Beginning August 12, 2016, heavy rains fell over the state of Louisiana. The record-breaking flooding, caused by the nearly seven trillion gallons of rain that fell, has damaged more than 60,000 homes.
One of the damaged homes belongs to 91 year-old blues pianist Henry Gray, a native of Kenner, Louisiana. Gray, who still tours both solo and with his band, Henry Gray and the Cats, has traveled the world playing the blues with the Rolling Stones, Howlin' Wolf and countless others. Despite his success on the global stage, Gray still lives in a humble home, and like 54 percent of home owners in the flood zone, has no flood insurance.
(Photo credit Jordan Hefler/Baton Rouge Blues Festival, click for high res)
As news of the historic flooding hit, Music Maker Relief Foundation Founder and President Timothy Duffy was quick to respond. “Music Maker has been helping roots musicians in crisis for more than 20 years, so when we heard that legends like Henry were impacted by the flooding, we immediately reached out to send aid," Duffy said.
When Clarke Gernon, Jr., president of the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation, heard Music Maker was helping Gray, he offered to partner with Duffy to help the many other Louisiana musicians in need. “Guitars. Keyboards. Amps. These among other instruments are the tools of the trade when you are a working musician in the Baton Rouge Blues community. When these items are gone, not to mention one's house and possessions, it really limits your ability to pay your bills. We hope this relief fund can help bridge the gap and get these suffering musicians back to playing the blues and not just feeling them,” Gernon said.
Duffy agreed and offered to mobilize Music Maker resources to set up the Baton Rouge Musicians Fund and assist these performers. "In a disaster like this, we first need to help stabilize an artist’s health and housing situation," says Duffy. "Then we can focus on getting instruments back in their hands and giving them access to stages so they can rebuild their livelihoods.”
Contemporary artists around the world recognize the significance of roots musicians from the South. Grammy-winning artist Taj Mahal is lending his support to the Baton Rouge Musicians Fund and hopes others will join him. "These musicians are the foundation of all popular music in the world. When disaster turns on them, it is not time to turn our backs. Let's show them the respect!," Mahal said.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Baton Rouge Musicians Fund through Music Maker at musicmaker.org.
Music Maker Relief Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, preserves and promotes the musical traditions of the American South. Since 1994 they have partnered with traditional artists over 55 years old who survive on a yearly income of less than $18,000, sustaining their day-to-day needs while building their careers. Through Music Maker, our rich heritage of music will not be lost with the passing of time. Music Maker has been featured on PBS NewsHour, NPR Weekend Edition and CBS Evening News. More information at http://www.musicmaker.org/
Founded in 2002, the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation is a non-profit organization striving to promote, preserve and celebrate the Baton Rouge blues culture and bring the best of Louisiana swamp blues music to the world. Today the Foundation sponsors a Blues Education program, a Blues Music History Project, an annual Blue Carpet Blues Gala, and the annual Baton Rouge Blues Festival. More information at http://www.