Dr. John and Blind Boys of Alabama to Perform at River Campus

by News Bureau on Thursday, Oct. 04, 2012

Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 4, 2012 – Southeast Missouri State University will present “Spirituals to Funk,” featuring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Dr. John, and the five-time Grammy Award-winners, the Blind Boys of Alabama, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall on Southeast’s River Campus. 

Bob Cerchio, assistant director at the River Campus, counts his lucky stars the day he was able to book Dr. John and the Blind Boys.  

“It’s like a dream come true,” Cerchio said.  “I have been listening to both these icons of the music industry since I was a kid and to have them together on one stage – the Bedell stage – for a performance is perfect, just perfect.”  

Under Dr. John’s musical direction, the world premiere of “Spirituals to Funk” represents the first-ever touring partnership between two icons of American music. Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama’s performance will build on a legacy that started with Dr. John’s appearance on the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Grammy Award-winning CD, “Down in New Orleans,” and continues with the Blind Boys of Alabama’s appearance on Dr. John’s upcoming CD, which celebrates Louis Armstrong’s 100th birthday. Based on the legendary Carnegie Hall “From Spirituals to Swing” concerts, produced by John Hammond in the 1930s, “Spirituals to Funk” features an integrated show that explores the connections among jazz, blues and gospel.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. John, or Mac Rebennack, as known to friends and family, is universally celebrated as the living embodiment of the rich musical heritage exclusive to New Orleans. His very colorful musical career began in the 1950s, when he wrote and played guitar on some of the greatest records to come out of the Crescent City, including recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford. 

A notorious gun incident forced the artist to give up the guitar and concentrate on the organ and piano. In the 1960s, further trouble at home sent Dr. John west, where he continued to be in demand as a session musician, playing on records by Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones’ infamous “Exile On Main St.,” to name a few. 

During that time he also launched his solo career, developing the charismatic persona of Dr. John, the Nite Tripper. Adorned with voodoo charms and regalia, a legend was born with his breakthrough 1968 album, Gris-Gris, which established his unique blend of voodoo mysticism, funk, rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock and Creole roots. 

His many career highlights include the masterful album, “Sun, Moon & Herbs,” which included cameos from Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, and “In The Right Place,” which contained the chart hits, “Right Place Wrong Time” and “Such A Night.” Dr. John garnered Grammy Award wins in 1989, 1992, 1996 and 2000. In 2004, his musical love letter to the city of New Orleans, “N’awlinz Dis, Dat, or D’udda,” was awarded the prestigious Académie Charles Cros 57ème Palmarès Award in France. It was the first time since the 1970s that an artist from North America received the award. He has also received six other nominations over the years. In 2007, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Sippiana Hericane,” his Hurricane Katrina benefit disc. Other awards include the American Society of Young Musicians 2007 Trailblazer Award. 

After Hurricane Katrina bashed New Orleans in 2005, Dr. John immediately stepped up to the plate with relief fund-raising concerts and recordings and public words of protest. In 2008, he released “City That Care Forgot,” an album, which won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. 2010’s release, “Tribal,” has Dr. John revisiting that classic, swampy gris-gris style that put him on the map with raving reviews. 

After a half century of creating music for others and himself, Dr. John continues to write, arrange, produce and interpret with a passion that has yet to wane. He continues to dazzle and delight audiences across the globe and tours consistently.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are the winners of five Grammy Awards (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009), were honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2009), are Gospel Music Hall of Fame Inductees (2003), and are winners of four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards (2003, 2006 and two in 2009). Three U.S. Presidential Administrations have invited the Blind Boys of Alabama to the White House: President Clinton in 1994, President Bush in 2002 and President Obama in 2010.

On the 2005 Grammy telecast, the Blind Boys of Alabama were featured in a performance with Mavis Staples, Kanye West and John Legend. Other on-stage and recording collaborations include work with Prince, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Allen Toussaint, Ben Harper, and many more. They have appeared on “60 Minutes,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Today,” “Saturday Morning” and “Austin City Limits.” The Blind Boys’ version of the Tom Waits song, “Way Down In The Hole,” was used as the main title theme for the popular HBO series, “The Wire.” 

In February 2010, President and Mrs. Obama hosted “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement,” featuring  the Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Freedom Singers, John Mellencamp, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams and the Howard University Choir. It was broadcast on PBS and NPR. 

In January 2010, the Blind Boys appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and were accompanied by Lou Reed. They performed the Velvet Underground classic, “Jesus,” a collaboration also featured on the Blind Boys’ 2009 CD, “Duets,” and which they previously sang together at the U. N. General Assembly in New York. 

The Blind Boys of Alabama were featured in the film, “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” which screened at the Cannes Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. Focusing on the civil rights movement, the film uses updated renditions of the era’s songs, performed by the Blind Boys, Richie Havens, The Roots, Harry Belafonte, Wyclef Jean, Angie Stone, John Legend and Joss Stone. Two-time Oscar Award- and two-time Emmy Award-winner Bill Guttentag and partner Dan Sturman wrote and directed the film. 

In May 2005, Dan Rather presented the Blind Boys of Alabama with the American Foundation for the Blind’s distinguished Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award, which is presented to individuals and organizations that have improved the quality of life for people who are blind, visually impaired or disabled. Past recipients include Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano. 

Also in May 2005, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan presented the Blind Boys of Alabama with the first Niarchos Prize for Survivorship. Each year the Survivors Corps awards the prize to artists whose life work promotes resiliency and recovery. 

“Gospel at Colonus,” featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama, was a musical production that transformed Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy, “Oedipus at Colonus,” into a contemporary, foot-stomping gospel masterpiece. The play was acclaimed as a landmark work of the American musical theater and received years of critical praise, including OBIE Awards for both Outstanding Musical and for Outstanding Performance by Morgan Freeman, who was featured during the play’s 1983-1984 season. It was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. “Gospel at Colonus” premiered in New York in 1983 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Over the years, this dazzling production has appeared nationwide. 

Festival appearances of the Blind Boys of America include Festival de Fès  in Morocco; New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; 2010 Tour of China; London Jazz Festival; Salzburger Jazz-Herbst in Austria; Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland; Pohoda in Slovakia; Stockholm International Jazz Festival in Sweden; Festival de Jazz de Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain; Copenhagen Jazz Festival in Denmark; Essence Music Festival in New Orleans; Voodoo Fest in New Orleans; Dysart Festival in Ireland; Narcao Blues Festival in Italy; Le Festival d’Ete International de Quebec in Canada; Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in Canada; Monterey Bay Blues Festival in California; Cité de la Musique in Paris; WOMAD in the United Kingdom; BBC Radio 2 Cambridge Folk Festival in the United Kingdom; Stimmen Festival in Germany; Nice Jazz Festival in France; Rome Blues Festival in Italy; Hong Kong Arts Festival; Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas; Fuji Rock Festival in Japan; Byblos International Festival in Lebanon; Helsinki Festival in Finland; Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles; Bonnaroo in Tennessee; BoogieWood in Belgium; Glasgow International Jazz Festival in Scotland; International Istanbul Jazz Festival in Turkey; The Kennedy Center American Music Fest in Washington, D.C.; Bumbershoot in Seattle; San Diego Street Scene; and many more. 

Tickets are on Sale Now. 

Tickets may be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling (573) 651-2265, or online at RiverCampusEvents.com