Bluesman Chris Thomas King gives blues history lesson in Donaldsonville

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Chris Thomas King performs a song at a recent event held in the River Road African American Museum's Rosenwald School.

The River Road African American Museum in co-sponsorship with the City of Donaldsonville hosted blues artist and historian Chris Thomas King on October 7.

The event was held from 5:30 p.m. to sunset at the Rosenwald School building, located at 511 Williams Street. However, the event ran a little later than expected because the audience was interested in what King has to say about the history of Blues music.

Namely, King says that it was born in Louisiana, contrary to the perhaps more popular notion that blues music comes primarily out of Mississippi.

"The word 'jazz' has no meaning," King said. "The word 'blues' is very powerful."

King pointed to American bandleader King Oliver, born in Aben, La. in 1881.

"When King Oliver's Orchestra called their song 'Dippermouth Blues,' he was saying something. He wasn't talking about Jazz," King said.

King also pointed out that the origin of the Blues genre comes from the French expletive "Sacrebleu," which translates into "damn it." Blues music, which today in mainstream culture is often associated with sadness or gritty electric guitar, was never that to begin with.

Taken from the official press release: "Chris released his first album, 'The Beginning' in 1986 and it was certainly the beginning for the man who recently stirred up controversy with an appearance on TEDXLSU titled, The Blues Was Born in Louisiana, not Mississippi. The top-hat-wearing musician is also an actor who was featured in the 2000 crime comedy, Oh Brother How Art Thou. He has several other films to his credit, but Blues is where his heart and soul exuberates from live stages around the globe.

"Chris enjoys quiet time at home with his family in Prairieville when he is not on the road. Hear about his soon to be released book, Sacre’ Bleu: The Authentic Narrative of My Music and Its Culture There."

The event had to end because the lights were dim. The Rosenwald School venue has the potential to host great special events like this one, which was free of charge, in the future. But it is in need of a facelift. Museum Founder Kathe Hambrick and Director Darryl Hambrick were both on hand asking for donations and for volunteers to help finish the school building.

Contact the River Road African American Museum at 225-474-5553 for more info.