

Little Joe: And so, he uh- told himself, I’m gonna sell it to you for four dollars, just say I didn’t give it to you, and you bought your first guitar. Sure enough, he goes on, and I did everything I did. I watched Junior on Sundays, he’d be around playing at the house parties. Somewhere and he always kept a guitar in the car with him. And so, we’re goin’ down a gravel road,we’re laughing and talking and I picked up this little guitar and I hit a lick or two. He said, “oh, think you’re smart doncha?” I said, “not really.” I believe Ace Cannon put out that song. I believe it was Ace Cannon, about “since I met you baby, my whole life have changed,” that’s an old song (?) So I thought that he said, “play it.” When I stopped, He said, “play it!” He kept on, “play it!” I kept on playing it. And he says, “play another one.” And that went rough. John Lee Hooker had to put out “Boogie Chillen.” I did that one. And then I played “Good Morning Little School Girl.”

John Gardner: Oh, come on.

And I laid it down. He says, “play another one.” I play one of his. One of his songs. He says, “You sure know ? don’t you?”

And so went home, he goes to a party one night, and I was there. He jumped up on, he played until he got tired, and he said “come on up here, play a song. Help me out. When I got there I started to 2:53 He’d be playing his style of music. I wouldn’t play his style of music I would just, like I said, some old John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and then people went crazy about it. He got mad, told me “we need to get you a guitar”. I went on, brought my guitar out, he said, “here I’ll let you play mine”. And so, we played that whole night sometimes, that’s way back in 1957. Ya, so it’s uh-

John Gardner: Wow. And you learned this just one note at a time, you just learned as you heard it.

Little Joe: I figured it by ear, I played by ear. You show me something on paper, I won’t know what you’re talking about. And I’d be around all the band teachers, music teachers, and all of that. They’d be dying laughing at me, but watch this, I can play a piano too. The lady teaching- The music director, she can play a piano to death, but I hit a lick on there, same old song “Since I Met You Baby,” if she ain’t got it up there and looking at it she can not play it. It’s amazing. Everything she plays she has to have that book. Have been teaching it for years and years.

John Gardner: Plenty of people say the same thing about you it’s amazing. They say the same thing about you. They say it’s amazing what you do, that you can just play it by ear

Little Joe: Well, that’s the reason why I teach hill country.

John Gardner: So for any of our listeners, if they have a dream that they want to play the blues, they want to play guitar one day, what would be the one tip you would give someone that wants to learn to play the blues?

Little Joe: Yeah, well I play Hill Country.

John Gardner: Hill country, well that’s true. Yeah, so how would you describe your music, how would you describe hill country music?

Little Joe: Well, hill country music, you can take hill country music by yourself, and you can keep the beat and the lead going at all time. And you got to have to no drum, and you got to have no bass guitar, and you take that thumb and whatever your bass drum do you know with the beat you can dance off it all night. You know, and put the lead in with your other finger. With your other finger, and the guitar be saying two, three different things, that’s hill country.

John Gardner: I see.

Little Joe: And that’s cut out a whole lot of, whole lot of dollars. I play most of the time by my own, now my son he’s a great guitar player, he play any kind. You probably heard of him, Trenton Ayers.

John Gardner: Okay, great. I’m not familiar, but I’ll check it out for sure. We’ll share it with our audience

Little Joe: Trenton Ayers book all over the world. He been all over the world. Every state in the United States maybe fifty times I bet you.

John Gardner: Look at that, wow.

Little Joe: And he’s only (?) years old.He moved out and left me, and I hate that too because I got a big show coming up here in (?).

John Gardner: Okay, yeah.

Little Joe: And, he offered to help me out with something big with something like that, and so I don’t think he’ll be able to help me this year. I’m gonna miss him dearly.

John Gardner: I bet. I see. You gave him too much talent, in your, in your blood, so now he’s off touring the world.

Little Joe: That’s how he got it. I didn’t teach him nothing. I ain’t never tell him what’s right or what.

John Gardner: Really.

