The irrepressible spirit of the blues was on full display during The Blues Foundation’s 42nd Blues Music Awards (BMAs) presented by Global Electronic Technology when winners across twenty-five (25) categories were announced. Broadcasted virtually due to COVID precautions, the show’s highlights included heartfelt video statements from many of the winners as well as lively performances from several past BMA winning artists. Awarded by The Blues Foundation’s members, the BMAs are widely recognized as the highest honor given to blues musicians. The 42nd Blues Music Awards coincides with the 42nd annual celebration of Black Music Month which recognizes the immeasurable influence of Black artists and their music on America’s musical traditions.
Shemekia Copeland was the show’s big winner, snagging three awards including the coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award. Copeland was recognized with the Contemporary Blues Female Artist award as she was in 2020, and also took the prize for Contemporary Blues Album, with Uncivil War. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram continued his winning streak from 2020 when he won five awards with two 2021 awards, winning both Contemporary Blues Male Artist and Instrumentalist – Guitar. Blues fans tuning into the show were wowed by two stellar performances by “Kingfish” and heard his heartfelt personal acceptance speeches. Other multiple award winners were Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite, whose album, 100 Years of Blues, won awards for Album of the Year and Traditional Blues Album, and Mike Zito, who won in the Blues Rock Artist category as well as the Blues Rock Album category for Mike Zito and Friends – Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry.
Blues’ intergenerational traditions were underscored when Blues Hall of Famers Bettye LaVette won for Soul Blues Female Artist and Bobby Rush took the prize for Acoustic Blues Album with Rawer than Raw. Rush, who performed during the show, appeared onstage to accept his award. Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith, Instrumentalist – Drum winner, continued the blues legacy of his father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who won 16 BMAs. Newcomer King Solomon Hicks was awarded Best Emerging Artist Album for Harlem. Other standouts included Rick Estrin & the Nightcats’ win for Band of the Year and Walter Trout’s win for Song of the Year, “All Out of Tears.”
The show’s host, perennial favorite, Big Llou, kept the show moving with his trademark spirited banter. In addition to the tremendous performances by Bobby Rush and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, viewers were treated to outstanding performances by past BMA winners John Németh & the Blue Dreamers, Shaun Murphy, Don Bryant, Watermelon Slim, and Southern Avenue. Memphis’ heritage as “The Home of the Blues” was showcased when Rodd Bland, son of Blues Hall of Famer Bobby “Blue” Bland, and the famed Royal Studio family, Boo, Yvonne, and Lorraine Mitchell appeared to announce the BMA winners.
The Blues Foundation’s President Patricia Wilson Aden stated, “We are proud to continue the Blues Music Awards’ time-honored tradition in 2021. Although we were not able to gather for a live performance, the global blues community came together virtually for an awesome celebration of the best of the blues. We applaud all of this year’s winners and are grateful for the support of everyone who made the 42nd Blues Music Awards a one-of-a-kind experience.”
2021 Blues Music Awards Winners
B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
Album of the Year
100 Years of Blues – Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite
Band of the Year
Rick Estrin & The Nightcats
Song of the Year
“All Out of Tears” – written by Walter Trout, Marie Trout, and Teeny Tucker
(performed by Walter Trout)
Best Emerging Artist Album
Harlem, King Solomon Hicks
Acoustic Blues Album
Rawer Than Raw, Bobby Rush
Blues Rock Album
Mike Zito and Friends – Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry, Mike Zito
Contemporary Blues Album
Uncivil War, Shemekia Copeland
Soul Blues Album
That’s What I Heard, Robert Cray Band
Traditional Blues Album
100 Years of Blues, Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite
Acoustic Blues Artist
Blues Rock Artist
Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Soul Blues Female Artist
Soul Blues Male Artist
Traditional Blues Female Artist (Koko Taylor Award)
Traditional Blues Male Artist
Instrumentalist – Bass
Instrumentalist – Drums
Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith
Instrumentalist – Guitar
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Instrumentalist – Harmonica
Instrumentalist – Horn
Instrumentalist – Piano (Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award)
Instrumentalist – Vocals
Fans who missed the original June 6, 2021 airing of the 42nd Blues Music Awards presented by Global Electronic Technology will be able catch the show for 48 hours through June 8, 2021 by going to Mandolin.com.
The Blues Foundation is grateful for the support of the generous sponsors of the 2021 virtual Blues Music Awards: Global Electronic Technology, Memphis Tourism, the Renasant Convention Center, Alligator Records, B.B. King’s Club, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, BMI, Boyle Insurance, Bruce & Barbara Newman, Endless Blues Records, Hohner Harmonicas, the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Sherry & Tim May, Stony Plain/True North Records, and Ted Reed Productions. Major funders of The Blues Foundation include Arts Memphis and the Tennessee Arts Commission.
The Blues Foundation is a world-renowned Memphis-based organization whose mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, the Foundation has approximately 4,000 individual members and 180 affiliated blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals worldwide. Its signature honors and events — the Blues Music Awards, Blues Hall of Fame inductions, International Blues Challenge, and Keeping the Blues Alive Awards – make it the international hub of blues music. The Blues Foundation’s COVID – 19 Blues Musician Relief Fund and HART Fund provide financial and medical assistance for musicians in need, while Blues in the Schools programs and Generation Blues Scholarships expose new generations to blues music. The Blues Hall of Fame Museum, located in Downtown Memphis, adds the opportunity for blues lovers of all ages to interact with blues music and history. Throughout the year, the Foundation staff serves the global blues community with answers, information, and news.
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