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!