An article from one of the students at Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop

Will Hemy, one of the students granted this year by the EBU at Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop in Clarksdale, has sent us a short article about his experience there:

In June 2019 I spent three days in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the Pinetop Perkins Foundation camp. This was made possible by the generosity of the scholarship provided to me by the European Blues Union that subsidized my stay at the Shack Up Inn, the cost of the workshop and contributed towards my travel. Again, I would like to extend my gratitude for this.

Clarksdale is, for any blues fan, an experience itself. There was a surreal element to being in the place I’d heard repeated so many times in so many songs, and in the place where the greats such as Son House and Robert Johnson (to name a few) had cut their teeth. The Shack Up Inn only added to this, although, whilst the times have changed, the same blues-soaked atmosphere still remained.

The first night upon arrival was the first jam session and general ‘get-to-know’. Thus, from the first few hours in the camp it was straight into playing music. This, I thought, aptly set the tone for the rest of the camp. Essentially, total blues immersion; intensive but also a fantastic experience. The camp really was a musical environment where everyone was on the same foot. No-one was trying to compete, people were supportive of all skill levels and everyone was really easy to get along with. This sentiment remained throughout the entire experience and was (and importantly, is) a valuable and central aspect of the Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop.

The next three/two days consisted of two three hour workshops in the morning and evening, and culminated in a jam session in the commissary every night. The amount I learned in three days was amazing, and it never felt laborious. The tuition really was stellar, and covered a wide array of styles and techniques of blues guitar. Fiona Boyes took us through a vast array of material, from Delta blues and the fingerpicking to the hill country trance style grooves, 8-bar blues through to a rumba. Not only was this what to play, but also different ways the blues could be played – something Fiona really opened my eyes to, and also as an ‘antidote’ to elements in blues that can easily stagnate. A highlight was the slide playing, which was a central focus of our group. Fiona brought out her cigar box guitars, all with different strings and tunings for us to try out some slide stuff on, which really gave me insight into the different approaches to my slide playing.

This was punctuated by lessons and visits from other musicians. Bob Margolin regularly stopped by to impart some cool wisdoms or stories from the upper echelons of blues music. On top of this, his advice on how to play notes and how different approaches to the small things that could easily pass your mind provided more depth to approaching the guitar. Anson Funderburgh stopped in on the last workshop and gave us a Texas blues powerhouse lesson and approaches to soloing, as well as a having a chat about guitars and the music industry. The interns, Jaymes and Radka took the class when Fiona was supervising other group, and added to the teaching. In both cases, they really knew their stuff and continued to uphold the high standards at the camp. To all, I would like to extend my thanks for sitting down and spending time with us and imparting valuable knowledge.

The capstone was the final showcase at Ground Zero Blues Club. This gave everyone a chance to consolidate (in front of a live audience) what they’d learned. Based on what I learned, I went onto the stage feeling confident enough to play lead slide guitar despite never having done it before. It was in this that I realised how much I’d really learned in such a short space of time. Leaving the final showcase, for the most part, everyone said their goodbyes. I came away feeling part of an international blues community and with many new friends that I’d met only three days ago, some of whom I saw again in Memphis and Tulsa.

I hope this article has provided some insight into the Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshop, and the fantastic experience it can provide. Again, I’d like to thank the EBU and all who made this trip a possibility for me

