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August 19, 2003

American Folklife Center Presents Little Bit of Blues

The American Folklife Center and the Public Service Collections Directorate at the Library of Congress present Little Bit of Blues, featuring Warner Williams and Jay Summerour, at noon on Thursday, Sept. 11, on Neptune Plaza in front of the Thomas Jefferson Building, First Street and Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. The concert is free of charge and open to the public.

This outdoor concert is the third in the "Capital Roots" series, monthly presentations of traditional music and dance from Washington-area artists. The series is a part of "I Hear America Singing," a Library of Congress project celebrating America’s music.

Warner Williams, from Gaithersburg, Md., is one of the finest Piedmont-style blues guitar players in the country. He was born and raised in Takoma Park, part of a large family in which everyone played music. His father played fiddle, guitar and piano, and all of his eight brothers and three sisters played instruments and sang, filling the house with music. Recently retired from the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Williams plays both acoustic and electric guitar and piano.

Like his Piedmont blues contemporaries John Cephas and the late John Jackson, Williams was exposed to a wide variety of music in his formative years. He was influenced by bluesmen such as Lightning Hopkins, Blind Boy Fuller and Muddy Waters, but he also listened to country and western recording artists, including Gene Autry and Ernest Tubb. By the time Williams reached his teens in the late 1940s, he was playing regularly around the Washington area. Although he has never made a full-time living playing music, Williams has achieved a reputation as one of the area’s finest and most versatile bluesmen.

Harmonica player Jay Summerour has been involved with music for well over 40 years. Beginning his musical education on the trumpet at age 7, Summerour learned the harmonica from his grandfather Smack Martin. Largely self-taught, Summerour picked up bits and pieces from "folks he ran into"—folks like Sonny Terry, James Cotton and Magic Dick.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Summerour took the traditional harmonica into the popular arena, joining the Starland Vocal Band and playing with Nils Lofgren and his band Grin. Four of the Starland Vocal Band’s records went gold during Summerour’s tenure.

Williams and Summerour began playing together during the early 1990s, sometimes calling themselves "Little Bit of Blues." They have been featured in concerts, on television and radio, and at festivals across the country, including appearances on the National Public Radio series Folk Masters, at the National and Lowell folk festivals and on the National Mall during the American Roots Fourth of July celebration.

The inclement weather location for the concert is Coolidge Auditorium, on the ground floor of the Jefferson Building. The closest Metro stops are at Capitol South (orange and blue lines) and Union Station (red line).

Two additional concerts have been added to the Capital Roots series. Both will be held at noon in Madison Hall of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E.

Oct. 23–Titiana Sarbinska and Friends: Bulgarian song and music

Nov. 20–Ganga: East Indian music featuring Broto Roy

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

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PR 03-143
08/19/03
ISSN 0731-3527

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