Q&A with Carolyn Gaines (founder of Blues Schools Program) - teaches the blues history to the youths

"Blues music has impacted the world, but Blues has not impacted African women and men to keep study employment in the blues business. The best and the greatest musicians are not being recognize."

Carolyn Gaines: Keep The Blues Alive

Carolyn W. Gaines is a known person in the blues music industry, professionally public speaking, and teaching blues history from the 1800’s generating popular stars like LeadBelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson; 1900’s Bessie Smith, Ma’ Rainey, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Muddy Waters to the 21st century blues artists. She teaches blues to the youths coming from L.A., Hawthorne, Pasadena, Palms Springs and Unified School District Students. In addition, she educates about the importance of blues artist like Shemekia, Lightin' Hopkins, Keb Mo, B.B King, not just to the youth but also to children and adults that do not know them. This is why, Carolyn is the President and Founder of Blues Schools Program. She has worked hard as an advocate and cheerleader for keeping "BLUES" alive by doing things like beginning as manager of her father's Roy Gaines Blues Club called "Gainesville", taught Blues history, art, lyrics writing classes, created blues & Latin exhibits that produced 2000 Jazz, Latin, and Blues assemblies for many public schools and private schools.                                                       Photo © by Alfonso Murray 

She has created and produced many "BLUES SCHOOLS PROGRAM" projects and hired many local Blues artists to work with local schools throughout California In addition, she produced many Blues field trips with famous Blues/Jazz musicians. Under her direction Ike Turner donated his Blues performances and guitars to many L.A. Schools. Blues great Roy Gaines is the king of performing for children at L.A. Schools and North Hollywood Schools due to Blues Schools Program. She also introduced L.A. students to Guitar Shorty. On a very special note, Miss. Gaines' is the daughter of the legendary blues guitarist and blues vocalist-Roy Gaines. Her family belongs to a family of musicians whom her uncle Grady Gaines is known as the greatest rock 'n rock saxophone player. She has exposed these popular blues artists and their contribution to blues music to a great number of twelfth grade students and adults from 2001 to 2014. Through her passion of educating everyone about blues music, she finally authored a book called Blues!...Why Blues & Latin Music! Carolyn Gaines has wrote 30  unpublished children's blues books about Buddy Guy, in additional kids Blues books on Guitar Shorty, Roy Gaines, Ike Turner, Etta James and Shemekia Copeland. Presently, she does Blues public speaking for the New York Jazz Foundation to keep "BLUES & JAZZ" alive with the youths and adults today.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues culture and what does the blues mean to you?

I learned at age 16 years old. I was borne in the worldly cultural of blues. I learned the blues truthfully from my father blues, singer guitarist-legendary Roy Gaines who was at the 21 Billy Holiday's guitarist. Blues began to work inside my brain daily from the point of my father introduced me to 1920's, 1930's Queen of Blues Bessie Smith at age 16 down in the deep roots of Houston, Texas. In fact, I did not know legendary Buddy Guy lived next door in Louisiana. Now, today, I learned from a strong piece of wisdom blues is a dark sharp part of our art culture that many people does not like to listen to or respect  blues music even our society of today. Meaning, everyone around me who are not blues lovers knows that I love the Blues 24/7. So, they don't understand me and my blues culture. Briefly, I also learned to manage my father's Roy Gaines blues career in early 1990's...

I learned about myself from the world of blues that I can run a blues record company, marketing, publicist, radio promotion, booking blues festivals, that I am a blues author of title book Blues!...Why Blues & Latin Music?....I learned that I am the President of the Blues Schools program that I can keep blues alive with our elementary, Middle and High School students. That, I can create and produce a blues art projects and blues/concert assemblies for kids and adults. I learned that I can keep blues music alive for 16 years since 2001. I learned about the real altitude of many people who don't work inside the blues world way of thinking many times are not for the best interest of keeping blues educational music in front of the world alive for our youth of today. Finally, I learned in 2002 the Queen of Blues is Etta James, The King of Blues in 2002 B.B. King, Bessie Smith and Ma' Rainey from the 1920's and 30's, 40's were best friends.  I learned more about today's blues society household name blues giants are Buddy Guy made his own guitar as a kid, that my father Roy Gaines was Billie Holiday's guitar player at age 21, and my (uncle) Grady Gaines the legendary saxophonist was Little Richards and Sam Cooke's saxophone player and bandleader. I learned to become a Blues Teacher....that blues is my passion...I taught Los Angeles Unified School District's music students about Lonnie Johnson, Blind lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Bobby Blue Bland, Leadbelly. Finally, I learned about Victoria Spivey borne 1906 in Houston, Texas a starlet, Blues singer-diva that recorded on Decca Records, RCA Records, and Okek Records. Victoria Spivey hit song # Black Snake Blues. 

