There is no other music like the Blues.
From the soaring, mournful laments of hymns to the slow, heart-wrenching and soulful ballads born in the Delta, there is no other genre of music that conveys raw emotion quite like the Blues.
It’s that emotion and appreciation for a truly American art form that will bring Rome residents together Friday for an annual event that has become quite popular over the past few years.
“The Blues: An Affair to Remember” will take place on Friday at the Rome Civic Center and, as always, will bring instrumentalists, vocalists and fans together for an evening of celebration. This year’s event will feature beloved Blues hits spanning several decades as well as a tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, performed by Sherrie Ford.
The black-tie event is sponsored by the African-American Connection Inc., which hopes to celebrate the iconic genre while also educating people about the importance of remembering the Blues.
“This event still is and will always be about education,” said Willie Mae Samuel, one of the event’s organizers. “We feel that often times Blues music is neglected. That’s why we keeping putting this on. The Blues tell a story. There’s a history there. There are stories of love and heartbreak and struggle told through Blues music. Everyone can relate to the Blues somehow. And this year we’ll be going back to the Mississippi Delta-type Blues.”
In its seventh year, the event has grown in popularity with Rome and area residents filling the Rome Civic Center in formal attire to enjoy food and live Blues music.
Attendees will enjoy instrumental music during a bit of fellowship starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday after which food will be served. Then a list of local and area musicians and vocalists will entertain with their renditions of beloved Blues hits spanning several generations.
The list of performers includes Hardy Sams, Ted Barnett and Steve Vasil, who will all be performing songs such as “Members Only,” “God Bless Our Love,” “For the Good Times,” Smoke Stack Lightning” and the ever popular B.B. King hit “The Thrill is Gone.”
This year will also see a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin.
A new addition to this year’s event came about by chance. Samuel was at an event when she met local musician Russell McClanahan. At the time, the backing band for the Blues event was missing a harmonica player, a key instrument in all good Blues music, Samuel said. She happened to mention that she was short a harmonica player and a mutual friend mentioned that McClanahan plays the harmonica.
“She asked me if I’d be interested in playing in the event and I was more than happy to,” McClanahan said. “I’ve seen this event advertised in the past, but I’ve never been able to attend. Which I now regret since I’ve learned so much and had such a great time rehearsing with the band.”
McClanahan said he’s always loved the “almost pure feeling” within Blues music and playing for this event will afford him the opportunity to concentrate on just playing the harmonica, an instrument he said can be used to express great emotion.
“The practices alone are so special to me,” he said. “These musicians and vocalists are blowing me away with their talent and with the way they perform this music. It’s such a neat thing to be included in. I’m very excited for the event. I think people will have a wonderful time and will get to hear some truly great Blues music.”
The Blues: An Affair To Remember takes place this Friday at the Rome Civic Center on Jackson Hill.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 706-622-7917. Limited tickets will be available at the door if any are left after pre-sale. Dress is formal.