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Singing the Blues with Mr. Johnnie Billington

Author John Cech
Air Date 10/20/1999

Singing the Blues Transcript

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We’re listening to a little of the closing day concert for a week-long workshop that Mr. Johnnie Billington, a Master Folk Artist from the Mississippi Delta, has been holding here at the University of Florida to teach middle-school students how to play the blues. Many of the kids who participated in this workshop never held a guitar, or a drumstick, or a microphone before, and Mr. Johnnie has been patiently working, playing, and singing with them. The first hurdle was to help them get that the blues was about, to use Mr. Johnnie’s phrase, “what you don’t have.”

After leaving the Delta, he had a career playing the blues around the country, and then on a visit home about 20 years ago, he decided to stay and teach the blues to the kids who weren’t learning it, because the blues musicians like himself were leaving. He started playing in the schools, and soon he was helping young people to form bands, as he puts it, doing the paperwork for the people in Washington so that he could find the means to continue to teach the blues in the schools of the Mississippi Delta.

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His advice to parents: 

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Posted in Interviews, Music