I learned that I and my VP-Roy Lawrence made a difference in the keeping Blues Education alive for almost 3 million schools students for world of blues. What does blues means to me love, peace, happiness, pain, suffer, people that don't like you or respect the fact that you were born in the blues music world. That blues is like love sometimes, one, will never get the blues correct just someone will never get love right.  Simple, I love Blues and I am happy and honored to have a father named Roy Gaines who taught me about the blues. ''I LOVE THE BLUES"...amazing always something to do new and different. I recalled interviewing B.B. King's daughter Shirley King the 'Daughter of the Blues' who stated that she was honored to have a father named B.B. King. How great!!!! ....Sunny Bland who is Bobby Blue Bland's son, and Charlotte and Carlise Guy who are Buddy Guy's daughters. Once, again I am the daughter of a blues legend, Roy Gaines and the niece of Grady Gaines.

"I believe Blues is in the White House that President Obama deals with Blues everyday to keep America a safe place, is in our homework, even taking out the trash. B.B. King's daughter: Shirley King believes, if you open your rigerator, and you don't have any milk for your corn flakes that is blues." (Photo © by Alfonso Murray)

How started the thought and what characterize Blues Schools Program philosophy and mission?

The thought of blues started by way of me booking my dad Roy Gaines in Canada, and the promoter had a Blues In The Schools program. The Promoter informed me to do the same for Los Angeles Unified Schools District students. So, I began 2001, with my Vice-President Roy Lawrence to keep Blues alive for the youth of today. Blues schools mission is to educate our youth in the schools about the history of Leadbelly, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Etta James the Queen of Blues today, Wee Bea Bozzie first woman guitarist in the 1940's, Lonnie Johnson, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bobby Blue Bland Known for singing the blues love song recorded 3000 or more blues songs. Roy Gaines is known for recording on Bobby Blues Bland's early hit songs at the age of 16 on Peacock Records in Houston, Texas in the late 1950's. So, the youth of today can speak upon an educated conversation about what blues artists created the beginning of 1800's to present day blues history.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from Blues Schools Programs?

What made me laugh watching Blues guitarist Buddy Guy sang ''I Got Dreams'' and ''Tramp'' on YouTube. What touched me emotionally, when I was told Buddy Guy didn't have time to meet and great 4th and 5th graders to keep Blues alive very emotionally painfully for me as the Blues Schools History Teacher and the President, and a school principal said to me that I don't want my students to learn about blues history for Black History Month because I am going to paint the school and buy flowers for the surrounding of the school.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?

To created Blues Schools program, knock on business doors to ask for support to purchased blues concert tickets, food and Luxury busses for Los Angeles Unified School District students to meet and great B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo, Lisa Terry, Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland, and Ray Charles. Also, meetings with Ike Turner  Guitar Shorty, Shemekia Copeland, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Roy Gaines managers. Another, delightful experience was to sit inside of Ray Charles' office for a meeting with his President Varlie with my father Roy Gaines. I remembered Buddy Guy bought the concerts tickets for Blues Schools Program Audubon Middle School students to attend his concert at the Greek Theatre, when, Buddy Guy was the opening act for Ray Charles.

"My hopes are for the blues entertainers and rock n roll entertainers across the Globe show the youth of today that Blues music will always matter to make the world a better society and increase our experiences with in each and everyone of ours daily cultural...That my hopes will be to continue to keep blues alive." (Photo: Roy Gaines and his daughter, Carolyn Gaines)

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Roy Gaines with the new generation of bluesmen and musicians?

The line that connect the legacy of blues Roy Gaines that Roy Gaines has gone in into many, many Los Angeles Unified School Districts and shared his blues history career with music students. Meaning, many of these are students are grown today. Who are full pledge musicians, now. Today, Roy Gaines is still alive and passing on his amazing blues gifts from his youthful days of playing on stage with T-Bone Walker at 9 years old guitarist and band leader at 16 years old for Chuck Willis, worked with Quincy Jones and Oparh Winfrey in the movie 'Color Purple', with on to become a Blues recording and touring artists, and today the Los Angeles Wave Newspaper calls Roy Gaines the king of visiting schools to support performing blues music in effort to keep blues alive for kids. I say all of this to say Roy Gaines continues to connect the blues generation of blues men, children and musicians together by stepping out of his house with his guitar in his hand going to gig, blues festivals, and acting in TV commercials.

Are there any memories from Ike Turner, Ray Charles, and Bobby Blue Bland which you’d like to share with us?

Yes, my memories of Ike Turner just to name a few, we were in his big black pretty Mercedes, and Ike began to drive fast like a gangster that was unbelievable fun and fast. Ike Turner used to tell me that I reminded him of Tina Turner because I would always treat him like a regular person. I asked Ike Turner to attend a few of Los Angeles Unified School District Schools in effort to keep Blues alive. Next, thing, I knew Ike Turner just dropped me 500 pictures to give to Susan Miller Dorsey, Crenshaw High, and Washington Prep High School Students. Then, Ike Turner shared a day with LAUSD Students under the direction of Pres. Carolyn Washington-Gaines, and VP-Roy Lawerene of Blues Schools Program. Ike Turner performed 2 to 3 blues, rock and roll assemblies at each schools and gave each school a signed Ike Turner guitar. I remembered Ike Turner called me, and I started singing to him on the telephone, and Mr. Turner said," Where did all that singing come from''.

