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Blind Willie enthusiast brings 12-string to Thomson

Top country blues guitarist Paul Geremia will help bring a little local history to life when he presents some acoustic guitar selections from Blind Willie McTell, a Thomson native who experienced lifelong blindness but still gained national recognition through his clear voice and twelve-string finger picking technique.

Mr. Geremia, who is ranked among the top 10 country blues guitarists in the world, will present a free concert at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9 in the Monroe Kimbrel Gardens on Tom Watson Way. The public is invited to bring picnic baskets, lawn chairs and tables to the open air concert.

Mr. Geremia has been playing the music of Blind Willie since he became a professional musician the early 1960s, he said.

"I first heard his recording of Statesboro Blues back in 1963 or 1964. After that, I learned as much as I could find," he said.

"Over the years, I've recorded several of his songs."

During visits to Thomson, Mr. Geremia stops by Blind Willie's grave to pay respects.

"The last time was with John Jackson. We brought some flowers. Blind Willie McTell had a song called, ÔLay Some Flowers On My Grave,' so we did."

Mr. Geremia said he feels honored to be playing in the hometown of one of his musical heroes and his selections for the evening will feature several McTell songs as well as original music and some interpretations from musical artists Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt and others.

"It's unusual for someone of Paul Geremia's stature to be playing in a town of 7,000 for free. We are fortunate to have him here," said Don Powers, board member of the Activities Council of Thomson which seeks to advance education, appreciation and promotion of American arts, especially those drawing from southern history and culture.

The Activities Council of Thomson is co sponsoring the event with the Watson Brown Foundation which works to improve education, preserve history and encourage responsible scholarship in the American South.

"Paul Geremia specializes in the music of Blind Will McTell. His concert will give a historical perspective on Blind Willie's music, and show how good he was and how famous he is outside of McDuffie County," Mr. Powers said.

Not only will audience members get to enjoy some music first performed by a famous Thomson native, they'll also have a chance to hear Mr. Geremia's own unique style that combines his interpretations of early Blues greats with original compositions.

Mr. Geremia, who has performed twice at Thomson's annual Blind Willie Festival, is known for making the complex method of fingerstyle playing look effortless. He uses his fingers to pick out a series of notes and chords simultaneously, as opposed to using a pick to strum, which often gives the impression of two guitars playing at the same time providing both rhythm and melody.

For over thirty years, Mr. Geremia, a Rhode Island native, has traveled throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, performing in every capacity from street singing to club and concert bookings.

He has built an international reputation as a first rate bluesman, songwriter, a "scholar" of early jazz and blues, and one of the best country blues fingerpickers ever.

Web posted on Thursday, November 4, 2004

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Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01


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