On Friday, May 31, Flushing Town Hall will present Country Blues & Dance. Blues legends Phil Wiggins Blues House Party and The Harris Brothers will come together on stage to celebrate the shared music and dance traditions of the Piedmont and Appalachian regions.
Blues harmonica master Phil Wiggins is joined by guitarist Rick Franklin and fiddler Marcus Moore, and the incomparable dance artistry of Junious Brickhouse. The Harris Brothers, Appalachian blues songsters, round out the program with Reggie on guitar, Ryan on bass, and a kick drum fashioned from a beaten-up suitcase! The concert will be preceded by a conversation with the artists moderated by folklorist Jon Lohman and a dance lesson led by Junious Brickhouse.
Flushing Town Hall spoke with Phil Wiggins to learn more about the upcoming event.
Tell us about you – how did you get started as a performer?
As a teenager living in Washington D.C. in the 1970s, I played at the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival with street singer Flora Molton, sitting in with blues greats Johnny Shines, Sunnyland Slim, Sam Chatmon, Robert Belfour and Howard Armstrong. By the time I graduated from high school in 1973, D.C. blues elders John Jackson, John Cephas and Archie Edwards had embraced me. I joined the Barrelhouse Rockers, a band fronted by pianist and singer Wilbert “Big Chief” Ellis, where John Cephas played guitar. We toured regionally until Ellis retired in 1977, when John Cephas invited me to join the duo ‘Cephas & Wiggins’.
With John Cephas as guitarist and primary singer, we performed together for 32 years, ever-present on the concert and festival circuit.
What can an audience expect to experience at your performance?
The audience will be part of a celebration of a living tradition of music and dance rooted in country blues and now thriving in a more urban environment.
What do you hope audiences discover/feel at one of your events?
I hope that the audience will discover that “Piedmont Blues” is great music to get up and dance to and to celebrate.
What is on the horizon for you? What other projects are you working on?
My string band/swing band, the Chesapeake Sheiks, has just completed a great recording. This band also includes a wonderful dancer. I will also soon be publishing a book that I collaborated on about the acoustic blues scene in Washington DC from 1975 until the present. It’s basically my story of finding real homemade blues in Washington DC.