Award-winning blues artists perform Sunday at McCain


McCain Auditorium played host on Sunday night to some soulful blues during the Manhattan leg of the national Solid Blues Tour.

Four award-winning blues artists took the stage and performed to a full house.

Joe Krown kicked off the show with some edgy Southern piano. Krown, a New Orleans native, has performed and recorded with some of the greatest musicians in history, including Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and B.B. King.

Next up was the contemporary blues band North Mississippi Allstars. The band has recieved three Grammy nominations since its debut album “Shake Hands with Shorty” in 2001. Band members brought the crowd to its feet before intermission.

The second half of the show featured Charlie Musselwhite, who the New York Press called “the world’s greatest living blues harmonica player.” He is an eight-time Grammy nominee and has won Lifetime Achievement awards from the Monterey Blues Festival and the San Javier Jazz Festival in Spain. Musselwhite encouraged audience members to get on their feet during his performance.

“This is dancing music,” Musselwhite said.

Many responded to the invitation to feel the beat, but few left their seats to dance with Musselwhite.

The final act of the night was the legendary Mavis Staples. Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006. She performed with Krown, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Musselwhite as her backup band and truly ended the show in style.

The seven-week Solid Blues Tour is the first-ever tour with these four artists together and has made its way through the country, stopping in cities like Houston and Olympia, Wash., before its stop in Manhattan. Former McCain Director Richard Martin actively campaigned for the performance last year. A Memphis, Tenn., native, Martin said he knew the value of good blues and what bringing a show like this to Manhattan could mean.

Thom Jackson, McCain assistant director of marketing and development, noted the importance of a blues concert to K-State.

“The opportunity was there, and we seized it,” Jackson said. “The community wanted it and the students wanted it.”

Typically McCain holds one jazz and blues concert each year. Previous performers have included Nicholas Payton and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Ticket sales, corporate donations and the Friends of McCain organization funded the event.

The audience loved the show; many clapped their hands and danced in their seats to the music. People of all ages made up Sunday’s audience. Jeanne L. McKenzie, ticket services manager, commented on the diversity of those in attendance.

“When you look around at the audience, everyone is coming for a different reason,” McKenzie said, “some for nostalgia, some because of the resurgence in the popularity of the blues, or just for a love of blues.”

Jeff Hyder, freshman in architectural engineering, came to the performance at the urging of a friend.

“I’m just looking for a new experience,” Hyder said

The Solid Blues performance was definitely a new experience, infused with the talent of four amazing performers and the sound of true blues.