Louisiana Zydeco musician and blues accordion player Major Handy will take the Mars Theatre stage Aug. 9, and the show will be the fourth in a series of six concerts at the Mars in support of American Roots and Blues Artists through the Music Maker Relief Foundation.
The Music Maker Relief Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it — ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. Music Maker gives future generations access to their heritage through documentation and performance programs that build knowledge and appreciation of America’s musical traditions.
By targeting their programs to serve the most vulnerable musicians, those 55 years and older with incomes under $18,000 a year, they are allowing these musicians to develop their talents, stage shows, record their works, inspire their community and focus on their music.
Since their founding in 1994, they have assisted and partnered with over 300 artists, issued over 150 CDs and have reached over a million people with live performances in over 40 states and 17 countries around the globe. Music Maker started by helping a small group of blues musicians in Winston-Salem, N.C., including Guitar Gabriel, Willa Mae Buckner, Preston Fulp, Mr. Q and Macavine Hayes. When these artists were asked how Music Maker could help them, they didn’t ask for money — they wanted a gig.
Surrounded by Creole music while growing up in Lafayette, La., Major Handy has since fine-tuned his skills on the guitar, bass, piano and accordion, along with becoming a vocalist. His past gigs include playing guitar with Rockin’ Dopsie’s band for 12 years and with Buckwheat Zydeco’s original lineup. A regular jack of all trades, he has held various jobs over the years including acting as deputy sheriff in the late 1970s, holding a regular gig in Canada that included doing a cooking show before his set and running his own auto business. Major Handy won the 2011 Living Blues Magazine’s award for most outstanding musician.
Over the coming months, the Mars Theatre will present Music Maker artists Ironing Board Sam and Cool John Ferguson in addition to Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Robert Lee Coleman and Drink Small. These musicians are rooted in the Southern musical traditions of blues, gospel, string band and Zydeco. The blues is a spirit that will never die; thus the mission to promote and preserve traditional American roots music has just begun.
For tickets and more information, visit www.marstheatre.com. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.