We are honoring Oklahoma or Oklahoma related Blues musicians who have a lifetime of achievement in the blues — 6 people nominated by Blues Societies around the state and chosen by DC Minner and the Friends of Rentiesville Blues Inc.
Elvin Bishop
James Jr. Markham
Selby Minner
Steve Pryor
Frank Swain
James Walker
Lifetime Achievement Award:
D.C. Minner

Elvin Bishop
When guitarist/vocalist Elvin Bishop took the stage at San Francisco’s Biscuits & Blues on January 9, 2000 (the first of three nights of sold-out shows), he knew that sparks would soon be flying. That’s because his longtime friend and mentor, guitarist Little Smokey Smothers, was joining him. After all, without Little Smokey Smothers, Elvin Bishop’s career path would have been completely different. It was Smothers who befriended Bishop when Bishop first arrived in Chicago . Smothers taught Bishop about the blues, taught him how to play guitar, and, most importantly, he taught Bishop about life as a bluesman. In fact it was Smothers who secured harmonicist/vocalist Paul Butterfield’s very first gig before Paul formed (and Elvin joined) the Butterfield Blues Band. Over the years Elvin and Little Smokey have remained close friends, and in 1995 they recorded together on Smothers’ very first solo album, released only in Europe . But now, almost 40 years after meeting, the two friends and musicians join forces on Alligator Records’ THAT’S MY PARTNER! ( AL 4874), a blazing hot live album recorded at these historic, raucous shows.
Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Elvin Bishop has been singing and recording his rollicking brand of electrified down-home blues for almost 40 years, now. Bishop’s history-making tenure as a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the 1960s, his chart-topping hits in the 1970s, and his emergence on Alligator Records in the late 1980s and into the 1990s place him at the forefront of electric blues guitarists. Elvin’s music is a mix of his blues roots with contemporary funk and rock flavors spiced with a touch of country and the laid-back feel of his Northern California home. Rolling Stone referred to Bishop’s music as “a good-time romp…raucous blues with high-energy soloing, mixtures of careening slide and razor-edged bursts, all delivered with unflagging enthusiasm and wit.”
Growing up in the 1940s on a farm in Iowa with a loving but non-musical family, Elvin seldom heard music as a kid. “This was before TV,” Elvin says, “and on the radio you got a lot of Frank Sinatra and ‘How Much Is That Doggie In the Window’ type of stuff.”
The family moved to Tulsa , Oklahoma , when Elvin was 10, in 1952. Tulsa was “totally segregated,” says Elvin, “I mean, hard core. Oklahoma was not that far ahead of the rest of the South, I’d say.” Elvin remembers seeing Ray Charles in the Big Ten Ballroom with a rope stretched the length of the room to separate blacks and whites. “The one thing they couldn’t segregate was the airwaves,” says Bishop. “When rock and roll started up, in the mid-’50s, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Little Richard showed up on white radio.”
And then, late one night when Elvin was 14 or 15, the atmospheric conditions a little rough, Jimmy Reed’s harmonica came cutting through the static from WLAC in Nashville, and Elvin Bishop’s life was changed. The song was “Honest I Do.” “That piercing harp came through, cutting in like a knife, and I said, ‘Oh, man, that’s it.’ I found out that blues was where the good part of rock and roll was coming from.” Elvin was also a big fan of Tulsa ’s Flash Terry.

He began collecting blues records, and quickly realized that many of his favorite records were recorded in Chicago . In 1959, he used a National Merit Scholarship as a way to get closer to his blues heroes by enrolling in the University of Chicago , with its campus tucked in the middle of the South Side ghetto. “The first thing I did when I got there,” Elvin recalls, “was make friends with the guys working in the cafeteria. Within fifteen minutes I was into the blues scene.” Leaving his physics studies behind, Bishop turned to blues music full time. He befriended Little Smokey Smothers, and would hang out with the established guitarist for hours on end. Smothers liked Bishop and took the willing student under his wing, teaching Elvin how to play real blues guitar. Very quickly, Elvin became an accomplished and innovative player.
After Elvin crossed paths a few times with fellow U of C student and harmonica player Paul Butterfield, the two began sitting in at black blues clubs, often jamming with Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. Paul and Elvin soon recruited Michael Bloomfield as second lead guitarist, and a groundbreaking, all-star band began to take shape. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, formed in 1963 (along with Mark Naftalin on keyboards, Jerome Arnold on bass and Sam Lay on drums), introduced electric Chicago blues to the rock audience for the first time. By 1967 the band’s popularity hit an all-time high as their straight Chicago blues sounds drifted even further into rock and roll. Their highly influential albums set the stage for the dual lead guitar attack that the Allman Brothers and Derek and the Dominos (among others) adopted. Bishop recorded three albums with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band before deciding to move on.
Towards the end of the 1960s, Bishop headed to the San Francisco area. He became a regular at the famed Fillmore jam sessions, playing alongside Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and many others before embarking on a solo career. He recorded first for Fillmore Records, then Epic and then for Capricorn, where his career took off to new heights. He charted with Travelin’ Shoes before scoring big with Fooled Around And Fell In Love (the song, with vocals supplied by pre-Jefferson Starship singer Mickey Thomas, reached number three on the pop charts).
Gettin’ My Groove Backon on Blind Pig Records is Elvin’s first new studio album in seven years. I love it.
John Orr, staff writer, San Jose Mercury News and others

