NY Guitar Festival: Memphis Minnie tributes w/DJ Spooky, Nicole Atkins & more
New York Guitar Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019, and for this year’s edition it’s paying tribute to pioneering blues guitarist Memphis Minnie. More about her:
A supremely influential and pioneering blues guitarist, Minnie was one of the first blues artists to go electric in 1942 and is considered a crucial link connecting acoustic Delta blues with the electrified Chicago sound. Chuck Berry, Big Mama Thornton, and Muddy Waters have acknowledged Minnie’s influence. Bonnie Raitt called her “one of American musical history’s most vibrant and pioneering artists,” and Langston Hughes described a 1943 performance of hers in the Chicago Defender as “a musical version of electric welders plus a rolling mill” that made folks “holler out loud”!
A gifted blues guitarist who played on Beale Street in Memphis – both in the clubs and sometimes on the street itself — Memphis Minnie’s place in the guitar pantheon is criminally understated, even as her influence is hard to overstate. Minnie started recording in 1929, and she had a huge impact on the sound of the blues. Minnie helped define the sound that brought us Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. The sound that later brought us The Rolling Stones and Cream and a host of others. Her song “When The Levee Breaks,” highlighting her relentless, rolling guitarwork, was redone in 1971 by a quartet of English lads calling themselves Led Zeppelin. And that version of the song has now been sampled more than 100 times, including by Dr. Dre, Beyonce, and Eminem. Minnie’s 1941 hit, “Me And My Chauffeur Blues,” featuring Memphis Minnie’s sly, forceful vocals, has also had a long afterlife, including covers by Nina Simone and Jefferson Airplane.
At The Greene Space on Friday May 31, Fantastic Negrito, Kaia Kater, Rafiq Bhatia, and Amythyst Kia will each perform short sets celebrating Memphis Minnie, and speak onstage with WNYC New Sounds host John Schaefer. Tickets are on sale.
The next day, on Saturday June 1 at The Waterfront Plaza at Brookfield Place, is a FREE tribute show to Minnie, with performances from DJ Spooky (who will kick off the night with a live set, including a short new original work based on one of Minnie’s songs), David Bromberg, Brandon Ross, Rafiq Bhatia, Jontavious Willis, Rachael & Vilray, Brandee Younger, Nicole Atkins with Binky Griptite, Kaia Kater, Alsarah and the Nubatones, Amythyst Kiah, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure & Banning Eyre, and Fantastic Negrito (with Vernon Reid). It happens from 6:30-8:30 PM, and is hosted by John Schaefer.