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John Davis plays Blind Tom: Music as Storytelling

Sunday, February 22, 2015
Mobile, Alabama

When Thomas Wiggins, the popular pianist known as "Blind Tom," appeared in Mobile for performances on November 17, 1891, The Mobile Daily Register reported that he attracted larger crowds than ever before. Earlier in the year, on May 4, The Birmingham Age Herald advertised Tom's forthcoming appearance as "marking an event in musical history in every town." The current and acclaimed Steinway Artist John Davis brings the music of Tom back to Mobile in a matinee performance staged at The University of South Alabama's Laidlaw Auditorium for Trailfest 2015 and with sponsorship by the University of South Alabama’s Department of Music, the Mobile Arts Council, Broussard's Piano Gallery and Mobile Arts CouncilAcademy of Music, the Mobile Public Library, the Historic Mobile Preservation Society and the Southern Literary Trail.

John Davis's Blind Tom Series is made possible in Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee and Demopolis with grant funding by the Alabama State Council on the Arts. For more about Blind Tom and John Davis, visit the Trail's page on the Series.

This performance is presented in memory of writer Albert Murray, a Mobile native and Southern Literary Trail author whose books include "Stomping the Blues" and other essays on the history and influence of African-American music.

Albert MurrayPlace: Laidlaw Auditorium, The University of South Alabama
Day and Time: Sunday, February 22, at 3 p.m.
Admission: Free
Info: Call the Mobile Arts Council at 251.432.9796.

A special invitation: Broussard’s Piano Gallery and Academy of Music, 1541 East Interstate 65, Service Road South, will host a public reception for John Davis at its Gallery on Saturday, February 21, 2015, at 5 p.m. For information, call the Gallery at 251.344.8856 or the Mobile Arts Council at 251.432.9796.



CD cover for John Davis plays Blind TomJohn Davis plays Blind Tom: Music as Storytelling

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Tuscaloosa at The Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center

In his latest record, The Diving Board, Elton John sings "The Ballad of Blind Tom" with lyrics by Bernie Taupin that recall Tom's concert trips "down to Tuscaloo." John Davis plays Blind Tom in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center as part of a career that includes performances and features on NPR's "All Things Considered," NBC's The Today Show, and Good Morning America on ABC. Davis has been profiled by The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Oxford American. For more about Blind Tom and John Davis, visit the Trail's page on the Series.

Thomas Wiggins known as "Blind Tom"During one of his Southern tours, Thomas Wiggins was forced to listen to the musical efforts of an Alabama lady at the piano. When she finished, "Blind Tom" commented, "I will play the number as the lady should have played it." When the audience at the Dinah Washington Center hears John Davis play Blind Tom, they will be listening to a contemporary master whose previous recital venues have included Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall and Wigmore Hall in London. Davis earned a Master's Degree in Piano at Julliard after achieving his B.A. in history and Russian language and literature at Brown University.

Place: The Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, Greensboro Avenue
Time: 7 p.m.
Admission: Free
Information: Call 205.758.5195 ext. 7.



Albert MurrayJohn Davis plays Blind Tom: Music as Storytelling

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama

"Blind Tom" appeared in concert on May 19, 1864, in Tuskegee. One of his audience members from Kentucky, Frances Woolfolk Wallace, wrote afterwards of Tom's concert: "He is certainly one of the greatest wonders of the day, indeed the greatest. He played the most difficult pieces, composed and arranged beautifully." To conclude Black History Month at Tuskegee University, John Davis will play the compositions of Blind Tom in the University's historic Chapel for students and the public. See a complete schedule for Black History Month at Tuskegee.

Davis performed a concert of Blind Tom's music in 2000 at the Martin Luther King Festival in Atlanta with sponsorships by National Public Radio, the Atlanta Symphony, the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and Morehouse-Spelman College.

Tuskegee University LogoFor more about Blind Tom and John Davis, visit the Trail's page on the Series.

This performance will be presented in memory of Albert Murray, a Tuskegee graduate and teacher, whose books about African-American music include "The Hero and the Blues" and "Train Whistle Guitar," a novel. Mr. Murray is one of the honored writers on The Southern Literary Trail. This concert is presented in sponsorship with Tuskegee University.

Place: The Chapel at Tuskegee University
Day and Time: Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 3 p.m.
Admission: Free
Info: Call 1.334.725.2383.



The Demopolis Opera House, where Blind Tom playedJohn Davis plays Blind Tom: Music as Storytelling

Friday, February 27, 2015
Demopolis, Alabama

Demopolis native James Haskins, the country's most prolific writer of African-American history books, notes in his Black Music in America: A History Through its People: "People who really knew music, including the leading musicians of the time, were very respectful of Blind Tom, for they recognized that he was a master musician." Surviving records of the Demopolis Opera House, now restored downtown as "Rooster Hall," document that Tom appeared for concerts in the town on March 4, 1879, and April 25, 1885. It is appropriate that pianist John Davis of Brooklyn should conclude his series for the Southern Literary Trail of performances from the works of Blind Tom in a Trail town where a venue that hosted Tom remains vibrant today. For more about Blind Tom and John Davis, visit the Trail's page on the Series.

Local partners for Davis's public performance in Demopolis are the Two Rivers Arts Council, the Marengo County History and Archives James HaskinsMuseum, the Marengo County Historical Society, the Demopolis Public Library, the Canebrake Players, Friends of Gaineswood, and the Tiger Arts Guild at Demopolis High School. In addition to grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Humanities Foundation, grant support for Demopolis programs featuring John Davis is provided by South Arts, a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Visit South Arts website.

The performance in Demopolis is dedicated to the memory of James Haskins whose other books include "The Cotton Club" and "Mr. Bojangles, The Biography of Bill Robinson."

Place: The Demopolis High School Auditorium
Date and Time: Friday, February 27, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Admission: Free
Info: Call the Demopolis Public Library at 334.289.1595.