James Junior Markham

“He has planted feet, and they have deep roots” says former drummer Chuck Blackwell. “It is deep within him and it is real. He has always kept a positive reputation in a tough business…I love him dearly”. “He has the right attitude and it is contagious. He is a spark and pulls the best out of anyone who plays with him.” says co-vocalist and friend for 47 years Jackie Dunham. This harpist singer has worked from coast to coast with a virtual who’s who of national and Tulsa musicians… Nashville , Los Angeles , Philadelphia …all places Jr. has worked. The huge list of musicians he has wolked with include Leon Russell, J.J. Cale, A.C. Reed, Dr. John, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones pianist Bobby Keyes… He ran his own club the Paradise bringing nationals into Tulsa and hopes to open another someday. Jesse Ed Davis, Buddy Miles…. Jr Markham is a busy man in the music world.

Steve Pryor was born in Tulsa in 1955.
Has traveled to California and New York City where he worked with the Paul Butterfield Band during 1982-3. Steve started writing and recorded with Scott Hutchinson. They signed with the major record Label Zoo Ent. In 1991The Steve Pryor Band album was released. There was a tour with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Steve has won the Spotnick Award from the Tulsa World five of the first six years it was held. He was inducted into the Spot Awards Hall of Fame. This man is a passionate guitarist. A strong influence is Freddie King. “People that get into this business to make a million dollars playing guitar – bless their hearts. I hope they do good things with their money. But that’s not the reason we do it,” Steve says. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that someone would sit down in front of a microphone and make this thing (music) that would last forever. That’s the reason I’ve always played music; just to see the look on their (people’s) faces.” Reaching people – Steve does it well. He also survived a horrific auto accident two and a half years ago, and survivor that he is, he has come back the better for it.

Selby Minner was born in Providence RI in 1949 and attended art school there at the RI School of Design. Her friends dragged her to a concert by Janis Joplin in the school dining hall and her life was changed on the spot. All of a sudden the blues she had been finding and listening to seemed accesible, and Selby knew she had to try and sing the blues no matter what.
She left Providence in 1971 with guitarist Jim Donovan. The couple formed acoustic blues group Home Cookin’ and worked coffee houses in Chicago, DC, New Orleans and eventually gravitated to the flourishing Oakland – Berkeley – SF blues scene. They worked the clubs for 2 years. The group disbanded and Selby worked as a solo, also forming the Shady Ladies Blues Band. Longing to play electric blues she bought a bass from Peggy Mitchell and started the transition. Soon she met and grouped with DC Minner who had retired from 18 years as a bassist backing such luminaries as Freddy King and OV Wright…DC was now on guitar, needing a bassist, and a ‘match made in heaven’ got together and got busy. DC Minner, Selby and Blues on the Move. The band lived on the road for 12 years booking themselves from border to border and eventually to Europe . They worked as a three piece, finding local drummers along the way. The pair returned to DC’s birth place in Rentiesville and reopened his Grandmother Lura’s corn whiskey house as a blues club in 1988. The Dusk til Dawn Blues Fest started in 1991. By this time the couple was on the Touring Arts and Artist in Residence rosters of the Oklahoma Arts Council. This led to lots of Blues in the Schools work, eventually garnering them the Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Handy people in Memphis ; An international Award in Education in 1999. DC’s health is shaky now, and Selby, together with the non-profit Friends of Rentiesville (F.O.R.) Blues Inc., is keeping the Festival alive and have great plans for the development of the OK Blues Hall of Fame (now in it’s third year). Selby has performed on stage with Albert Collins, Drink Small, Hubert Sumlin, Lowell Fulsom, Big Bad Smitty, Larry Davis, Smokey Wilson, Little Johnny Taylor, Tony Mathews, Harry and Debbie Blackwell, and countless others. She has worked tirelessly to develop the community and spread the good word about Oklahoma Blues. She has recently moved back to the guitar and her lead playing is getting better all the time as DC encourages her and is slowly pushing her to the front of the band.

Frank Swain
Was born in Bristow OK on March 2, 1938 . He worked with Flash Terry who he met while Flash was working with Jimmy “Cry Cry” Hawkins. Due to distant family relations to both owners of the Big-10 Ball room, Frank got in free and saw every major black act which came thru the state from 1954 to 1956. Flash later called him for a recording job. The session was picked up by Indigo records of Los Angeles . He then traveled with Ernie Fields and band. Eventually he settled back in with Flash Terry and band, backing Little Johnnie Taylor, Lowell Fulson, Nappy Brown, Johnny Adams, James Peterson, Hubert Sumlin and many others. Many of these were at the Dusk til Dawn Blues festival here in Rentiesville. Frank Swain, Flash Terry and band always did a superb job of backing these artists. Frank Swain is a walking encyclopedia of Tulsa music history and should be recorded telling the stories.

James Walker was born March 11, 1941 in Fort Townson Oklahoma . He moved to McAlester in 1946 where he began singing and
playing guitar at age ten. He learned from his father Hosea. James made his first guitar out of a cigar box at age nine. After several school gigs he later worked with Charles ‘Bobo’ Rushing. James Walker’s band is known a Touch of Class and has performed with Joe Simon, Ted Taylor, Johnny Taylor, Esther Phillips, Ike and Tina Turner, Lynn White and many others. selby Patagonia 2014