Little Joe: God knows I always kept a house full of guitars. I never sell none. I never throw them away, I just see it if I need another one I’ll buy one and put that one back. Right now we’re looking one day this week, last week, I went looking for me and wherever I look there’s a guitar. Up on the bed.

John Gardner: That’s great. Well we got all kinds of wisdom from speaking with you. So, we got all the way from the music wisdom to life wisdom, so I really appreciate your time.

Little Joe: Yeah, well me and the old man we had a lot of fun together, Othar

John Gardner: Yeah so you knew, you knew Othar then.

Little Joe: Oh, well we were about two weeks before he had that wreck.

John Gardner: So did you ever play with the, with Othar Turner when he was doing the fife music. You ever play with fife?

Little Joe: No I never played that. Never did.

John Gardner: How would you describe that music that he plays? How would you describe that fife music.

Little Joe: I can’t tell you because I never played it!  You know, say hill people come up and told you something, but he’d be lying if he can’t do it, if he can’t do it.

John Gardner: What do you think about his daughter, his granddaughter, Shardé

Little Joe: I brought Shardé some pictures that I had of them. I was sitting out there, he had her out there training her up then. He had a bit something that (?) did, and he got her to play. He taught her good, taught her well.

John Gardner: Yeah.

Little Joe: She even done know how to make them now. Yeah. She’s like the Burnside, ain’t a woman or man in the Burnside family can’t play.

John Gardner: Really?

Little Joe: Professional.

John Gardner: Yeah, wow.


John Gardner: All right hello. So we are outside at the, at the goat picnic and we ran into a musician here, and think I recognize that accent. Could you tell us your name, where you’re from and what you’re doing out here?

Dom Turner: My name’s Dom Turner. I’m from Sydney, Australia, and the reason I’m  here is, I toured earlier this year in Australia with R. L. Boyce who’s from Como,  Mississippi. And anyway, R. L. mentioned that there was a few festivals this way, so I’ve been it up here in the US just for a couple of weeks to do this festival and another one in Como, Mississippi. So, I’m a bit of a regular coming to this particular region because of the fact that the, the music of the Mississippi hill Country has the biggest influence on my own style in my own group back home. Even though I sort of hybridize it in a form because I’m obviously not from the region. So I have to add my own sort of twist to things, but it’s so it’s always a real honor to come to this area.

John Gardner: So your, you grew up in Australia

Dom Turner: Yeah, my, my main group in a straight as a group called Backsliders. A little confusing because there is an American group, and I think that’s an Austrian heavy metal band as well but, we’ve been around for nearly thirty five years and we mainly do the music festival circuit in Australia, which is a quite a big circuit. And as well as that I have some cross cultural collaborations with Korean and Chinese musicians as well crossing blues with various ancient music forms. But I also collaborate with a (1:33) harmonica player from Washington D.C., Phil Wiggins, who is a, actually a National Heritage Award winner from 2017. And also some musicians from the (1:46) Sacred Steel Tradition from Toledo, Ohio. And that’s the, we call that the Turner Brown Band. It’s a number of women from a gospel steel guitar tradition.

John Gardner: Right on, so how did you first get turned on to the music from northern Mississippi?

Dom Turner: It goes back to my childhood really, or as a teenager. I sort of became obsessed with Mississippi Fred McDowell, and it was really from that. I mean I heard him very young like, I don’t know, eleven, twelve, thirteen something like that, and it kind of went from there really and it’s just become, you know, I’m, I’m now in my sixties and it’s just become part of my life.

John Gardner: That’s great so what does it mean for you to be here for this music actually originated from?

Dom Turner: This is holy ground. This is sacred ground. When I come here I just get that urge to just lay down on the ground and roll around. Soak it up. You know, it’s, it’s awesome. And also the, it’s just a great opportunity to meet the people. I mean the music scene is still incredibly vibrant here so it’s great. We can hear some great music going on in the background as we are talking here, but aside from that it’s, it’s the cultural element in meeting the people and, and just being in the area, you know? And I’m not really, I’m not one for mimicking music. I try to do my own thing with it, you know, but to be where the music came from, where the tradition bearers are is an absolute honor.

John Gardner: That’s great, and are you familiar at all with Othar Turner fife music?

