Black History Month 1996

A Celebration of the Black Roots of Rock and Roll

The 1996 Black History Month marked the first such celebration at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  The month-long series of events played homage to the blues in the forms of panels, performances, lectures, film screenings, interviews, and more.

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Bob Marley's Great Unseen Moments: An Audio/Visual Lecture

Sunday, February 4
Although Bob Marley wasn't a blues artist, his brand of Jamaican reggae prossesed strong blues roots.  In celebration of Marley's February 6 birthday, noted Marley authority Roger Steffens lectured on Marley's music and show never-before-seen footage of the legendary Jamaican star.

Backporch Blues Series:  Lonnie Pitchford

Wednesday, February 7
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Backporch Blues Series began with a concert by Mississippi Delta blues artist, Lonnie Pitchford.  Pitchford, who records for the Rooster Blues label, rarely performs outside of the South.  He plays a diddley-bow, a one-string guitar, as well as a traditional six-string guitar.

Performance: Sugar Blue

Saturday, February 10
Ace harmonica player, Sugar Blue has performed with the Rolling Stones and virtually every major Chicago blues artist.  He recalls the spirit and excitement of Little Walter, Sunny Boy Williamson, and other black harp masters.

Film Screening: Leadbelly (1976)

Sunday, February 11
Directed by Gordon Parks, Leadbelly is a movie about the life and times and songs of Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly.  Paul Benjamin stars as Leadbelly in this critically-acclaimed film.

Lecture: The Roots of Rock and Roll

Wednesday, February 14
Noted blues historian Robert Palmer presented a lecture on the contribution of the blues to the birth of rock and roll.  Palmer is the author of Deep Blues, a lauded history of Mississippi Delta blues, and, most recently, Rock and Roll: An Unruly History.

Performance: Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes

Saturday, February 17
A traditional Mississippi Juke joint performer, "Booba" Barnes records for Rooster Blues and starred in the critically acclaimed documentary, Deep Blues.

Film Screening: Deep Blues (1990)

Sunday, February 18
Inspired by Robert Palmer's book, Deep Blues, this Robert Mugge-directed documentary tells the colorful story of Mississippi blues and features the music of Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Big Jack Johnson, Booba Barnes, and other Delta bluesmen.

Backporch Blues Series: Robert Jr. Lockwood

Wednesday, February 21
Robert Jr. Lockwood is the last living link to the legendary Robert Johnson.  Revered for his unique guitar style that blends blues with jazz, Lockwood regularly performs in Cleveland with his band.  However,  for his appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Lockwood "unplugged" to shed light on his career as one of the most important blues artists of his generation. 

Tri-C Presents: A Tribute to Count Basie

Thursday, February 22
Count Basie's brand of blues-based, big band swing played an important role in the birth of rock and roll.  The Cuyahoga Community College's Big band performed selections from Basie repertoire.

Performance: Travis Haddix

Saturday, February 24
Cleveland bluesman Travis Haddix is a master of the blues revue, complete with a wailing guitar and blues shout vocals.

Sound Off!  The Blues

Sunday, February 25
The Museum's Sound Off! series - namely, the exploration of questions in popular music that have no true answer - was designed to spir dialogue with experts in the field and audience members.

Lecture: The Blues: Yesterday, Today - and Tomorrow

Wednesday, February 28
Robert Santelli, the Museum's Director of Education in 1996 and author of The Big Book of Blues linked the history of the blues with its present - and future.



Additional Resources


The blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll.
- Muddy Waters