Blues Awards Get Canceled — but Only In Person, as Org Takes Ceremonies Online

In what may be a bellwether for genre-based awards shows going into the near future, the Blues Foundation has announced it is canceling both the Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony and Blues Music Awards, which were set to take place on successive nights in May — but will still celebrate the winners via webcasts.

The exact nature of how and when the two sets of awards will be presented is still being worked out, says Barbara Newman, president-CEO of the Blues Foundation, but the show will go on, one way or another, digitally. “People are already reaching out to offer their various types of expertise to help make this happen,” Newman tells Variety.

“Postponing to another date is not feasible for our organization,” Newman says. “We wanted to make sure our 2020 nominees and winners could be celebrated by our community in another fashion. With technology where it is today, what a great way to bring the community together and give these hard-working blues musicians the public recognition they so rightly deserve. And in return, let’s reward our blues fans for all the support they have provided over the years by including them in a free, open, virtual event.”

Newman admits that planning for the web version of what would have been two significant awards shows at the celebrated Orpheum in Memphis is still in preliminary stages.

“We are just at the beginning of conceiving what this will look like,” she says. “We could have used a little more time to prepare what is to come, but felt it was more important to share the event cancellation with the public now so attendees to adjust their plans with as much advanced notice as possible. We feel certain our community will be patient in awaiting more news, and we hope to be in touch soon with updates to keep the excitement going.” Newman adds that she will “assure the entire blues world that this will be available for everyone to view at no charge and hopefully will help bring the entire blues community together virtually.”

Those being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame this year include the still active performers Bettye Lavette, Syl Johnson and Billy Branch. Those who’ve passed on who will be inducted include Eddie Boyd, Victoria Spivey and George “Harmonica” Smith. A number of individual classic recordings will be included in the inductions as well.

For the Blues Awards rewarding contemporary recordings and musicians, Rick Estrin and his band Rick Estrin & the Nightcats topped the list with eight nominations. Other multiple nominees include Sugaray Rayford, the Cash Box Kings and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram,

On a coronavirus-related note, Newman says she’d like to “encourage anyone with the ability to make a donation at whatever amount they can spare to the Blues Foundation’s COVID-19 Blues Musician Relief Fund. We are eager to build the fund to offer assistance to as many blues musicians as possible during these trying times when their main source of income — live performance — has dried up.” (More information can be found at the foundation’s site, here.)

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