2007 Inductees:
Watermelon Slim
Wanda Watson
Hart Wand
Wayne Bennett
Claude Fiddler Williams
Jay McShann
Rockin’ John Henry
D.C. Minner Lifetime Achievement Award :
Tony Mathews
KBA (Keeping the Blues Alive) Appreciation for Media Awards:
Jack Fowler, McIntosh County Democrat
The Muskogee Daily Phoenix
2007 Volunteers of the Year:
Sheila Minner Huntington
Julie Moss
Robert Williams
Ray Tubbs
Larry Dancer Porter
Patrick Duffy
Wiley Jones
Donors of the Year:
Sandra Crockett
Frank Helsley

Watermelon Slim

Wanda Watson

Holly & Watermelon Slim by Holly

Wanda Watson
Rockin’ John Henry

D.C. Minner Lifetime Achievement Award :
Tony Mathews

Watermelon Slim in Memphis
Rockin’ John Henry Smokehouse Blues on KMOD

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0_mFq7eg1I      great video by Hugh Foley


Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans) hails from Stillwater and just performed at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis – he was nominated for 6 Awards there this year – and best new up and coming artist about two years ago. He has performed at Dusk til Dawn 6 out of the last 7years. he has recently become an international act and writes witty contemporary lyrics but plays slide guitar and harmonica with a defintely traditional Delta feel. At least once in every man’s life everything seems to come together magically.
In December 2006 Watermelon Slim garnered six 2007 Blues Music Award nominations. His self-titled release was ranked #1 in MOJO Magazine’s 2006 Top 10 Blues CDs, won the 2006 Independent Music Award for Blues Album of the Year, hit #1 on the Living Blues Radio Chart, debuted at #13 on the Billboard Blues Radio Chart and won the Blues Critic Award for 2006 Album of the Year.

On April 17, 2007 Watermelon Slim and The Workers will release Wheel Man, his second for NorthernBlues Music and his fourth album in five years.
Slim was born in Boston and raised in North Carolina listening to his maid sing John Lee Hooker and other blues songs around the house. His father was a progressive attorney and ex-freedom rider and his brother is now a classical musician. Slim dropped out of Middlebury College to enlist for Vietnam . While laid up in a Vietnam hospital bed he taught himself upside-down left-handed slide guitar on a $5 balsawood model using a triangle pick cut from a rusty coffee can top and his Army issued Zippo lighter as the slide.

Returning home an fervent anti-war activist, Slim first appeared on the music scene with the release of the only known record by a veteran during the Vietnam War. The project was Merry Airbrakes, a 1973 protest tinged LP with tracks Country Joe McDonald later covered.
Somewhere in those decades Slim completed two undergrad degrees in history and journalism, Slim was able to finish a masters degree and become member of Mensa, the social networking group reserved for members with certified genius IQs.

Throughout his storied past, it has always been truck driving that Slim returned to. While trucking and hauling industrial waste for thankless bosses, his id yearned for release of the musician inside. Many of Slim’s current songs began a cappella in his rig keeping him awake and entertained.

In 2002 Slim suffered a near fatal heart attack. His brush with death gave him a new perspective on mortality, direction and life ambitions. He says, “Everything I do now has a sharper pleasure to it. I’ve lived a fuller life than most people could in two. If I go now, I’ve got a good education, I’ve lived on three continents, and I’ve played music with a bunch of immortal blues players. I’ve seen an awful lot and I’ve done an awful lot. If my plane went down tomorrow, I’d go out on top.”

Wanda Watson is from Tulsa and lived for several years in Fort Smith as well.. She keeps a great band and is a wonderful powerful vocalist as well…stays busy all over the state and beyond. You may have seen her here in Rentiesville at a Festival or the DW Tribute.

