The Blues Foundation announces 2024 Keeping The Blues Alive Recipients

The Blues Foundation launches its 44th year by saluting the 2024 Keeping The Blues Alive (KBA) honorees.

This year’s KBA recipients are John Hall, Jacques Garcia, Larry Chambers, Laura Carbone, Lee Oskar, Mark Stenzler, The Columbus Blues Alliance, and Blues Association Turkey

John Hall’s journey in the blues world began in 1971 during his senior year of high school, when he had his first contact with original blues music. This encounter became the catalyst for a lifelong passion for the genre. Over the years, Hall has been involved in a wide variety of endeavors within the blues community, in the process, contributing significantly to the genre’s promotion and development. Between 1995 and 2002, he served as the owner and operator of Rhythm Room Records and between 2002 and the present, has continued to operate and ow Rhythm Room Entertainment, which produces and promotes some of the leading blues festivals in Massachusetts. Hall has founded the The Green Harbor Roots Festival, the North River Blues Festival, and the South Shore Hurricane Relief Festival, which raised funds for New Orleans musicians impacted by Hurricane Katrina. He has served as Music Director for WATD 95.9 in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and as the Director of Advertising and Special Events for the Boston Blues Society. In addition to these contributions and his service as a judge for local blues society competitions, Hall has actively participated in numerous benefit concerts – just one example being the Musicians for Recovery Awareness event. His commitment to the blues community and his efforts to promote the genre through events and festivals showcase his dedication to advancing blues music and make him a most worthy recipient of The Blues Foundation’s 2024 Keeping the Blues Alive Award.

A native of France, Jacques Garcia is a lifelong blues enthusiast whose trans-formative encounter with Muddy Waters ignited a deep passion for the genre that continues to burn just as brightly today as it ever has. Beginning in the early 1980s, Garcia, alongside his wife Anne-Marie, became a driving force behind numerous endeavors that have helped foster a thriving blues community in France. The creation and artistic direction of the Salaise Blues Festival between 1983 and 1991 stands as one of Garcia’s most notable contributions. Additionally, Garcia co-created Rhésus Blues Productions (1986-1989), which organized European tours for renowned blues musicians such as Otis Grand, Joe Louis Walker, and R.L Burnside. In 2009, Garcia founded the Black Jack Blues Association, and between 2009 and 2011, he created and managed a blues club and festival in Ampuis, France that provided a stage for both local and international musicians. Garcia’s role organizing the Robert Johnson 100th Anniversary Celebration in Ste Colombe, France, and his co-creation of a conference on blues history and culture in 2012 are two other notable achievements. In 2017, Garcia and his wife founded La Maison du Blues, a blues club and café in Châtres-sur-Cher. There, they have curated and presented close to three-hundred concerts featuring international blues musicians. La Maison du Blues subsequently came to encompass the Blues Preservation Association and the European Blues Museum, whose grand opening featured a performance from Bobby Rush. In 2023, La Maison du Blues collaborated with the France Blues Hall of Fame to expand the European Blues Museum, adding a documentary film center with a focus on blues and civil rights. Currently, LaMaison du Blues is actively involved in creating a Blues music education center called “Crossroads,” modeled after Clarksdale’s “Crossroads Arts and Cultural Center.” Garcia’s La Maison du Blues has unquestionably left an indelible mark on the genre’s promotion and preservation in France, and for these reasons, is a most deserving recipient of The Blues Foundation’s 2024 KBA Award.

