Society tries to keep blues alive in Midlands

By Jared Owenby
July 10, 2013

The Midlands has caught a case of the blues, and from smoky tunes to smoked barbeque, you can hear the blues and cheers coming from the Midlands Blues Society’s weekly jam session at Mac’s on Main.

About a year ago, local musicians and blues lovers decided to revive the society, which began in 1994 but had fizzled out, the victim of its members’ work schedules and busy lives.

Jammin' at Mac's on Main one recent evening.
Jammin’ at Mac’s on Main one recent evening.

Alive again, the society represents the past, present and future of blues music in Columbia by bringing together local blues musicians and others from around the country to play and pay homage to the great players before them.

It might not be Chicago or Kansas City, but Columbia has a deep history of blues.

“Blues-roots music is where today’s music originated,” says Clair DeLune, blues music historian and host of Blues Moon Radio since 1990. But, she says, people have lost interest in the genre.

“People talk about the blues but they don’t support it,” she says.

The lack of interest also is the result of a little bit of people’s laziness, says John Jeter, owner of The Handlebar, a Greenville music club that for almost 20 years has hosted a wide range of artists and was one of this year’s stops on Mac Arnold‘s Cornbread and Collard Greens Blues Festival.

“Let’s all get off the couch and become part of the tribe,” says Jeter, who also wrote “Rockin’ a Hard Place,” a history of the club.

The Midlands Blues Society has been revived for that very reason, to help educate, commemorate and preserve the history of blues music in Columbia, according to its mission statement.

“We’re hoping to educate people, promote the blues, encourage new bands that are out by showcasing them,” treasurer Faith Gillette says.

Barry Walker, the owner of Mac’s on Main, leader of Fatback and the Groove band and the society’s president, says he hopes to spread the word about the society, attract a bigger following and gain recognition in the community.

The society uses Thursday night jam sessions, Facebook and word of mouth to spread its message and attract new members. It has 88 members and is growing, Gillette says.

DeLune says s stronger blues scene is needed to help preserve the music in Columbia and that many musicians are looking to work.

“The more musicians working the better,” she says, “Starving and artist should be removed from each other.”

See also: Carolina Music United seeks to promote unsigned bands

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