“The best of two worlds…the rawness of a natural born blues singer with a colorful past and the polish of a maturing talent…delivers every time”. Ronnie Bravo, Austin Chronicle “A great big heart with a voice to match…sings the blues with passion, authority” Linda Suebold, Southwest Times Record
“A deep-down, soul-touching, blues/rock singer (with a) hard-driving style and from-the-gut voice” Terrell Lester, OKmagazine
“Get ready for a professional, high energy, foot stomping, hand clapping, soul shaking night of some of the best music anywhere!” Joey Secora, owner of Joey’s, ‘ Tulsa ’s Home of the Blues’
“Wanda Watson has got to be the best thing to happen to music since Les Paul ran an electric cable through a hookup in a hollow-body guitar”. Todd Webb, Uptown News
“Wanda Watson is a warrior and a magician. She has traveled that long, lonesome road and gained great wisdom along the way. She has survived the dark night of the soul and come out smiling. She sees the world from the highest mountain, with her feet firmly on the ground. Though she seems to be a maniac, she is legally sane and has the papers to prove it. Her laugh can make trees bloom in a blizzard.” Jim Downing, ” Tulsa Entertainment Writer
“I think this gal is great!” Jim Halsey, Music Business Impresario; Mgr., Oak Ridge Boys
In December 2004, Wanda was voted “Best Vocalist” by the Blues Society of Tulsa; quite an honor considering the world-class level of talent that town produces. In September 2005, Wanda and her band were voted “Best Blues Act” by Tulsa World’s coveted SPOT Awards ( Oklahoma ’s version of the Grammy’s). In February 2006, she was inducted into the 1st Class of the ” Old Town Musician’s Hall of Fame” in Ft. Smith , AR. Also in February 2006, she was “Payne County Line Hall of Fame – Blues Artist Honoree for her life’s accomplishments, and for being an integral part of Oklahoma ‘s rich musical heritage.” In May 2007, she was inducted into the “Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame.”
S She is a definitive blues artist. In a city noted for its top-shelf musicians and singers, Wanda stands out as a true stylist. Whether putting her stamp on original songs or belting out time tested standards, Wanda is a consummate entertainer and crowd pleaser. No other singer gives such emotional and gutsy performances…as her faithful and reverent fans will attest.

Tony Mathews 
Tony Mathews was inducted here a few years back. This year he will receive the D.C. Minner Lifetime Achievement Award. – The first recipient besides D.C. himself last year. Tony traveled the world with Ray Charles 18 years and for quite a while with Little Richard, One of DC’s oldest friends. Tony grew up in Checotah and migrated to Hollywood in the 60s. He and DC even had a band together in Hollywood when DC first moved west…they played at Bernie Hamilton’s (think Starsky and Hutch, the police officer) Club on Sunset, Citadel De Haiti. Tony has also been a session man on countless records and has a spiritual bent towards eastern philosophy. He returns to play Dusk til Dawn each year. After James Peterson watched him at the Festival last year, he remarked “I didn’t know anyone could do that with a guitar!”

Rockin’ John Henry pioneered Blues Radio Programming in the state with a 20 year run of his Smokehouse Blues Sunday Night Show on KMOD. He had radio shows there 7 days a week and was a geat educator about early Rock and Roll…John was a walking encyclopedia on the subject, and kept it all fun…I believe he played Etta James’ Rather Be Blind on every blues show he did….He also was a guitarist in his own group, the Bop Cats

