An Evening of Blues with Hubert Sumlin

April 05, 2000

Hubert Sumlin Blues Heritage Concert

with David Bennett Cohen

Friday, April 7, 7:30 p.m.

Cliffside Inn Ballroom

U.S. 340

Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Advance tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and children. Tickets at the door are $15. To purchase tickets, call 1-800-821-5206 or 1-304-535-6881. Proceeds from the concert will support public education and interpretation of African-American history at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and specifically, the Niagara Centennial events.

The Niagara Centennial Committee was formed to provide funding and educational programming for a 100th anniversary celebration of the Niagara Movement in August 2006. The committee represents a partnership among the Jefferson County NAACP, Shepherd College and the Harpers Ferry Historical Association in conjunction with the National Park Service.


Cohen will perform at the Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown in June.

* 2Blue Ensemble will back Hubert Sumlin at "An Evening of Blues" Friday. The Hagerstown-based blues quintet features Carl Disque, Pete Lancaster, Arnie Helmick, Bart Lay and Alan Mason.By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Blues guitar legend Hubert Sumlin laughingly lamented that he missed winning the Grammy this year. "Legends," his album with 86-year-old Pinetop Perkins, was nominated for Best Traditional Blues album, but the award went to B.B. King.

The 68-year-old Sumlin, however, is not about the past. He's already is looking ahead.

cont. from lifestyle

He has Grammy hopes for a project that began last Sunday in a Dover, N.J., recording studio. Other players included Keith Richards, Levon Helm, Warren Haynes, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who played with Muddy Waters for 15 years, and Eric Clapton.

He'll perform Friday, April 7, in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The man and his music have traveled a lot of miles in a lot of years from his birthplace of Greenwood, Miss.

He got his first guitar at the age of 8 after he broke the baling wire his brother had nailed to the wall to make music with. "He tried to whoop me," Sumlin, youngest of 13 children, said.

Their mother, who was paid $8 a week for working at a funeral parlor that was a four-mile walk from their home, somehow came up with the money for the guitar. "We missed a week eating," he recalled, moved almost to tears.

Hubert Sumlin let his brother play on that guitar.

"I didn't do him like he did me," he said.

The family moved to Arkansas that year, and Sumlin took his guitar along. He taught himself to play. He grew up with blues harmonica master James Cotton, and together they got 15 minutes of Howlin' Wolf's KWEM radio time. "Wolf gave us a chance," Sumlin said.

Except for the year that he left to play with Muddy Waters, Wolf's rival in Chicago blues, Sumlin was with the singer from 1953 until Wolf died in 1976.

Sumlin went to Chicago in 1964 in the city's blues heyday. Wolf sent him to Chicago School of Music for two years of lessons, but when his teacher died, he quit. Basically, Sumlin is self-taught. "Just what God gave me - that's what I'm using," he said.

He talked about his musical collaboration with piano man Perkins, a fellow Mississippi-Delta native who also became an icon of Chicago blues. When you feel good with somebody and know them, you just sit down and play, Sumlin said. "I love him," he said of Perkins, who will perform at the Western Maryland Blues Fest in June.

Sumlin is humble about his gifts and his appeal. He can't even estimate how many gigs he's performing.

"They got me working hard," he said with a chuckle. "People want me so much," he added, sounding surprised.

When he's not on the road, Sumlin loves to cook. He learned by watching his mother and calls Jelly Cake his specialty.

There recently have been changes - hard changes - in Sumlin's life. His wife and his sister died within the last year. But he keeps going. "I still gotta do what I gotta do," he said.

"I love what I'm doing. It's my life."

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