Blues Music Awards 2016


Ceremony honors several generations of blues performers

The Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis, Tennessee was packed on May 5 with musicians, music business professionals and fans who gathered to honor the past year’s best in blues. For the 37th year, the Blues Foundation handed out its Blues Music Awards, recognizing the accomplishments of many extraordinary musicians.

Seventy-nine-year-old Buddy Guy, a veteran of 35 BMAs, won both Album of the Year and Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for Born to Play Guitar, while 30-something bluesmen Cedric Burnside and Victor Wainwright were also double winners. The Cedric Burnside Project’s Descendants of Hill County was chosen Traditional Blues Album of the Year and, for the fifth time, Burnside was named top drummer. Victor Wainwright & the Wild Roots was selected the Band of the Year, with Wainwright receiving the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year title.

One of the evening’s feel-good stories was Walter Trout. After defeating Hepatitis C and liver failure, the veteran bluesman recorded the CD Battle Scars, which nabbed the Rock Blues Album prize, while his tune “Gonna Live Again” was named the Song of the Year. The late Otis Clay posthumously received his first two Blues Music Awards, for best Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album for This Time for Real, his collaboration with Billy Price. The late Allen Toussaint also was honored with his first Blues Music Award, the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year.

Other notable winners included Duke Robillard for Acoustic Album of the Year (The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard) and Mr. Sipp for Best New Artist Album (The Mississippi Blues Child). Ruthie Foster collected her fourth Koko Taylor Award for Best Traditional Blues Female Artist, while the Bear Family Records’ 5-CD Slim Harpo box set Buzzin’ the Blues picked up the Historical Album of the Year.

Here is the complete list of Blues Music Award winners (final)

1. Acoustic Album: The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard – Duke Robillard
2. Acoustic Artist: Doug MacLeod
3. Album: Born to Play Guitar – Buddy Guy
4. B.B. King Entertainer: Victor Wainwright
5. Band: Victor Wainwright & the Wild Roots
6. Best New Artist Album: The Mississippi Blues Child – Mr. Sipp
7. Contemporary Blues Album: Born to Play Guitar – Buddy Guy
8. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Shemekia Copeland
9. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Joe Louis Walker
10. Historical: Buzzin’ the Blues by Slim Harpo (Bear Family Records)
11. Instrumentalist-Bass: Lisa Mann
12. Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside
13. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Sonny Landreth
14. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Kim Wilson
15. Instrumentalist-Horn: Terry Hanck
16. Koko Taylor Award: Ruthie Foster
17. Pinetop Perkins Piano Player:  Allen Toussaint
18. Rock Blues Album: Battle ScarsWalter Trout
19. Song: “Gonna Live Again” written and performed by Walter Trout
20. Soul Blues Album: This Time for Real – Billy Price & Otis Clay
21. Soul Blues Female Artist: Bettye LaVette
22. Soul Blues Male Artist: Otis Clay                          
23. Traditional Blues Album: Descendants of Hill CountryCedric Burnside Project
24. Traditional Blues Male Artist: John Primer

The night before the Blues Music Awards, the Blues Hall of Fame inducted musicians Elvin Bishop, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, John Mayall, and the Memphis Jug Band along withMalaco Records partners Tommy Couch Sr. and Wolf Stephenson. The ceremony, which took place at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts and Education, also honored Jeff Todd Titon’s landmark book Early Downhome Blues: A Musical and Cultural Analysis as well as the songs “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith, Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s All Right,” Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would,” Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers’ “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Blues Before Sunrise” byLeroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell and the classic album Blues in the Mississippi Night. This event also marked the first anniversary of the Blues Foundation’s new home, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum located at 421 S. Main Street in Memphis, Tenn.

The 37th Blues Music Awards were sponsored by Arts Memphis, AutoZone, BMI, First Tennessee Foundation, Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Sony Music/Legacy Recordings. The Awards ceremony was taped for later broadcast in edited versions on SiriusXM’s B.B. King’s Bluesvillechannel and local public television stations.

Victor Wainwright
Victor Wainwright, winner of B.B. King Entertainer Award // photo by James Wessel

Ruthie Foster
Ruthie Foster, winner Koko Taylor Award // photo by James Wessel

Henry Gray
Henry Gray, blues legend and Awards performer // photo by James Wessel

About the Blues Foundation:

The Memphis-based Blues Foundation upholds the mission to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, the Foundation has approximately 4,000 individual members and 200 affiliated local blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals around the globe. With its Blues Music Awards, Blues Hall of Fame, International Blues Challenge, Keeping the Blues Alive Awards and the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, this non-profit organization has helped to maintain Memphis as the international epicenter of blues music. For more information, log onto

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