Dr Hugh Foley gives Joel Everett Dir of OK Music Hall of Fame an informative display on Hart Wand
Hart Wand We are searching for more on this early contributor – this from Dr. Hugh Foley:
Dallas Blues Exhibit at the Dallas Public Library
“Main Street’s Paved in Gold, Elm Street’s Paved in Brass: Early Dallas
Blues from the 1920s and 1930s”
The birth of recorded Blues can be traced to Hart Wand’s Dallas Blues,
published Sept 12, 1912 and the first Blues song to be scored and copyrighted. The
exhibit explores the growth of Deep Ellum as a railroad and commercial
center, and the resulting entertainment district. This entertainment
district gave rise to a host of Blues musicians and performers, including
such legends as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Alex Moore, and Robert Johnson, whose
1937 Dallas recordings were “found” and popularized by 1960s rock musicians,
such as Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. (“Eric later came back and recorded some Robert Johnson music at the same address, 507 Park Ave” says researcher Robert Reitz)The exhibit illustrates the theme
that the place of Dallas is intimately linked to the music and the music is
intimately linked to the place.
The exhibit, curated by Bob Reitz, opens on April 27, 2003, with a reception
at 2:00 p.m. The reception includes a Blues-inspired poetry reading by the
curator and a live performance of Dallas Blues (performer TBD). Also, author
Dr. Robert Uzzel will speak and autograph his new book Blind Lemon
Jefferson: His Life, His Death, His Legacy (Austin: Eakin Press, 2002). The
exhibit and reception are sponsored by the Texas/Dallas History & Archives
Division of the Dallas Public Library. The exhibit is located on the 7th
floor reading room of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. The exhibit and
reception are free.
Call or email me if you have any questions. Thank you.
Wayne Bennett was Bobby Blue Bland’s lead guitarist on many of his biggest (early) hits. This Enid OK man distinguished himself with a T-Bone Walker style. DC knew him and his brother, Jerry, through the music business ( DC played bass at the time) when they came through OKC in the 50s or 60s.

Claude Fiddler Williams was also from Muskogee and he usd to play cello on the streets of Muskogee as a child. He became guitarist of the year in young adulthood and also perfected the fiddle. He taught at the great fiddle camps and was a walking encyclopedia of jazz styles – often taking one tune and using each verse to showcase a different era of jazz! Lived into his 90s. We did a show with him on Greenwood when he was in his eighties…you would never guess it until you saw him walk on or off the stage.
Jazz Profiles from NPR
Claude “Fiddler” Williams (1908-2004)
Produced by Molly Murphy

Violinist Claude “Fiddler” Williams’ career spanned much of the history of jazz. Known for his swinging, bluesy style and his musical sense of humor, he was as comfortable playing the guitar as on violin. Williams still performed and recorded into his mid-90’s, but the elder statesman hardly had time to note his longevity.

Listen to historian Chuck Haddix, bassist Keter Betts, violinist and teacher Matt Glaser, and violinist Mark O’Connor talk about Claude’s playing
Born Claude Gabriel Williams on February 22, 1908, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Williams spent most of his life and career in Kansas City. His brother-in-law, Ben Johnson, played guitar in a local string band, which intrigued the young Claude.
Listen to Claude recall his brother-in-law’s love for string instruments

By age 10, Claude was playing his own guitar. It wasn’t until he heard the music of Joe Venuti (left) play that he became interested in the violin. Venuti’s confidence and style made a lasting impression on Williams.
Listen to Claude recall when he first heard Joe Venuti play

After tireless practicing, Claude received his first professional gig playing in his brother-in-law’s group. In 1927, he joined trumpeter T. Holder and his 12 Clouds of Joy and the following year, after Holder was replaced by Andy Kirk, Williams recorded his first sides with the group.
Listen to Claude describe being on the road with “territory” bands like T. Holder’s 12 Clouds of Joy

During the 1920s and ’30s, Claude was considered the top violinist in Kansas City, occasionally going head to head in nightly jam sessions with visiting fiddlers like Stuff Smith as well as several horn players including Ben Webster and Lester Young.
Listen to historian Chuck Haddix explain how battling with saxophonists helped Claude develop his signature sound
Williams played on Andy Kirk’s first recording, “Blue Clarinet Stomp” and by 1930, the 12 Clouds of Joy were on the brink of success. Then the fiddler became ill during the middle of a tour and, unable to finish out the bookings, he was let go from the group.
Listen to Andy Kirk praise Claude’s violin playing

Claude traveled to Illinios where he played both violin and guitar in a number of ensembles, including the Nat King Cole Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra. Later, in the 1940s and ’50s he played with saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and pianists Hank Jones and Jay McShann. But in that entire time — a span of almost thirty years — Claude had not participated in any studio recording sessions until he sat in on with McShann. It began a second career for the fiddler.

