Making a Difference:
There is no question that KET put us on the map in a number of ways.
W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival
The sounds that filled the air at Audubon Mill Park on the Henderson riverfront were more reminiscent of the subjects of John James Audubon's artwork than the smoky strains of the blues.
Despite that disparity, the legacies of the two famous men to which this lovely river town lays claim—one an internationally known naturalist, the other, a man sometimes called the Father of the Blues—become one each June when the annual W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival tunes up in the park once more.
"I love music—I was a child of the sixties, or almost was; I had older sisters and I listened to their music and all the great music on AM radio," said Dorin Luck, a Hendersonville native, local lawyer, and chief coordinator of the festival.
"I grew up with all the great music, all the great rock 'n' roll. I've loved music all my life, I've played a fair amount—but what drives me is just a love of music. I've had it all my life."
The 20th anniversary incarnation of the W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival, set for June 12-19, is the sixth Henderson festival KET is recording for inclusion in the popular Jubilee series celebrating various forms of American music. The acts recorded in Henderson this summer will premiere on Jubilee's next new season.
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Since its premiere in 1996, Jubilee has presented an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, and other forms of music. And including the Handy festival once again strengthens the ties between the nationally known festival and KET, which distributes Jubilee to public television stations nationwide.
"There is no question that KET put us on the map in a number of ways," said Luck, who has been involved with the festival in one capacity or another since the festival's second year.
"I canít tell you how many bands, from the top to the bottom, have commented on the effect KET has had on them. They know when their show is being aired somewhere in the country because they'll start getting e-mails."
By partnering with KET, the festival not only ensured that its lineup would reach audiences both in Kentucky and further afield, but also that these traditional American music art forms would receive continuing support. One artist in particular has directly benefited from his Jubilee appearances.
"Bernard Allison's DVD Kentucky Fried Blues was produced in cooperation with KET," Luck said, "and he'll tell you—because he told us the last time he was here—that he thinks of Henderson as his home and that KET production was instrumental in propelling him forward in his career."
One of the ways Jubilee keeps music like the blues alive is by including interviews with musicians in its programs, a component that Luck finds particularly valuable. In addition, Jubileeís coverage has improved the Handy festival by encouraging it to upgrade its sound system and pay close attention to aesthetics.
"Our desire to have KET involved was to keep this festival alive," Luck said. "We've ramped up the stage and the lighting and the way we do things. The performances themselves show the music in a good light, and the interviews, which in some ways quite frankly are the highlights of the Jubilee programs—and I canít think of a better way to promote this festival than on KET."
You've got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues—that's a truism that everyone who loves this art form knows. Why does Luck love it?
"Its ability to convey pain and emotion, and its ability to transcend it, all at the same time," he said. "Itís a unique form of music. Plus it's just fun to dance to."