EBU France at the Pinetop Perkins Workshop

On June 10 in the early hours of the day, the representatives of European Blues Union, France Blues and Toulouse Blues Society flew to Memphis and Clarksdale to accompany the young Evan Guenebault (18 years) who participated at the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Workshop with great artists like Bob Margolin, Bob Stroger, Fiona Boyes, Phil Wiggins, Anthony Geraci, Anson Funderburgh, etc.
This 4-day professionalization workshop was a real success and our young participant, supported by the European Blues Union, received an exceptional welcome from his teachers with the public praise of Bob Margolin, which is not nothing, but also and above all invitations to perform for off-stage jams during which he could play alongside Heather Crosse and Lee Williams, Anthony Geraci, Fiona Boyes, Ike Turner Jr., etc. If we add the 4 jams scheduled as part of his internship, Evan played 7 times in no less than three major clubs Clarksdale (Hopson Commissary, Ground Zero and Hambone) and has been able to be appreciated by the best in the profession but also by a public of connoisseurs.
We will highlight that Evan Guenebault was one of five participants in this workshop not to be from the United States since there were in this edition 2019 three young English students, a young Japanese student and the French representative. We took advantage of this trip to the USA to present to Evan some important places of blues culture (culture that he already had mastered before his departure) and some personalities like Jay Sieleman and Barbara Newman (former and current CEO of the Blues Foundation), Tim Sampson and Robert Terrell (communication officers at Stax Academy and BB King Museum), etc. Evan’s clairvoyance, his dynamism and his kindness have each time been applauded!
We will also point out that, like many other French artists before him (Bernard Sellam, Mister Mat, Damien Cornelis, Cisco Herzhaft, Bad Mules, etc.), Evan was invited to play at the Peace Baptist Church before an audience who was literally surprised by his performance, some of them even went so far as to compare him to BB King, and there was enough to think about the vibrato and the emotion that was there that day in his game!
This trip was also an opportunity to strengthen already very strong links with our American contacts with whom we have a real weight today because they know us, we appreciate and wish more and more to work with us. We continue to strengthen the place of European blues on the world stage and the benefits can only be positive. Also note that we have further consolidated the contact with Pat Morgan of Blue Mountain Artists who is a member of the European Blues Union and which should offer us new opportunities for collaboration in the months to come.
A small teaser drawn from the various videos that were made on the spot should be available quickly … Evan will testify of his experience and his teachers will not fail to mention the quality of his game and his great musical abilities. It should be noted that besides an article of “La Dépêche du Midi” published the day of our departure and a second article to be published in the coming days, we had the nice surprise to receive during our stay in the USA a letter addressed to the promising Evan Guenebaut via the address of Toulouse Blues Society, letter signed by the hand of the mayor of Toulouse whose attention was attracted by the article of press!
This first French participation in the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Workshop has kept all its promises and has allowed a young musician in the process of professionalization to enrich his Curriculum Vitae and especially to create an international address book with already promises of future collaborations. A very positive balance, therefore, for an operation that we hope to renew in the years to come!

Pinetop Perkins Workshop 2018 for EBU students

Matt Henderson sent us this report from the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Worskhops  in Clarksdale 2018
I was and still am really grateful to you and the EBU for helping to fund the trip. The Pinetop Perkins workshop was unreal, to be surrounded by that much talent, and I feel like it was a pivotal moment for me in my learning of music.
From the moment we parked up at the Hopson Plantation to the final show at Ground Zero, I spent my time absorbing everything. The feeling of being in the Delta, surrounded by cotton fields and some of the best blues musicians around, was something I’ll never forget. The daily workshops with Phil Wiggins were awesome, he’s such a great man and a phenomenal player. His style of teaching worked really well for me, as he’ll get you to figure out most things by yourself when you listen to him; I’m at a stage now where I can generally pick up things by hearing them a couple times, so I really appreciated that he didn’t spend much time laying things out blow by blow, as it were. Phil showed me several tunes like Boodle-Am Shake, CC Rider, and Blackbird that broke me right out of my comfort zone, and the techniques he shared about holding the harp and using your throat for vibrato are things I’ll be working on for years to come. Bob Margolin dropped by a few times to see how we were doing, and having him play guitar to back us up was a privilege.
The nightly jams were like nothing I’d ever done. I’ve played with bands before, and done my share of live shows, but having a stage full of outstanding blues musicians made it feel so natural to get up and lead the band, or just sit back and do my bit as a sideman. I’d go so far as to say that if being able to jam with dozens of great blues musicians didn’t make me a better player in itself, I came away from that feeling so much more confident about my own abilities (which in turn made me play better).
The showcase at the Ground Zero Club in Clarksdale was one of those perfect nights, when everyone is in the groove and feeling loose and just ready to play. Every single band, jam, or improvised set came off brilliantly (thanks in no small part to Jesse Black and Joe Tellmann organising everything). After my main set, as the frontman for the Ground Stompin’ Mardi Gras Goers, I was invited back up to play with Anthony Geraci, Bob Margolin, Guy Smeets, and as part of the All-Star band closing the show. It was a privilege and an honour, and it’s undoubtedly shown me that not only do I have a lot to learn in terms of bandleading and showmanship but that I do have it in me to get up and hold my own amongst some of the living greats in this music. It’s definitely spurred me on in my learning both at home and in performance.
After I came back from the US, people told me I had changed. Not in a dramatic way, but both they and I were amazed by how much my playing and performing had improved in the space of two weeks or so. It was a truly formative experience for me, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of the EBU. Attached, you’ll find a few photos and videos from the trip which I hope can give some insight into what a fantastic experience it was.