~ Blues Sunday June 2, 2019: The Chris O'Leary Band ~
The idea of a Blues Society in Charlotte originated from two sources-three blues musicians, Beth Pollhammer, James Linton and Bill Buck and Nick Karres, owner of the Double Door Inn. Nick had been frustrated that numerous Blues artists were not known locally and had very little following, and a Blues society would help boost interest in the music. Beth, James and Bill were relieved to find a "home" for the Charlotte Blue Society.
"Promoting the Blues-Musically, of Course" was the title of Steve Snow's article in The Charlotte Observer on Sunday April 4, 1993. This article, along with handouts at Springfest, fliers posted around town, and one-on-one conversations with Blues fans at the Double Door Inn, helped generate the audience for the first Charlotte Blues Society meeting known then as Blue Monday.
That night, 52 charter members signed up. To top off the evening, there was a surprise visit by international recoding artist Lil'Ed of Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, who joined in the Open Mic Blues Jam.
Nick has often said that the creation of the Charlotte Blues Society is one of his most memborable events in the music business; it has helped bring new and unknown Blues artists to the area as well as create a camaraderie among blues fans who might never have met.
During its first year, the Charlotte Blues Society met its first challenge by sponsoring a "Red,White, aand Blues" stage during a community Fourth of July celebration. Based on the Society's nomination in 1994, the "Keepin' the Blues Alive" award for Best Blues Club was awarded to The Double Door Inn by The Blues Foundation. In the years that followed, the Society has collaborated with the Charlotte Folk Society on music events at various venues, involved members in Blues music camps and participated in local music events to educate the public of the importance of Blues in America's musical history.
In 1997 the Society sponsored its first Blues in the Schools program at Hidden Valley Elementary. Additional programs have taken place at Marie Davis Middle School, Smith Middle School, Northeast School of the Arts, North Rowan High School, Salisbury High School and Livingstone College. The most recent programs were at Garinger High School featuring multi-Grammy award winner, Keb'Mo', and at Northwest School of the Arts featuring the amazing Joe Bonamassa.
We continued to call the "World Famous" Double Door Inn home with gatherings being held on Sunday nights until January 1, 2017. Within weeks after that last show, a wrecking ball took the building down and meetings have since moved to The Rabbit Hole in the eclectic Plaza Midwood section of Charlotte. Music venues are within walking distance to this vibrant neighborhood. Numerous artists came to Charlotte to perform for Charlotte Blues Society events. Benny Turner, Eddie Turner, Geoff Achison, Bex Marshall, Tullie Brae, Drink Small, Lightin' Wells, Big Jack Johnson, Steve James, Guitar Gabriel, Johnny Whitlock, Paul Rishell ,Joseph Michael Mahfoud, The King Bees, Heather Gillis, Tommy Z, Lipbone Redding, George Higgs, Roots & Dore, Diane Durrett and Suga, Albert Castiglia, and many more. For many, it was their first performance ever in Charlotte and our Blues community welcomed them with open arms.
Most of our monthly events are free general admission to members with one or two exceptions per year. There is a nominal (usually $5) fee for non-members. We feature local, regional, or national talent. Some artists will have advanced reserved ticket sales, which will allow those who wish to have a seated area the upgrade option. Open Mic Blues Jams are held on select dates throughout the year.
Our Blues E-letter is published monthly and includes information on Society activities and a variety of blues-related items of interest. Our website now has the Blues Calendar, covering Blues events in the area.
Members receive discounts on co-sponsored events as well as discounts at local participating businesses.
We hold an annual Blues Band and Solo/Duo challenge . Winners are sent to represent us in Memphis at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge. Our 2002 winners, Delta Moon, went on to claim the "IBC" title for 2003, and our 2003 winners , the late Robin Rogers & Her Hot Band placed in the international finals (and later signed with Blind Pig Records) Robin Rogers "Crazy Cryin' Blues" took first place as "Best Self Produced CD" at the IBC in 2006.
The Charlotte Blues Society is totally self-supported through general membership dues, donations, in-kind donations, advertising, and fund-raising projects. Funds raised through these channels help to support worthy causes such as Blues in the Schools and other educational initiatives performances at our events and local events, and in general, just "Keepin' the Blues Alive" in Charlotte and surrounding areas.
We love the Blues and we hope that reading this historical perspective has provided you with a little background as to who we are and what we so strongly believe in.
~Beth Pollhammer, Co-Founder
(2003 Updates by Jeri Thompson)
(2018 Updates by Mary London)