Larry Chambers has enjoyed a remarkably diverse and enduring career in the music industry, having showcased his talents as a songwriter, engineer, promoter, and influential figure in the soul/blues genre. After beginning his journey in the mid-sixties in Memphis, Chambers went on to make his mark as a songwriter for Fame Records in Muscle Shoals. His compositions graced the repertoire of notable artists such as Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, and Candi Staton. Chambers also collaborated with Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and contributed co-written songs for artists on Malaco Records, including Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland, and Shirley Brown. In the 1970s, Chambers shifted gears into engineering, lending his expertise to several studios in Memphis. By 1978, he had entered the realm of promotions, working for Soul-Out Records before going on to carve his niche in independent promotion through the 1980s. The 1990s marked yet another evolution in his career when he received a call from John Ward to join the newly-established Ecko Records. There, Chambers took on the role of Promotions Director; he also co-wrote songs for artists under the Ecko label. Notably, his collaboration with Ollie Nightingale on “I’ll Drink Your Bathwater, Baby” became a soul blues classic. Today, Chambers remains an integral part of Ecko Records, where he continues to make substantial contributions as a promoter for an impressive roster of artists. His ongoing dedication to the soul blues genreand his role in promoting and shaping the careers of many talented blues artists underscore his enduring impact on the music industry. Likewise, The Blues Foundation is thrilled to present Chambers with a 2024 KBA Award.

Laura Carbone is an accomplished Plattsburgh, New York-based photographer known for her contributions to leading blues publications around the world. Her work spans regional publications in upstate New York, national platforms covering blues music, and international magazines across Europe. Through her lens, Carbone magnificently captures the essence of the blues, in the process, supporting, promoting, and expanding awareness of the genre. Beyond her photography skills, Carbone supports the blues community by wearing numerous other hats. As an event promoter, she brings regional, national, and international artists to upstate New York. Along with providing unique work opportunities for these artists, her events introduce blues to a region where its presence was previously non-existent. Carbone goes the extra mile by organizing Blues in the School events, creating additional work for touring musicians, and actively supporting Kids Rock The Nation, a program that provides instruments and instruction to aspiring young music students. Moreover, Carbone demonstrates her commitment to the genre through generous acts of philanthropy. She contributes her photos to fundraisers, financially supports worthwhile causes, and frequently opens her home as a rehearsal space. Similarly, the popular house concerts she hosts provide an intimate setting for music enthusiasts. Remarkably, Carbone engages in these charitable activities without seeking recognition or expecting any tangible rewards, showcasing a genuine dedication to the blues community. For all these reasons and more, The Blues Foundation is honored to present Carbone with a 2024 Keeping the Blues Alive Award.

Lee Oskar, the renowned harmonica virtuoso and founder of Lee Oskar Harmonicas, has been a steadfast supporter of The Blues Foundation and the International Blues Challenge. His contributions to the harmonica industry have earned global recognition for innovation and consistent excellence. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Oskar moved to the United States in the late 1960s. He gained fame as a founding member of the immensely successful soul-funk-rock group WAR. The band produced a string of chart-topping hits, including “Slippin Into Darkness,” “Lowrider,” “Cisco Kid,” “World Is A Ghetto,” “Spill The Wine,” “Me And Baby Brother,” and”Why Can’t We Be Friends.” These songs became national favorites, receiving widespread airplay and maintaining high positions on the charts for extended periods. Oskar’s distinctive approach to the harmonica earned him the prestigious title of Instrumentalist of the Year in 1976, as voted by three major music publications: Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World. In 1983, in collaboration with Tombo Manufacturing of Japan, Oskar founded Lee Oskar Harmonicas. The company became globally recognized for superior craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail. One of its groundbreaking innovations is an interchangeable system of reed plates, combs, and cover plates, which has become the gold standard in the harmonica industry. Today, the company continues to stand as a major player in the harmonica market, second only to Hohner Harmonicas in popularity and sales. Oskar’s commitment to the harmonica and the music community at large is further reflected in his active support of blues initiatives and events. The Blues Foundation is deeply appreciative of Oskar’s many contributions to the genre and is thrilled to present him with a 2024 KBA Award.

