James Michael Antle
Dorothy ‘Miss Blues’ Ellis
Big Dave ‘Bigfoot’ Carr
We are honoring Oklahoma, Oklahoma related musicians, and Friends of the Rentiesville Blues Festival musicians who have a lifetime of achievement in the blues!
During the Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival in Rentiesville over Labor Day Weekend, these nine people chosen by DC Minner and the Friends of Rentiesville Blues will be inducted into OK’s first ever BLUES Hall of Fame!
We are proud and honored to be able to give back to these musicians who have done so much for the blues community and music lovers in general with their life time commitments to the music we love! We are also honored to have the support of the Society of Tulsa and the OK Blues Society as we work to create the OKLAHOMA BLUES HALL OF FAME!
F.O.R. Blues presents the
OK BLUES HALL OF FAME
inducted at the Dusk til Dawn Blues Fest
Sept 3, 4, 5th before their sets
Hiram Harvell Berry Harris
Tony Mathews Lem Sheppard
Flash Terry Mike
Big Dave Carr Larry Johnson
Dorothy ‘Miss Blues’ Ellis
Narva Johnson, Founder of the Larry Johnson Foundation accepts Larry’s induction from DC Minner 2004
Flash Terry – Tulsa
Tulsa’s legendary bandleader – he played Dusk til Dawn every year but the year after he retired. His Uptown Horns will lead the tribute to Flash on Friday.
Lem Sheppard – Educational Contributor – Pittsburg KS
South Africa, work in the schools across the US for two years solid, Performer at Dusk Til Dawn over 10 years, acoustic between the sets, main stage, Lem hails from Pittsburg KS (will play between sets Sat at Fest)
Mike Antle – Educational contributor – Okmulgee
A blues guitarist to his heart, Mike left us at a young age but not before he taught over 40 guitar students a week at John Michael’s Music store; NSU had just hired him to teach guitar there. Winner Battle of the Blues Bands here, from Okmulgee
Tony Mathews – Hollywood, Checotah
LA session man, Ray Charles’ first guitarist – toured with Ray 18 years, and Little Richard as well. Plays Rentiesville every year. He grew up 5 miles away in Checotah. (will play Sat at Fest, and do Ray Charles Tribute)
Berry Harris – Wichita KS, Stringtown OK
Berry has been playing blues 55 years or longer, plays piano as well as guitar… Berry Harris is such a mainstay of the Wichita KS blues scene that the city of Wichita named a Berry Harris Day (Berry will play Sat at Fest)
Larry Johnson – OKC, LA
Ran his New Breed Band out of OKC over 10 years, Included OKC’s Claude Williams, Madd Ladd, Ron Hardin, Vernon Powers, D.C. Minner and Gordon Simms. The band played Wichita regularly and toured nationally behind Freddie King, Chuck Berry and others). The New Breed worked out of Memphis 2 years, on tour with O.V. Wright. DC and Tony Mathews to the moved west coast, DC came back and got Larry who then worked out of LA from 1970 until 2000. Larry won the Guitar Showdown at the Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival. The CD of the showdown is his only recorded work that we know of.
Dorothy ‘Miss Blues’ Ellis – OKC, Paris TX
“Not a songbird” writes the Edmond paper. Originally from Paris Texas, Dorothy ‘Miss Blues’ Ellis got to OKC and ran out of money; she has had a profound affect on the city’s music scene ever since. “Texas shout” is how we define her powerful vocals! She plays Sunday in Rentiesville this year.
Big Dave ‘Bigfoot’ Carr – OKC
from OKC, the Spencer area; had his own group in Denver. A warm and soulful tenor sax man he is Bronko’s Uncle. Bronko and Big Dave’s sons will do a tribute to him on Sunday at Dusk til Dawn
Hiram Harvell– S.F. CA
A tremendous talent on keyboard, Hiram worked as DC Minner’s drummer through the 70’s, later as his keyboard man. A Haight St. San Francisco regular, Hiram played the Dusk til Dawn for years, helping define the spirit of the Festival. “Negro Blues”
Miss Blues BIOGRAPHY
For Dorothy Choncie Ellis the road from Direct Texas has been a long glorious trip. Orphaned at early age, self determination and love for life and people has led her into many adventures of living. Think for a minute about the young girl from Direct, whose Mama Carrie instilled in her a love and respect for books and learning. From the cotton fields to servant’s quarters, Dorothy pursued education, earning a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma. Her journey has brought her close to a Doctorate, and she has other passions as well. All along the way, Dorothy belted out big time blues and self published two books, “For Blacks Only” and “Hoe Cakes and Collard Greens”. Dorothy became “Miss Blues” when “You is One Black Rat” was blaring on the wind up Victrola. She began singing professionally in 1943. She has performed with Buddy Miles, Blind Dog Smokin, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Little Joe Blue, Leon Blue, Drink Small, Kenny Neal, Bo Diddley, and Zora Young, among others. She has appeared at many Blues Festivals including the Arcadia Blues Festival, T-Bone Walker Blues Festival, The Southwest Blues Heritage Festival, Jazz in June, Arcadia Blues Festival, Pinedale Blues Festival, Snowy Range Music Festival, Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival, Arkansas Heritage and Blues Festival formally known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival an more. She also shared the stage B.B. King and Buddy Guy in Lampe MO. She has appeared on Discover Oklahoma and Is This a Great State or What. She is also an advisor to the Larry Johnson Foundation.
