How a few beers, some good friends and a handful of blues legends made a difference.
Andy Anderson has a deep connection to the south, its people and its music. He can never remember a time when the music of his childhood did not influence him. When I asked him to write about it and let us know how deep the the connection went, here is what he had to say.
“I grew up in the south during the 60s and 70s when funk music and the blues were all you listened to. I loved the honesty of it and how its roots were from gospel music. One of my fondest memories was when I was in Moon Lake, Mississippi. I was on a shoot in the middle of a cotton field. I heard music coming from a very small church and was drawn to it. I walked in and sat down in the very back. The church was packed. Picture this: No instruments. Men sitting on one side and woman on the other side. One side would sing and the other would sing a response.
I was transported. From that day on, the music never left me. I was inspired back then by the great blues legends and knew that I would always find a way to celebrate not only the music but the musicians as well.
Well, I got my first opportunity to do so when I was a staff photographer for Men’s Journal. I pitched and was assigned a story about Clarksdale, Mississippi where I spent 3 weeks traveling around the area photographing the people and places of this wonderful place.
One of the most memorable places I shot was at Junior Kimbrough’s place called “Juniors.” The particular Sunday night I was there was called, ”White folks night. ” I’m not joking!!! It was a blast and added to my love and appreciation for the music. It was on this shoot that I was able to make long lasting connections to some of incredible blues legends such as Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside, and T-Model Ford to name a few.
Fast forward to 2007 and I was back home in Idaho having just returned from shooting some personal work in the Vicksburg, Mississippi area where I was once again inspired by the music and the people. I was with some buddies drinking beer and we started to talk about my trip. Many beers later we hatched the idea of putting on a Blues festival in our small town of Mountain Home, Idaho.
Anybody that knows me, understands once I have made my mind up well its… on.
We named the festival The Great Basin Blues Festival. The purpose of our festival was to showcase north Missippi blues music at a local venue and HAVE FUN. More importantly though, we decided that the proceeds of the festival would go to providing art scholarships to local high school kids.
So we went to work. We formed a non-profit group. We made calls. We called in favors. I called Robert Belfour, Cedric Burnside(grandson of RL Burnside), T-Model Ford, Malcolm Lightning, and Cadillac John and invited them to play. They were in!
We now needed posters to promote our event. I called on some my friends that I have know for years at The Richards Group. Jimmy Bonner, Kellyn McGarity and Rob Baker came to the rescue and produced some amazing posters for us. They were so powerful that they were short listed at Cannes in 2010.
Well you can see where is going. This year is our 4th year and it has been an amazing success. The community totally supports our event. Even The Idaho Statesman named our festival “THE BEST NEW FESTIVAL of 2007”
We have sent 7 talented artists to school with art scholarships and this week we will announce 2011 recipients of theGBBF scholarship awards.
I just LOVE this kind of stuff.
It is incredible to think back and realize that our shared passion for the people and music blossomed into something we never would have expected. Just a couple of guys having beers and talking blues.
I am proud in my involvement in this venture and I hope to inspire photographers to get involved in their communities or causes. We all know we are blessed to be able to how what we are passionate about, so now let’s spread the wealth. Giving back will enrich your life and most importantly it will enrich someone else’s even more . Whether it be bike races, fun runs, food drives, poetry reading, etc it doesn’t matter.
Just do SOMETHING.”