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Help a great American music survive

October 11, 2010

Last week, we sent out this message to some of our friends and supporters—part of our effort to raise the last $7,000 we need for this project. If you’ve been enjoying “Still Singing the Blues,” we hope you’ll take the time to read this and make a contribution you can afford.

CLICK HERE TO GO STRAIGHT TO THE DONATIONS PAGE.

Dear friends,

Many of you have followed the making of “Still Singing the Blues,” our two-part, two-hour radio documentary about older blues musicians in New Orleans and South Louisiana. We have been grateful for your support—in the form of financial donations, lodging, and encouragement. We’ve learned this:  It takes a village to make a documentary!

We wanted to send you an update on the series. And—here’s the plot spoiler—we want to tell you about our last unfunded expense, and how you can help ensure this series reaches the audience we think it deserves.

Richard Ziglar interviews Little Freddie King outside New Orleans' Dew Drop Inn. Photo by Barry Yeoman.

Two Hours of Louisiana Stories

Our original funding, from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, was designed to cover a one-hour program. This hour, also called Still Singing the Blues, debuted June 4 and has run on 23 stations around the country. It tells the stories of three musicians in their 70s from across Louisiana’s Interstate-10 corridor: Carol Fran, a sassy pianist and vocalist from a French-speaking Creole family in Lafayette; Harvey Knox, a Baton Rouge guitarist who spent his adolescence inside the juke joints of his Louisiana Delta town; and “gutbucket” bluesman Little Freddie King, who as a teenager hopped a freight train from his Mississippi farmtown to New Orleans and never returned.

You can listen to the first hour at http://www.prx.org/pieces/48501-still-singing-the-blues. This is the web site for the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and you need to register as a member before listening. Registration is free.

Along the way, we realized we had too much good material to stop at one hour. In particular, several musicians and one of our humanities consultants introduced us to a hidden world of corner blues joints in New Orleans, in neighborhoods like Treme, Pigeontown, and Central City. These bars don’t advertise, and most of them are unknown beyond their local customers. They struggle financially—especially since Hurricane Katrina, the recession, and the BP oil spill. But they allow both traditional blues and New Orleans’ unique R&B to survive. We worked without pay, and funded another research trip out of our pockets, to produce a second hour called Crescent City Blues. It debuted last month on four stations in Northern Illinois.

You can also listen to this show on PRX:  http://www.prx.org/pieces/53509-crescent-city-blues.

In addition, we have created a web site, http://stillsingingtheblues.org, with photographs, additional audio clips, and links to web sites for the musicians, their CDs, and non-profit groups working to support Louisiana musicians and preserve their music. We have maintained an extensive blog there, with historical tidbits, news of upcoming concerts, and an up-close look at our reporting process.

Your Opportunity to Rekindle the Blues

We believe it’s important that these documentaries receive widespread airplay. Many of the musicians we interviewed persevere despite poverty, illness, and the impacts of Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill. They are national treasures whose music forms the foundation of much American popular culture. Yet they have not received the attention they deserve. At a time when New Orleans and South Louisiana are struggling, we want to shine a spotlight on these remarkable artists. Per our grant agreement, we are making the shows available at no cost to public and community radio stations. We also donated a CD of Hour 1 to every main parish library in Louisiana.

But here’s the rub: Our grant did not cover the cost of promoting the documentary to radio stations. We believe we can get on 100, 150, or more stations, but this requires the services of a PR professional who specializes in public-radio documentaries and has relationships with stations around the country. The cost of hiring the professional, pressing and mailing CDs, and uploading the shows to the radio repository ContentDepot will cost $5,000. Project direction will cost an additional $2,000.

Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation of $50, $100, $500, or more? Your contribution will ensure that these high-quality documentaries will reach a large audience—calling attention to these under-recognized cultural heroes.

You can make your payment by check, which you can send to Filmmakers Collaborative, a 501(c)3 corporation that provides fiscal sponsorship and financial oversight for our project. Make the check payable to Filmmakers Collaborative and write “Still Singing the Blues” on the subject line. Send the check to:

Filmmakers Collaborative
397 Moody Street
Waltham MA 02453

Alternately, you can pay via PayPal by going to this web site: http://filmmakerscollab.org/films/singing-the-blues/. When you get there, click on “Make a Donation” and you will be directed to Filmmakers Collaborative’s PayPal page.

A Token of Our Appreciation

To show our appreciation, we will make these gifts available:

  • For $50, we will send you a pair of links where you can download MP3s of both programs.
  • For $100, we will send you a CD of Crescent City Blues.
  • For $500, we will list you as a major donor on our web site.

Please feel free to share this with others. And thank you so much in advance. Your support means everything to us.

Sincerely,

Barry Yeoman and Richard Ziglar

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