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John Cephas’ Piedmont Blues returns to Caroline

Posted on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 11:16 am

You can almost hear John Cephas spinning in his grave.

Of course, what you’d hear would be musical. The legendary Piedmont Blues guitarist and singer, whose hometown was Bowling Green, was interred in 2009. As

of 2014, there is now an historical marker on North Main Street. commemorating him, and up in Washington, DC. the Smithsonian Institution’s Folkways staff is intent on preserving his music and memory.

Then for the past two years, The Town of Bowling Green had the creative foresight, if not brilliance, to hold The John  Cephas Piedmont Blues Festival in June of those years. Carrying on Piedmont Blues tradition and style, musicians came to Bowling Green from near and far, as did festival goers.

Presto! Dear sweet charming little Bowling Green was on the nation’s musical map! And remembered no longer solely as the

place where the inter-racial couple Richard and Mildred Loving were jailed for the crime of being married.

The festival was something John Cephas, maybe a little lonesome six feet under, would happily spin about. But then, aiming a high calibre bullet at the town’s collective

foot, Town Council voted not to hold the festival this year. Ostensibly their reason was cost. Boom!

John Cephas would now, presumably, get up and haunt! Jay Johnson, proprietor of the Union Station music venue at 114 N. Main St and the organizer of the past two festivals, had already invited the musicians and told them how much they’d

be paid. They’d accepted. But upon Town Council’s not-so charming decision to cancel this year’s festival, he then had to call and tell them not to come. Then the unexpected happened. The musicians — M.S.G. Acoustic Trio, Piedmont Bluz Duo, Eleanor Ellis, Marc Pesser, and Parker & Gray — put their heads together and told Johnson they were eager to come play in Bowling Green anyway and that money would not be such a huge problem. After all, Bowling Green was already on the Piedmont Blues map and the place to pay.

“They really want to come here,” said Johnson. “And it was great for the town.”

After ruminating a while, Johnson realized he’d be glad to stage the otherwise outdoors show inside his Union Station venue, following up on the success of the April 1 CommUNITY Music Festival held at his place.

And so now after much spinning around, Johnson has announced that on Saturday, June 10, the show will go on!

Only he’s not calling it a John Cephas festival; he wants to save that title for if Town Council gets farsighted and wants to sponsor it next year.

Instead, Johnson is calling it “Blues, Beer and Barbecue.” In an effort to make a dent in paying the musicians what they deserve, Johnson will be charging $25 at the door, or $20 in advance by going on

The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a $10 workshop for musicians aspiring to learn the Piedmont style. This will last until 1 p.m. After this comes an hour break for setting up and tanking up on beer and barbecue.

Then the show starts at 2 p.m. and runs until 9:00 p.m. Christian Hip Hop artist D.J. Righteous will emcee.

Johnson wants the show to benefit the town as much as possible so he’s putting up the musicians at accomodations in Bowling Green.

“We want to help the town. Anything I gotta buy I’m going to buy from this block,” he said referring to N. Main Street. So as his hometown honors his legacy, it looks like old John Cephas can rest in peace. May he continue to musically spin.

Or as Jay Johnson put it, “We gonna Piedmont Blues it!”