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The Commercial Appeal Memphis TN

Editorial: Reclaim city's blues heritage

More than nostalgia: The drive to create a blues music hall of fame Downtown offers a chance to heal the wounds of lost opportunities.

Staff Reports

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bless the blues, Memphis, and give a full civic push to the plan for a blues music hall of fame in this city.

Groundwork already is being prepared for such a museum.

The Blues Foundation in Memphis has purchased a building on South Main -- at a great location not far from the National Civil Rights Museum -- and launched a capital campaign to fund the hall of fame. Money already is coming in.

Just a few nights ago in New York City the legendary Apollo Theater raised an estimated $50,000 to support the Memphis blues hall of fame as part of the Apollo's tribute show, "Robert Johnson at 100.'' With that contribution the Blues Foundation moves closer to its $3.5 million fundraising goal.

Under the inspired leadership of Executive Director Jay Sieleman, the Blues Foundation has outlined a creative vision for what a blues music hall of fame in Memphis can be. That vision isn't just some nostalgic look back at this city's rich blues music history. No, the plan is all about the future.

It's about finding ways to refresh the city's deep and rich musical heritage.

It's about building on the renewed global interest in the blues.

It's about making sure Memphis is on the map as the preferred place to host vibrant blues concerts, give out the top blues music awards, and home to the educational programs that will hook tourist dollars and music travelers.

This opportunity to create a blues music hall of fame in Memphis is a way to salve the wounds of lost opportunities -- like seeing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum go to Cleveland, Ohio, or watching Nashville become the music industry capital of Tennessee.

Other cities already are zeroing in on the tourism and cultural potential of a blues museum. St. Louis, for example, has announced its plans for a blues music museum.

But Memphis has the deepest, most genuine claim to being the true home of the blues. The Blues Foundation already has 4,500 members internationally and has ties to 190 local blues societies all around the world. The table is set for this city to cement its place as the center of blues music. Let's not let this one get away.

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