The Black Country Music Association—founded by performer Cleve Francis in 1995 and led by songwriter and performer Frankie Staton since 1996—built community, hosted showcases in Nashville, and educated fans about country music’s Black performers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Black Opry continues that work, spotlighting Black Americana, blues, country, and folk artists and connecting Black fans. Founded in April 2021 by Holly G, a country music fan from Virginia, the organization has grown into a national performance series, the Black Opry Revue, and is now run by Holly and her co-director, Tanner Davenport. During this program, Davenport, Holly G, and Staton will discuss their organizations’ histories, their impact within the music industry, and their future goals. The program, hosted by the Museum’s Angela Stefano Zimmer, will also feature performances from Denitia, Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Staton, and Joe West. Denitia, originally from the Houston area, began playing piano at age five, then picked up saxophone, trumpet, and guitar. Her music combines elements of the music she learned in church as a child with traditional roots music and the alt-rock she grew up on. Described by the Nashville Scene as “a radiant, bell-toned singer à la Suzy Bogguss,” Ashland City, Tennessee, native Valierie Ellis Hawkins grew up singing in church. Her music celebrates her southern roots and is influenced by a range of artists including Country Music Hall of Fame members the Judds, Loretta Lynn, and Don Williams. Joe West, the son of country performers Sarge and Shirley West, was raised on blues, traditional country, folk, jazz, and rock music. He has performed with both the Black Country Music Association and the Black Opry, as well as at numerous Nashville listening rooms and honky-tonks. Offered in support of American Currents: State of the Music. Ford Theater. Included with Museum admission. Program ticket required. Free to Museum members.
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