Mark your calendars, your daybooks, or scratch it on the wall because in March you're going to want to make sure you catch A Celebration of Blues & Soul: The 1989 Inaugural Concert, which begins airing on March 1st, 2014 on your local PBS station.
A Celebration of Blues & Soul was part of the greater festivities surrounding the January 1989 inauguration of U.S. President George H.W. Bush. Arranged by R&B fan Lee Atwater, who had been Bush's campaign manager and was the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, the concert featured some of the greatest talents from the blues and soul worlds performing for the new President.
The show features a twenty-minute Stevie Ray Vaughan performance that includes songs like "Superstition;" "Love Struck Baby," performed with his brother Jimmie Vaughan; and "Frosty," performed with Jimmie and blues legend Albert Collins. Dr. John kicks out the jams with his "Right Place, Wrong Time;" the great Bo Diddley performs "Hey! Bo Diddley" with Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones; and Willie Dixon cranks out the blues treasure "Hoochie Coochie Man," accompanied by Collins and Joe Louis Walker. Delbert McClinton, Percy Sledge, Carla Thomas, and Sam Moore (Sam & Dave) are among the other performers, while the backing band is a virtual Stax Records all-star team, including guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn along with keyboardist Billy Preston.
"PBS viewers are in for an once-in-a-lifetime musical treat," says Joyce Moore, one of the principal producers of the 1989 concert, in a press release. "This broadcast of the concert originally called A Celebration for Young Americans is especially significant because it contains truly magnificent performances from brilliant American icons we have since lost - Billy Preston, Willie Dixon, Albert Collins, Bo Diddley, Duck Dunn, Lafayette Leake and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was an honor and the thrill of a lifetime to have been part of and associated with this inaugural event when it occurred in 1989."
A Celebration of Blues & Soul was filmed with a pro-level seven-camera set-up and afforded a separate 24-track audio recording, so you know that it's going to look and sound great. The original recordings were relocated six years ago after which the video was restored and re-mastered and converted to HD while the audio was remixed to a more modern six-channel 5.1 format by Emmy® Award winning sound engineer Ed Greene.
The concert came and went back in 1989, thus it's obscure status today. The New York Times ran a review of the show at the time, asking "but will this concert help bolster the Republicans' appeal to youth and blacks? Last night there were precious few blacks in attendance. The crowd, full of young Bush-Quayle volunteers, looked as if it was at a country-club prom, with tuxedos and strapless dresses and little gold or pearl earrings (on the women, that is). They demonstrated the most enthusiasm for the President and for Mr. Vaughan's emptily virtuosic contemporary electric blues at the end." It's obvious that they didn't know what we'd be missing in 2014, but I'm glad that we can take this trip back in time in March and enjoy some great music! Check your local TV listings for dates and times of broadcast.
Stevie Ray Vaughan photo courtesy Legacy Recordings