Dom Turner: Oh yeah. My, my love of Othar Turner goes back probably as far as with Fred. I mean, I heard Fred first, and then you know Othar Turner,  Napoleon Strickland and the Ed and Lonnie Young and various other musicians. Of course the Pretcher brothers and Sid Hemphill and it goes on and on.

John Gardner: You’re definitely in it deep.

Dom Turner: Yeah. Deep, deep. Once you get in that deep you can’t get out. There’s no turning back.

John Gardner: That’s great. We’re so glad to have you here. We’re excited to hear your set coming up later on today a little bit of a delay because of the rain.

Dom Turner: That’s right.

John Gardner: We’re excited to to catch some of that may play a clip for our listeners.

Dom Turner: Great. Thank you very much. Great talking to you John.

John Gardner: Yeah, it’s a pleasure.


 John Gardner: It is a great pleasure. We are out here at the Othar Turner Goat Picnic and there’s a little, we heard some of that music earlier, that great musician on stage was Mr. R.L. Boyce, and he’s been kind enough to share some time. So if you don’t mind just say your name and your instrument.

R.L. Boyce: My name is R.L. Boyce. Funny fact, I used to play with Othar back years ago.

John Gardner: Really?

R.L. Boyce: I was a big ladies man. Finally I got off on my own.

John Gardner: There you go.

R.L. Boyce: You know sometimes we all get hard-headed, and I figured I wanna do something on my own. So I got my own band.

John Gardner: Well, we’re glad you did. So what instrument do you play sir?

R.L. Boyce: I play lead guitar.

John Gardner: How would you describe this music that you make?

R.L. Boyce: Buddy, I don’t read no kind of music. Not at all. If you said give you an A I can give you a B. I go by the sound of my ear. Whatever I want to play, I play it. I don’t practice at all. Whenever I get ready to do a song, any kind of song that I want to do, when I travel, everything going through my head, and I know exactly what I want to do, why I get where I’m going. I play all in Chicago. I play with Bobby Rush. Play with Little Milton. You might not can’t believe it  when Howlin’ Wolf was living I was on stage with him.

John Gardner: Oh, come on! Come on now. Wow.

R.L. Boyce: And I always sit back and watch those guys, and I figured I want to do something on my own, and I’ve been doing it for forty-two years.

John Gardner: Wow. And for you to be able to say that you don’t need to practice, you don’t need to read the music, you can feel your way through that guitar.

R.L. Boyce: I feel my way through it.

John Gardner: That means you’ve been playing it for a while. How did you first get into the guitar? How did you first learn?

R.L. Boyce: Through by Luther Dickinson. And my uncle, Othur he started out and I’d sit around and watch him a lot, and I said, “I want to do that on my own.” And back years ago I used to be Jessie Mae’s drummer. I started out with her.

John Gardner: Okay. On drums

R.L. Boyce: I was a drummer.  I did two CD’s with Jessie Mae Hemphill.

John Gardner: Okay.

R.L. Boyce: And after she passed I feel like I want to do something on my own. I played with Leo Bud Welch, Bilbo Walker. So I’ve been out there a while. Big Jack Johnson, I’ve been out there.

John Gardner: This ain’t your first rodeo.

R.L. Boyce: Nah.

John Gardner: So how did you make that switch from, from drums to guitar? Or, like did you take lessons, or you just felt it out?

R.L. Boyce: I, I felt it through. I felt it all the way through.

John Gardner: Drums also?

R.L. Boyce: Drums the same way.

John Gardner: You just got it going for you.

R.L. Boyce: Whatever you put in your mind to do, you can do.

John Gardner: Come on.

R.L. Boyce: I got a lot of people that want me to learn them how to play, I tell them you ain’t, you’re not ready right now. And so, I brought my granddaughter out today for the first time. She said “ Granddad?” I said “what?” “I want to be like you,” you’re not ready.

John Gardner: Oh no. Wow, okay. Yeah it’s all about timing. So, and did you grow up here in northern Mississippi?

R.L. Boyce: I did.