 What I recalled about Ray Charles, I had taken Audubon Middle School music student to meet and greet Buddy Guy who was opening for Ray Charles at the Greek Theatre. I was standing in a meeting with Ray Charles' President Valerie outside the entrance door way before going back stage, and Valerie agreed for Blues schools Program students (Los Angeles Unified School District Students to do a meet and greet with Ray Charles at the Long Beach Blues Festival. I remembered my mom late great Joe Scott's wife Princess Scott called and asked me to get her permission to attend Ray Charles funeral. I did call Valerie and she placed Princess Scott name on Ray Charles Funeral list.

 I remembered about Bobby Blue Bland being on stage at The Ingle wood Casino, and I presented him with several proclamations from the Governor, Mayor, City Council members from the City of Los Angeles that Bobby Blue Bland was very playful, kind, no ego a gentleman. I also remembered, when, I first met Bobby Blue Bland with my father Roy Gaines who is the world's greatest blues guitarist, singer Roy Gaines, after Bobby's concert at the Total Experience Club in Los Angeles, I walked in Bobby Blue Bland's dressing room. Mr. Bland didn't have his shirt on...of course... I had to wait outside the dressing room for him to get dressed.

"I learned about myself from the world of blues that I can run a blues record company, marketing, publicist, radio promotion, booking blues festivals, that I am a blues author of title book Blues!...Why Blues & Latin Music?" (Photo: Ike Turner & Carolyn Gaines)

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

What do I miss about the blues from the past? Well, I can't answer that because I wasn't a recording blues artist, blues touring artist meaning a singer. My hopes are for the blues entertainers and rock n roll entertainers across the Globe show the youth of today that Blues music will always matter to make the world a better society and increase our experiences with in each and everyone of ours daily cultural...That my hopes will be to continue to keep blues alive. My hopes are to become the Queen of Blues and Rock n Roll one day even to singer on stage with the Rolling Stones, and Buddy Guy. My fear is that blues will not be pass on to our youth of today because our well known African American Blues Giants...really are not opening the doors for our American Youth to perform on stage with them or tour around the world with them. Less, known the Blues and Rock n Roll musicians are not visiting the schools, today.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

If I could change one thing in blues world...it would be for a blues university to be built around the world in every state or country.

What is the biggest change which can and need be realized in near or far future of the Blues world?

What is the biggest change in the blues world for blues artists especially African Americans to be on the road touring every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday instead of sitting at home in their living rooms dreaming to be famous and gigging.

"The line that connect the legacy of blues Roy Gaines that Roy Gaines has gone in into many, many Los Angeles Unified School Districts and shared his blues history career with music students. Meaning, many of these are students are grown today." (Photo: Roy Gaines & Carolyn Gaines)

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

Blues music has impacted the world, but Blues has not impacted African women and men to keep study employment in the blues business. The best and the greatest musicians are not being recognize. The culture to the racial and socio-cultural impactions can still be very emotional. Why, I used to work at Desert Star Weekly newspaper, and my Boss said to me you are writing about B.B. King, Roy Gaines, Buddy Guy names in this newspaper too much, and My big bosses are watching you.  Socio-culturally, from my experience little kids, children, teenagers, and adults whom have not heard any blues music, but say they do not like blues. Once these individuals listen to the blues began to dance, clap, sing along, and be happy to listen to Blues.

Like, Carlos Santana loves Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and B.B. King guitar sounds plus blues singing. This is why, I am involved in the blues because I was born in the blues again my father is blues great Roy Gaines, and uncle Grady Gaines blues, rock n roll saxophone player which means I was drawn to blues from my family members. I love the blues and blues is my passion. My involvement and actions for 16 years with Blues schools Program has caused me to write a book called Blues!...Why Blues & Latin Music? in English and Spanish to hopefully broaden the minds all people of different cultural connections. Because, Buddy Guy wrote in his book called 'When I Left Home' that blues is all around us in the trees, down the streets, and in our neighbor hoods. I believe Blues is in the White House that President Obama deals with Blues everyday to keep America a safe place, is in our homework, even taking out the trash. B.B. King's daughter: Shirley King believes, if you open your rigerator, and you don't have any milk for your corn flakes that is blues.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I like to take two trips one to the recording studio in 2004 began recording blues music, and Why, I really wanna to go their to open my door of being in the closet singing blues music for 15 years. Now, Carolyn Gaines is a new blues rock singing diva. I am true to my heart about my singing. I am looking forward to a great blues, rock singing and recording career. Please Facebook: Carolyn Blues Singer Gaines, and You tube: Carolyn Gaines. Finally, I the second trip would be to go back to the Long Beach Blues Festival in the late 1980's when I first met Blues amazing guitarist Blues singer Buddy Guy. Just like Buddy Guy said,'' in his book 'When I Left Home, I go to go now.

Then, I love the way Nat King Cole would say Good Bye to his audience....''I See You All Next Time". So, I got to say I got a bad, bad feeling that I will be in Greece one day to teach a Blues History Class. Love you Blues/Greece Forever!!!

Photo © by Alfonso Murray

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