Walnut Grove UMC to host inaugural festival in honor of renowned Blues legend

On Sept. 9, 2017, Walnut Grove United Methodist Church is hosting a festival to honor one of the late, great blues musicians who was born, and is buried, right there in Walnut Grove.

According to local blues musician Dustin Peterson, the grave of Robert Hicks, better known as Barbecue Bob, was recently located in the Walnut Grove UMC church graveyard. The church, in conjunction with the Atlanta Blues Society and the Killer Blues Headstone Project, are putting on what they hope will become an annual festival in Barbecue Bob’s honor. 

“We are putting the festival together to commemorate the placement of a memorial marker for this famous blues musician from Walnut Grove from the 1920s-30s,” said Peterson, who is on the board of the Atlanta Blues Society. “Barbecue Bob (Robert Hicks) unmarked grave has been located at the church and a marker has been placed. A festival is being held on 9/9 to commemorate the event.”

Person said the event will include a free concert to honor this famous Atlanta blues musician with appearance by Peterson’s own band, Funky Bluester, as well as Muscat and Jontavious Willis. The festival also will include food, fun and a raffle. The featured musicians are all well-known Atlanta personalities and will play the Piedmont Blues genre of music from noon to 5:30 p.m.  Barbecue, hot dogs and beverages will be available. A raffle for a Weber Grill will be held at 5:30 p.m. (must be present to win.) You are invited to bring a blanket or your lawn chair and be prepared to have a great time!

“It is going to be a great event. Mudcat and Jontavious Willis are masters of BBQ Bob’s style of music,” Peterson said. “My band will open the show, Mudcat will play, Jontavious will play, the man who donated the headstone, Steven Salter, from the Killer Blues Headstone Project, is flying down from Michigan to speak, then Mudcat and Jontavious will play together to finish out the event. Jontavious is a 20-year old country blues prodigy from Columbus. He’s fantastic – touring with Taj Mahal and Keb’Mo right now. In the history of country blues, BBQ Bob was quite an important figure, so it is exciting to be a part of helping bring more recognition to him.”

From Wikipedia:

Robert Hicks, better known as Barbecue Bob (September 11, 1902 – October 21, 1931), was an early American Piedmont blues musician. His nickname was derived from his working as a cook in a barbecue restaurant.

Hicks was born in Walnut Grove, Georgia. His parents, Charlie and Mary Hicks, were farmers. He and his brother, Charlie Hicks, together with Curley Weaver, were taught how to play the guitar by Curley’s mother, Savannah “Dip” Weaver. Bob began playing the 6-string guitar but picked up the 12-string guitar after moving to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1923 or 1924. He became one of the prominent performers of the newly developing Atlanta blues style.

In Atlanta, Hicks worked at various jobs, playing music on the side. While working at Tidwells’ Barbecue in a north Atlanta suburb, he came to the attention of Columbia Records talent scout Dan Hornsby. Hornsby recorded him and used Hicks’s job to publicize his records, having Hicks pose in chef’s whites and hat for publicity photos and dubbing him “Barbecue Bob.” In his short career he recorded 68 78-rpm records.  His first record rapidly made him a best-selling artist for Columbia Records.

The Atlanta Blues Society is an all-volunteer member organization dedicated to the Education and preservation of the uniquely American art form known traditionally as the blues.

The Killer Blues Society is a non-profit organization whose mission is to recognize important and pivotal blues musicians lying in unmarked graves.  The memorial stone for Robert “Barbeque Bob” Hicks will be dedicated at 4:00 pm on September 9th. For more information: http://www.killerblues.net/

Funky Bluester features local Walton County musicians.  They play Red Hot Blues.  For more information: http://www.funkybluester.com

Mudcat (Danny Dudeck) is an internationally known gospel and bluesman who plays regularly at venues all over the southeast. For more information: http://mudcatblues.com

Jontavious Willis is an up and coming blues musician who is a true wunderkind. Growing up in Greenville, GA, he learned the blues by singing gospel music with his grandfather at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church.  At the age of 21, he has exploded onto the blues stage with energy and vigor not seen in a generation.  For more information: http://jontaviouswillis.com

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