Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Blues Icon Needs Help

One of the world’s great bluesmen is in trouble, and now is the time for the public to step in and help him. Guitarist/singer Chester Chandler, better known as Memphis Gold, has been unable to pay the rent on his home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. He could face eviction. Supporters led by the D.C. Blues Society have been raising money for him, last week organizing a “rent party” where several musicians played for free. But more needs to be done. Chandler is in financial trouble through no fault of his own. Once able to supplement his income by working as a tree-trimmer, he had to give that up two years ago after severely injuring his spine in a work-related accident. He needed extensive therapy after his accident and now can only walk with a cane. This happened as the lean economy dried up gigs for a number of musicians, with those playing niche genres such as blues likely among the hardest hit. That Chandler can’t support himself as a musician is sad because he is a walking icon of blues music, the genre upon which arguably most American music is based. Born in Memphis, Chandler was introduced to the guitar at age four by his father, who played the bass fiddle and piano in church. Church was a good training ground for Chandler, who, by the time he turned eight years old, was good enough to play for pocket change on Beale Street. He crossed paths with many well-known musicians while growing up, among them the legendary Delta gospel player, the Reverend Robert “Tim” Wilkins. He went on to play with several Memphis area blues notables, among them Big Lucky Carter and the legendary Memphis juke joint group The Fieldstones. He later played with nationally-known guitarist and singer Deborah Coleman. Chandler has been recognized in blues publications around the world, among them Living Blues, which featured him on the cover of its February, 2009 edition. “Memphis is a great guy and a real deal bluesman,” said Living Blues editor Brett Bonner. “When we decided to put him on our cover in February, 2009 he had two well received records out and had been on track to jump-start his career when he had his tree-trimming accident. His is a fascinating blues story. He began, like so many others, learning music in the church, then as he expanded he schooled with some of the masters of early Memphis Blues….He became an integral part of the Memphis Blues scene.” Chandler, who served on active duty in the Navy from 1973 to 1981, is getting help with his medical expenses through the Veterans Administration. But he still needs to make rent. You can help by making out a check to Chester Chandler and sending it to: Chester Chandler C/O The D.C. Blues Society P.O. Box 77315 Washington, D.C. 20013 Better still, purchase one of his CD’s, the latest of which, Pickin’In High Cotton, is now being released. Or attend one of his shows. In either case, you will be getting more than your money’s worth.

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