John Gardner: What would you say, is there a difference in the music that gets made up here versus down in the Delta or up in Chicago, or is there something about this area in particular?

R.L. Boyce: Let me put it to you this way. To me, all blues are the same. It’s what you want to put in it. Lot of blues came from the delta, from the delta up in the hill country. Then it left the hill country and came to Chicago, then came over to Milwaukee, they came to South America. All blues is the same, but they put more with it than blues

John Gardner: Hm. Okay. What else do you put with it? What else goes in with the blues?

R.L. Boyce: When I was coming up, we used to pick cotton. You could hear people all over the cotton field singing, going on, but there wasn’t no guitar, and I said, “well one day I’m gonna figure out me some songs and get a guitar to carry it on through. So that’s the way I do my blues

John Gardner: You did it. You said, you put your mind to it, it happens.

R.L. Boyce: It happens. Put your mind to it. You carry it right on in there.

John Gardner: You said that it, blues started in the delta. It spread up here through the northern Mississippi, on to Chicago, out all the way to South America. You’re spreading this blues all around too. Where have you been touring lately?

R.L. Boyce: Buddy, I toured South America, Chicago, Colorado. I’ve been to Telluride. First time being. I played on stage there one day and I didn’t know when they say, “well drink plenty of water and gatorade.” When I got ready to come off stage I got dizzy. You’re not at sea level

John Gardner: Yeah, it’s way up there. It’s a high one, Colorado.

R.L. Boyce: Well, they had Mexico, from Mexico to St. Louis, from St, Louis to Las Vegas, from Las Vegas to Philadelphia. I mean you name it, I’ve been there.

John Gardner: Wow, you’ve been moving around, and you had a gentleman on stage with you from Australia. Now did you pick him up in Australia?

R.L. Boyce: Well, he picked me up down here

John Gardner: Oh, okay.

R.L. Boyce: So I flew down to Australia to do a three day show with him.

John Gardner: And then now you have him back down here doing shows with you.

R.L. Boyce: Well, my party will be going on next weekend down in Como.

John Gardner: Oh okay.

R.L. Boyce: And he came down to join me.

John Gardner: Oh that’s great.

R.L. Boyce: And so, you’re welcome too if you want to come down next weekend.

John Gardner: Oh wow, thank you sir. Really appreciate that, wow.

R.L. Boyce: Thank you for everything because I played Arkansas last night, up till the time.

John Gardner: I believe it. You wouldn’t tell it from how you played on stage though. Thank you sir, what a pleasure

R.L. Boyce: Thank you.

(Outro Music Plays)

John Gardner: Oh! I love it when a plan comes together. Fantastic trip, so thankful for everyone we got to speak with. If y’all enjoyed this, dig deeper into this hill country music, plenty to see at WMFPodcast.prg/12. 

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Hey, you’re not gonna wanna miss what’s coming up. Next week we speak with Afrobeat legend Femi Kuti from Lagos, Nigeria and if you think I’m not through the roof about that, you do not know me. Super excited about it, hope y’all enjoy it. Until them, remember to listen widely. Open ears equals open minds. We’ll catch you next time.

For The Extra Curious


Ricky Stevens was born in Port Arthur, Texas, but didn’t stay there long, as a few years later his parents moved to Reno, Nevada. He has served as volunteer and board member at the Blues Foundation, is a BMI-affiliated songwriter and a voting member of the Engineers and Producers wing of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). He serves his community as an active member of the Northwest Shrine Club, and has a BSN from Delta State University and a master’s degree in history from The University of Mississippi. Stevens is a Cardiovascular Technology Instructor at Northwest Mississippi Community College and has held several certifications throughout his career including emergency room, intensive care, operating room and trauma. Rick first sang in public at the tender age of four, when his family set him up on a chair in front of the congregation at their church.