Miss Blues loved to cook her blues, adding all the sweet and smoky harmonies and spicy and sizzling lyrics you love, belted out with a vocal fire that can only come from a soul that has truly lived through the worst of rough times and dirt poor to emerge as a teacher of souls, a fiery shout style vocalist beyond compare and a true ambassador on the history and sound of the blues. Miss Blues is a member of the Oklahoma Arts Council.
As a blues lover, if you crave the real deal, you’ve just found it because Miss Blues is the Blues. Miss Blues was inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame in 2004 and incducted into the Oklahoma Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame in 2011
Recent PRESS for Miss Blues!
A Trooper Ain’t Always a Man
My band is tougher than a tangle of barbed wire in a bull’s tail. We sleep on the basement floors of strangers using our shoes for pillows. We pee on the side of the road in blizzards that hurl the stream and fan it into whiteouts twenty feet away. We eat hard-boiled eggs and tuna fish out of the can while cramped in a van full of instruments, luggage, and trash. We drive all night taking turns at the wheel with the others curled into snoring lumps. We awaken with Orangutan hair-do’s and we smell like tennis shoe sweat. We did this two hundred times a year for a dozen years.
It’s no place for a woman—and we are a clean living band. Many bands add booze, dope, cigarettes, and the infamous hide-a-slut to the mix inside the vehicle, which then has to stop for periodic puking, dry heaves, and angry gun-toting husbands in pursuit. June Cleaver would cross herself at first glimpse, even if she wasn’t Catholic.
That’s why it’s amazing the toughest member of our touring entourage is a woman. A couple of times a year we take Dorothy Ellis, known for the past sixty-six years as Miss Blues, on long grueling tours, winter and summer, day and night. Not only has she never complained, never asked to go to the bathroom, never asked for special privileges—but she is the life of the party.
Miss Blues weighs 260 pounds and once knocked a man out with her size twelve shoe. He bares the scar on his head to this day. She was born in Texas on a cotton plantation where she worked in the hot sun at the age of four.
She started singing at the plantation barrelhouse that same year billed as “Little Miss Blues”. She made more money singing than she did all week picking cotton. Over the years she labored to help raise her siblings from an absentee father, who left behind a young and inadequate stepmother. She later left to join an old vaudeville-type circuit, had a baby of her own she toted along, and traveled the country in bad times with even badder companions.
I remember a trip where we drove in one long day, 780 miles on ice-packed roads and howling wind back to Oklahoma where she lives. She slept sitting up, kept a supply of fried chicken from gas station warming ovens, and entertained us with her bawdy stories, foghorn laughter, and positive attitude. She performed that night for four hours and then fed us afterwards at her house: slabs of beef ribs, and cake-like cornbread, sending us to bed with the morning sun and homemade sweet potato pie.
When I complimented Miss Blues on her road endurance and behavior, she replied simply, “I’m a trooper.” In her seventies, Miss Blues still belts out songs from the gut in the raw primal style that reflects a life in the briar patch where she snarled louder than the others to get her share—where passion and compassion are survival tools and not something we vicariously understand from television and movies.
I recall a festival where a relatively famous songstress sat backstage in her elaborate motorhome tending her dogs and being pampered by her husband. She put on an anemic show and went her way complaining about having to use a port-a-potty. Miss Blues arrived having ridden two days on a Greyhound bus with fried chicken stashed in her purse and a supply of Jack Daniels incognito in a squeeze bottle. During her blistering performance, the people in the front row looked like weather channel reporters during hurricane Katrina. She signed autographs, garnered a new supply of chicken, took a belt of vodka from a fan, and got back on a Greyhound and went home. She was paid exactly one-fifth of what the promoted gal got. A shame. She was five times the entertainment value.
But isn’t that the irony of the music world and our American marketing system? Who wants the real item when you can pay five times more for a synthetic model with a hand-shaking promoter and an ad-campaign. It’s the same way we buy margarine, movies, and motor cars. I guess it’s un-American to say this nowadays, but I’ll take Miss Blues and her old beat up body over a teenybopper with her belly button showing, either for traveling or performance. She’s a trooper.
