Photo: Mike WIndle/WireImage
Born With The Blues: Mississippi Songwriting Workshop Wows Youngsters At The GRAMMY Museum
The state of Mississippi has given birth to some of the most magical and memorable music minds, from the King Of The Blues, B.B. King, the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers, and, of course, the king of rock 'n' roll, Elvis Presley. This legacy is alive today, continuing and evolving the tradition of the blues. With an eye toward the future, The GRAMMY Museum hosted a group of elementary students on Feb. 7 for a conversation about Mississippi's musical legacy and an interactive workshop on America's most treasured artforms: the blues.
Fayette, Miss. native Tricia Walker served as the master of ceremonies, taking the students through a crash course in the state's musical roots and the skeleton of the blues song structure. Walker posed a question so fundamental it almost rang rhetorical, even to a group of young students, asking, "What does it mean to have the blues?" Her balance of experience and openness brought the students right into her musical world, gripping their attention as she reached for her acoustic guitar.
Walker performed "Stormy Monday" as an explainer to the blues, with the lyrics unfolding the days of the week, a concept the children could latch onto with ease, to reveal a glimpse into the types of life challenges that lie ahead in life. A song with that much gravity, having been covered by so many great blues artists from B.B. King to the Allman Brothers Band, served as the perfect primer for a genre that feels so fundamental to music as listeners and to our moods as humans'
After breaking down the blues format to its most essential elements, Walker invited fellow Mississippi-born singer/songwriter Randy Houser to the stage for another perspective on what makes music from the Magnolia State so special. The answer, as usual, could be found in the music, as Houser's most recent album is titled Magnolia after state flower of Mississippi. The country star recalled his early days growing up and how his big dreams grew from a small town.
"When I was a little boy, my dad would play Willie Nelson songs," said Houser. "I fell in love with Willie and he's always been my biggest hero"
Houser named Dolly Parton as another big influence on him, citing a story he'd read in a book of hers that the children could relate to at any age.
"She started writing songs very early," he said. "She had a tree swing… and she would sit in that swing and just write songs as a little girl."
The two songwriters on stage answered a smattering of questions from the enthusiastic audience, helping them connect the professional musicians who stood before them with the nascent interest and passion for music many of them are just beginning to explore. For just a few moments, the distance between urban Los Angeles and the rural Mississippi delta didn't seem so far.
Walker capped off the session with a special songwriting workshop, engaging audience members to whip up a couple original blues songs based on the structure they'd just learned. One student, with the help of a college student from Delta State, came up with a classic blues lyric perfect for his audience of elementary school children, singing, "I woke up this morning, don't want to go to school today/ I woke up this morning, don't want to go to school today/ I got dressed, but mom told me it's a holiday"
The children left with smiles on their faces, and the interactive event provided a sound reminder of the role Mississippi plays in our music world. For many of the students, this will go down in their minds and hearts as they day they learned to write a blues song, a moment unthinkably irreplaceable for so many of the world's great artists. The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi offers a special experience in Cleveland, Miss., where guests can dig deeper into the roots of the powerful music from that area and beyond.
Live from STAPLES Center, and hosted by Alicia Keys, the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.