Earl “Little Joe” Ayers is a blues guitarist and singer based in Holly Springs, Mississippi. For over thirty years, he was a member of the Soul Blues Boys, Junior Kimbrough’s long-time backing band. The band was initially composed of Kimbrough and Ayers on guitar and George Scales on bass. Scales was frequently absent due to the demands of his job as a concrete finisher for a construction firm, and during his long absences Ayers began to play bass in his place. He remained the bassist for the Soul Blues Boys until Kimbrough’s death in 1998. Kimbrough later added a drummer to their group; John Henry Smith, John Henry McGee (both now deceased), and Calvin Jackson all served terms behind the drum kit for Kimbrough. Ayers was born in nearby Lamar and began performing at house parties in the area when he was 15. He is the father of GRAMMY nominated guitarist Trenton Ayers.

Dom Turner is best known as guitarist/ vocalist, founding member and key songwriter of the iconic Australian blues group, Backsliders. He has toured the Australian festival circuit since the 1980s and regularly appears at most major blues related music festivals including Bluesfest, Woodford Folk Festival and Blues on Broadbeach to name but a few. He is a highly regarded speaker on blues music and has guested on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio programs (including a weekly series on ABC Gold Coast entitled ‘Blues Tuesdays’ and guest presenting Radio National’s ‘Music Deli’) and presented music workshops at festivals and in universities (both nationally and internationally).

R. L. Boyce is a GRAMMY nominated American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist born and raised in Como, Mississippi, United States.

He started out as a drummer, playing for the Rising Star Fife and Drum band with blues legend Otha Turner, all the while waiting to come out in front to sing and play guitar. His debut full-length album, entitled Ain’t the Man’s Alright was released when he was 52 years old and featured musicians including Cedric Burnside, Luther Dickinson, and Calvin Jackson. His songs are often delivered in an improvisational fashion, with references to his collaborators, his environs and whatever else happens to be on mind at that particular moment.

Musical Mentions

0:05 World Music Foundation Podcast
0:08 John Gardner
0:19 Fife & Drum Music
0:20 Otha Turner
0:39 Coldwater, MS
0:41 Sharde Thomas
1:35 Hill Country Music
1:45 Little Joe
1:47 Guitar
1:54 Blues
3:41 Ricky Stevens
4:24 Fife
4:24 Drum
4:28 Mark Massey
4:29 Muleman
4:38 Blues Foundation
4:47 Blues Hall of Fame
5:19 Jay Sieleman
5:40 International Blues Challenge
6:19 Roosevelt Staples
6:20 Willie Brown
9:23 Junior Kimbrough
9:24 R.L Burnside
9:25 R.L Boyce
9:30 Northern Mississippi Blues
10:11 Cedric Burnside
10:12 North Mississippi Allstars
10:15 Luther and Cody Dickenson
10:16 Sharde Thomas
10:30 Fife and Drum Music
10:38 Othar Turner
10:58 African Music
11:14 Chord Progression
11:17 Homemade Flute
11:24 Rhythm
11:29 Solo
11:30 Vocals
12:08 Napoleon Strickland
12:21 Library of Congress Collection
15:00 Junior Kimbrough
16:41 Ace Cannon
17:06 John Lee Hooker
17:49 Muddy Waters
17:50 Howlin’ Wolf
17:59 Guitar
18:18 Note
18:40 Piano
19:37 Hill Country Music
20:29 Trenton Ayers
24:07 Dom Turner
24:14 R.L. Boyce
24:16 Como, MS
24:34 Mississippi Hill Country
24:58 Backsliders
25:30 Harmonica
25:33 Phil Wiggins
25:51 Sacred Steel tradition
25:58 Turner Brown Band
26:18 Mississippi Fred McDowell
27:23 Othar Turner
27:24 Napoleon Strickland
27:26 Ed and Lonnie Young
27:43 Sid Hemphill
28:57 Othar Turner
29:22 Instrument
29:15 Band
29:22 Lead guitar
30:06 Bobby Rush
30:08 Little Milton
30:16 Howlin’ Wolf
30:52 Luther Dickinson
31:09 Jessie Mae
31:10 Drummer
31:30 Leo Bud Welch
31:31 Bilbo Walker
31:34 Big Jack Johnson
32:36 Blues
34:45 Telluride Festival
36:51 Afrobeat
36:52 Femi Kuti
30:01 Afrobeat
36:53 Lagos, Nigeria