Legendary BluesMan Pinetop Perkins Dead at 97

The Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee was saddened to learn of the passing of Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, who was in the artist line up for the Island's September Blues Fest.

Amelia Island Blues Fest's T-Bone Blues Dog

Following is the official Press Release reaction of the Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee on the Loss of Legendary BluesMan Willy Joe “Pinetop” Perkins, who was scheduled to perform during the September organized Amelia Island Blues Festival.

March 22, 2011

PRESS RELEASE:

AMELIA ISLAND BLUES FESTIVAL COMMITTEE REACTS TO THE LOSS OF LEGENDARY BLUESMAN PINETOP PERKINS

The Amelia Island Blues Festival Committee was saddened to learn of the passing of a true blues legend.  Willie “Pinetop” Perkins died in his sleep at home in Austin, Texas yesterday from cardiac arrest.  The former piano player in the Muddy Waters Band was 97 years of age and had recently become the oldest Grammy Award winner ever, walking away with the Best Traditional Blues Album of the year for his collaboration with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on the album “Joined at the Hip.”

Perkins also won a 2007 Grammy for best traditional blues album for his collaboration on the “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas.” He received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2005.

Local blues fans selected Perkins to perform on Amelia Island to honor the original blues musicians and they plan to continue to embrace that theme with a very special tribute to Perkins at the festival in September.  “It was always a calculated risk, but certainly one worth taking,” said Jeff Malone, President of the Board of Directors.  “The vote to bring Pinetop here was unanimous.”

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith was playing the drums for Muddy Waters back in 1969 when Perkins sat in with the band at piano.  The chain-smoking journeyman musician pounded on the keyboards in his aggressive style and caught the ear of the band leader.  “Muddy liked what he heard. The rest is history,” said Smith.  Smith is contracted to play on Friday, September 16th at the Amelia Island Blues Festival and looks forward to honoring his friend with a special musical tribute.

Smith described Perkins as an old school bluesman with a gravelly voice, who played with the likes of rock pioneer Ike Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson and slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk.  When Smith hooked up with Perkins, Pinetop was already in his 50’s and had never recorded an album of his own.  But, “he had more energy than us younger folks did,” Smith said.

“I didn’t get no schooling. I come up the hard way in the world,” Perkins told The Associated Press in a 2009 interview.
Fellow great bluesman B.B. King was saddened by the loss of his friend.  “He was one of the last great Mississippi Bluesmen. He had such a distinctive voice, and he sure could play the piano. He will be missed not only by me, but by lovers of music all over the world,” King said in an emailed statement.
Funeral arrangements for Perkins were pending in Austin, although a graveside service will be held near Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he wanted to be buried.

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  1. Pingback: Willie Big Eyes Smith does Pinetop Tribute during Blues Festival

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