Published – Thursday, May 20,
This was in Edmond Life & Leisure newspaper and NOT the Sun.
Lissa Ann Wohltmann
She sings her heart, soul out
By Lissa Ann Wohltmann
The blues isn’t simply a depressing state of mind. It is music that some consider the poor man’s opera. It tells a story, but in a simple, reflective, soul-stirring manner.
Opera’s clientele, in this country at least, has usually been more high-brow and some say ostentatious. Blues’ audiences are considered earthier. Jeffrey Vlaming once said, “Music continues to nourish us in a variety of forms as different as the colors of the spectrum.”
Dorothy Ellis is one down-to-earth blues singer who nourishes us in her rough and ready demeanor and sound. She personifies the stereotypical blues singer and truly got her start in a poor southern town. While picking cotton in the hot summer sun, she sang simply to stave off boredom. She sang both popular songs of the day, as well as home-grown tunes in the little town of Direct, Texas.
Ellis had plenty of material to sing about while gathering the crop of the day. One might say that her life was right out of a soap opera.
Her mom died before Ellis became a teenager. She then went to live with her abusive grandmother.
“Let me tell you, that woman was mean,” Ellis said about her grandmother. “I still have scars.”
After breaking free from the vicious and brutal young life she led, Ellis embarked on a life minus the physical, but not emotional, pain. She made it as far as Oklahoma City with the few dollars she had in her pocket.
“I was starvin’ to death,” she said about her reason for staying. Back then, Oklahoma City was simply a place where she ran out of money.
The Edmond community has the chance to hear Ellis, also known as Miss Blues, at the 16th annual Edmond Jazz & Blues Festival. She will perform at 4 p.m. May 29 in Stephenson Park, next to the University of Central Oklahoma Jazz Lab.
Many of Ellis’ songs center on tragedy, although she doesn’t see it that way. “I write happy blues,” she insisted. “It’s just a story about life (and) life is not depressing.”
Her first CD, “Sittin’ In” was created with the band Blinddog Smokin’. In it she sings about a man’s failing health due to drinking, partying and the like. Yet she counterbalances the man’s troubles with the fact that this person has led a good life. Ellis considers it her theme song.
“I’ve had my fun. If I don’t get well no mo – you know I’m goin’ down real slow,” she sings with her cigarette smoking raspy voice, reminiscent of musicians in a cloudy old New Orleans pub. “Tell Mama pray for me. Forgive me for all my sins.”
In another tune, “Trapped,” she unashamedly sings about herself.
“‘Trapped’ is about me,” she said straightforwardly.
“I’m trapped in a bad situation,” she croons. “My love has turned to hay.”
She continues with how others treated her in the past.
“You know the man won’t talk to me. He sits with his face in a frown,” she sings with a heavy blues beat. “He says I’m getting” fat. I’m movin’ a little too slow.”
The final line seems to sum up her life.
“Where the hell did 40 go?” she sang about the past years.
When speaking with Ellis, don’t expect anything politically correct to reach your ears. She has a refreshingly different approach to life. She speaks her mind and heart in Miss Blues
She won’t purposefully offend others; but if you are overly sensitive, then this woman’s deportment is not for you. Her inspirational, energetic and simple style is her trademark. Ellis’ street-smart charm will make you laugh and cry simultaneously. Yet, she can still empathize with the lives of the troubled.
“Women can identify with this,” she said on her CD, before singing about her man leaving her for another. She understands how a woman’s anger can turn into rage in 3.2 seconds.
“I’m cryin’ tears of rage,” she sang. “My man is gone with another woman, how do you expect me to behave?”
In this tune, she agonizes about the humiliation, the treachery and the pain she feels from the enormous deceit in this broken relationship.
“I got the blues so bad. Lord, I can’t even eat,” she sings broken-heartedly. “All I can do, people, is wring my hands and weep.”
Ellis isn’t only an emotional being, but she’s also a practical woman.
“Never quit the day job,” she warned. She’s always had a regular paycheck to enable her to keep a roof over her head and to keep singing her songs.
She’s been a director at Group Life for Job Corps, an assistant dean of students at Tusculum College in Greenville, Tenn., and finally retired as a nursing home administrator.
While working full-time, though, she went back to school to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology at the University of Central Oklahoma. Some semesters, she didn’t quite have enough money to pay, yet the president of the college at the time gave her a break.
“I’ve got no money to go to school,” she told him more than once. Instead of being denied admittance, this man let her pay the tuition in installments. “He was real nice to me,” she
Getting this degree wasn’t something she needed to get ahead in life. In fact, she’s not exactly sure why she did it; it was just something she had to complete in life. Perhaps it was more fodder for her blues.
(Lissa Ann Wohltmann can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)