In 1993, Claude was recruited by fiddler Mark O’Connor to teach at a camp outside of Nashville, Tennesee. Well into his ninth decade, Williams continued to share his infectious jump-blues style with everyone from children at the summer camp to sophisticated audiences at the world’s premiere jazz festivals. Claude Williams died of pneumonia at his home in Kansas City on Sunday, April 26, 2004.
View the Claude Williams show playlist

Listen to samples

Jay McShann was a monster talent of Blues and Jazz piano, having come from Muskogee and moved to Kansas City. He had a magnificent touch and breadth on the keyboard…a sweet delivery. His jazz was firmly rooted in blues and ultimately listen-able.
riginally recorded Dec. 16, 1979)
(Original broadcast Nov. 9, 1980)

Listen to Part 1

Listen to Part 2

Pianist Jay “Hootie” McShann was one of the legends of the Kansas City jazz scene. Born in Muskogee, Okla., in 1916, McShann picked up the piano as a young boy, following his older sister to her piano lessons and picking out tunes he heard on the radio. Though his parents discouraged his interest in music, McShann continued to play and picked up on the stride style of Fats Waller and Earl “Fatha” Hines. By age 15, McShann had landed a gig playing with a fellow Muskogee native, tenor saxophonist Don Byas. In subsequent years, he found work with bands throughout Oklahoma and Arkansas, and attended the Tuskeegee Institute before finally landing in Kansas City.

When McShann arrived, the scene in Kansas City was thriving — “wide open,” as McShann was fond of saying — with a bustling nightclub scene populated by such jazz greats as Mary Lou Williams, Lester Young and Pete Johnson. McShann was soon one of the top players in town and he quickly began performing regularly with his own small group. By 1939, the small group had turned into a full-fledged big band, The Jay McShann Orchestra. The group, which included a young sax player named Charlie Parker, had several big hits, including “Confessin the Blues” and “Hootie’s Blues.”

In 1944, McShann was drafted into the Army for two years. When he returned from duty, the scene had changed. Big bands were out and smaller combos were the order of the day. Unable to re-form his big band, McShann shifted his focus to leading smaller groups. With the smaller groups, McShann introduced audiences to singers Walter Brown (his co-writer on “Confessin the Blues”) and Jimmy Witherspoon, who gained a hit with “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”

In the 1950s, McShann’s fame began to wane among the wider jazz audience, though he continued to perform in and around his adopted hometown of Kansas City. While he spent time raising a family, he also studied arrangement and composition at the University of Kansas City-Missouri Conservatory of Music. A renewed interest in the Kansas City sound among jazz lovers in the late 1960s led to McShann’s comeback. He was soon performing again on a regular basis in festivals and clubs throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. With the “rediscovery” of McShann and his music came numerous awards, including the Jazz Master Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jazz Era Pioneer Award from the National Association of Jazz Educators, and the Kansas City Jazz Heritage Award.

On Dec. 7, 2006, McShann died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City.

Check out this week’s Piano Jazz Shorts: the Piano Jazz podcast.

Set List for Jay McShann on Piano Jazz:
• Vine Street Boogie (McShann)
• Georgia (Carmichael, Gorrell)
• Deed I Do (Hersch, Rose)
• Living Backstreet for You (J. Lee)
• My Chile (Child) (McShann)
• Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Grainger, C. Williams, Prince)
• What’s Your Story Morning Glory (M.L. Williams, Lawrence, Webster)
• Lady Be Good (G. & I. Gershwin)
• Confessin The Blues (McShann, Brown)