Dr. Jeneve Brooks, Honoree Lenny Trawick, and Gil Anthony at the 2017 honoree award presentation.
Although the Mississippi Delta is recognized as the birthplace of the blues, Alabama and the Wiregrass region, in particular, had a tremendous influence on the Blues’ trajectory worldwide. The Wiregrass Blues Society and Festival celebrates and illuminates the pioneering contributions of blues musicians from our region.
Moreover, the Wiregrass Blues Festival was founded in 2011 when blues musician and creator of the Alabama Blues Project, Debbie Bond, approached Dr. Jeneve Brooks, sociology professor at Troy University, to consider grant-funding for a concert honoring blues guitarist and Dothan native, Eddie Kirkland. Bond sought to honor Kirkland for his unique playing style and musical collaborations with legendary artists. Kirkland played music with Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, and others. Plans were soon made for Kirkland to headline the concert. However, he met an untimely death in a car accident while touring Tampa, Florida, just before our concert. Then, the decision was made to proceed with the show as a tribute in honor of Kirkland and his remarkable talents and contributions to the music world. And through these events, the Wiregrass Blues Festival was born.
In 2013, Ken Johnson went a step further to galvanize local music lovers and patrons by starting the Wiregrass Blues Society. We are now a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about their blues heritage and promoting blues music in the Wiregrass region. Additionally, we are active members of the national Blues Foundation Organization.
We have organized supporting educational programs in congruence with the Wiregrass Blues Festival for almost ten years. These programs include a successful Blues-in-Schools outreach, short-documentary productions about our honorees, free educational workshops, community meet-and-greets, and monetary donations for musical instruments and supplies to local school systems.
Indeed, the entire Wiregrass Blues Festival could not be possible without the continued and increasing support we have received from various grant agencies and corporate sponsors who are listed below. Without the help of our tireless founders and supporters, the Festival and Society would not exist. Dr. Jeneve Brooks, our current board president, has worked diligently year after year as Festival founder and project director from 2011 to 2015, the Blues-in-Schools project director, and producer-director of our mini-documentaries. Also, Dr. Brooks served on the WBS board as secretary and has written many grants for Society funding. Gil Anthony, our current board secretary, another Festival founder, has served as a blues historian and has MC’d many our our events. As the DJ for the Blues Power Internet radio program, Gil is widely revered for his knowledge of blues music and won the prestigious 2013 Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award for radio. Terry Duffie, president/CEO and co-owener of Scenic Cable, became the Festival project director in 2016, giving countless hours to ensure Festival success behind the scenes and on the ground! In addition to directing the Festival, Terry worked tirelessly to gain financial support through corporate sponsorships and donations as well as promoted the Society to the Blues Foundation, where he now sits on the board.
Other prominent figures include our hard-working and dedicated board presidents. Under the leadership of the incipient president James “Hooker” Miller (2013-2016), we became a non-profit organization, started our website, and grew our membership. President Anna Hurlbutt (2016-2017) also worked to promote the donation of instruments to local schools as well as helped organize many parts of the Festival and other blues events scheduled during him tenure. And, former board president Bruce Adams (2017-2020) has provided steady and faithful leadership, assisting with all parts of the Festival and Blues-in-Schools, as well as lending his legal expertise to solidifying contracts with performers and vendors. Through all of the collective efforts of these individuals as well as the efforts of all the other Society officers and committed volunteers. The Wiregrass Blues Society has grown in its reach and impact over the years.
We have been lucky enough to have dynamic leaders and hard-working volunteers to champion our organization for a decade! We thank them and recognize them below.
The following organizations, businesses, and people have impacted our organization:
movers and shakers
- Beverly Adams, treasurer (2016-2018)
- Gil Anthony, secretary (2020-2022)
- Lan Berry, interim president (2022)
- Jim Carr, VP (2016-2021)
- Ken Evans, VP (2013)
- Cindy Garrison, treasurer (2017-2022)
- Lois Miller, co-secretary (2013-2016)
- Donnia Rambin (2022-present)
- AJ Sam, treasurer (2022-present)
- Sharla Sanders, treasurer (2013-2016)
- John Seals, VP (2022-present)
- Frank Tanton, interim president (2013)
- Dr. Robert Burroughs
- Brad Corbitt
- Toby Davis
- Skip Duffie
- Judy Fulmer & Troy University’s Office of Sponsored Programs Staff
- VOLUNTEERS CONT’D
- Dr. Bill Grantham
- Dave Guiller
- Jo Anne Hoekenga
- Mitt Kirkland
- Kelly Littlefield
- Sarah Marsh
- Dr. Marty Olliff
- Kris Ross
- Sharla Sanders
- Dr. Robert Saunders
- Dennis Shirley
- Tony Weber
- Gayla White
- *click here to see a more detailed accounting of each person’s contributions