Mark Stenzler, a native New Yorker and former radio pirate with Radio Free Ithaca, has been a passionate radio broadcaster on both sides of the Atlantic since 1978. In the 1980s, he relocated to Switzerland, where he continued his career in radio. A true blues enthusiast and a staunch supporter of public radio, Stenzler is widely recognized as the host of Blues Zeppelin, a program he initiated in 1989. Guided by the motto “Working hard to make reality a lot less painful,” he has dedicated his time and talent to create a blues program that offers a blend of the finest blues music, news, and engaging interviews. The show can be heard on several radio stations, including Radio Bern (RaBe) in Berne, Switzerland; Radio LoRa in Zurich, Switzerland; Diis Radio in Canton Valais, Switzerland; WRFI Community Radio in Ithaca; and CJRO Community Radio in Carlsbad Springs, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Stenzler’s contributions extend beyond the airwaves, as he actively collaborates with numerous festival organizers, music promoters, venues, and blues artists at various stages of their careers. From providing first-time airplay, to working with award recipients, including Blues Foundation BMA and KBA winners, Stenzler has played a pivotal role in supporting and nurturing the growth of blues musicians and bringing them to the attention of the global blues community.

Currently celebrating its 34th anniversary, The Columbus Blues Alliance stands as a vibrant and dedicated force in preserving, promoting, and advancing the blues in Ohio. Comprised of passionate volunteers, the Alliance has been instrumental in fostering a thriving local blues community through a variety of mediums and initiatives; the organization also serves as a statewide hub for the genre, collaborating with four Blues societies: the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of Marietta, the Cincy Blues Society, the Northeast Ohio Blues Association, and the Cleveland Blues Society. The Alliance maintains strong connections with blues venues, notably Natalie’s Music Hall, and has a long track record of supporting festivals, including the Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival, which has been a cornerstone of the state’s blues scene for more than two decades. On the education front, the Alliance has rejuvenated the Columbus Blues Hall of Fame, and, in partnership with Columbus blues artist Tenny Tucker, has facilitated Blues in the Schools programs. Another education-based initiative of note is 614BluesEd, a program that has been developed in conjunction with the Blues Society of Ohama as a means to send youth acts to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Of course, the Alliance also actively supports the blues acts who have emerged from the Columbus Blues Challenge and gone on to compete with distinction at the IBC. The resilience that the Alliance demonstrated through the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic deserves especially high praise. The role the Alliance plays fostering all-ages live blues shows, including events at J & D’s Place, The Rumba Café, CJ’s Soulfood, and others, reflects an ongoing commitment to making the blues accessible to diverse audiences. In recognition of their outstanding contributions, The Blues Foundation proudly presents a 2024 Keeping the Blues Alive Award to the Columbus Blues Alliance.

Known in her native Turkey as the “Turkish Xena of the Blues” and the “Turkish Queen of the Blues,” Goksenin Tuncali has been a prominent figure in the country’s music community for the past twenty-five years. Her multifaceted role as a songwriter, performer, and music producer Mreflects her deep commitment to the genre. As the Founding President of Turkey’s first and only blues society, the Blues Association of Turkey, established in 1995, Tuncali has played a pivotal role in shaping the blues landscape in her country. The Association has a strong youth component, conducting international art camps supported by the European Cultural Foundation of the European Union. Recently, young Turkish musicians were sent to perform at RRXP22, Roots & Routes in Cologne, in collaboration with arts organizations from France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Austria. Tuncali has made significant strides in increasing the visibility of female musicians through special events like “Blues Loving Women! Raise Your Hands!” Her latest CD, “Women’s Blues,” creatively reinterprets traditional Anatolian folk music through the lens of the blues. The Association also introduces Turkish audiences to traditional American blues through various platforms, including social media, Spotify, and the promotion of historic CDs. In recognition of the Blues Association of Turkey’s outstanding contributions, The Blues Foundation is thrilled to present the Association with a 2024 Keeping the Blues Alive Award. This award highlights the Association’s dedication to fostering a vibrant Blues community, promoting diverse musical expressions, and empowering musicians across generations and genders.

Congratulations to all the KBA recipients!!