Willie Foster, Vince Cheney, Blues Musicians

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Willie Foster, Mississppi Blues Musician

Willie Foster

By Vince Cheney

I've lived in the southern United States all my life, lived in the areas where the blues began..

In these areas the economy isn't much different than today. Just like 100 years ago, not many of us sing the blues, however hard times are very familiar. I guess I know more unsung heroes than anyone else I've met and it's one of the few subjects I feel qualified to talk about!

Several years ago I became fascinated with the songs sung by field workers and folks that actually lived the "blues life"! It intrigued me how a few words expressed so much feeling and what most of us take for granted today, many lived without (like shoes, love, family, and money). Amazing how these innocent songs they wrote would later be what kept them from starving if they were lucky. Most (much like today) died unheard and wasn't given the opportunity to abandon the "blues life", like my mentor Lightnin Hopkins and better known, the "king of blues" BB King.

When I met Willie Foster playing a juke not far from my house, it changed my life. I went to his house and immediately made a good friend. While I was asking him of how life is different today, he finaly told me of a horror story that I never heard him tell anyone else. He showed me a small scar where he was traveling to a distant town and got caught by a few "whites". The white men had thrown a rope around his neck and drug him to a nearby tree. Luckily the men were in a good mood and allowed Willie to escape with only a few scratches, deep bruises and the promise to "stay on his side of town".

Willie, like a few more have experienced such assault as beer bottles crashed over the head, hangings, muggings and even sexual assault in some cases. These "unsung heroes" of the blues were the ones that taught us to sing about life. I tell Willies story cause he's not here to tell. He always preferred to talk of the better things or current events and avoid the past. He wasn't a racist and didn't hold it against later generations; in fact he kept a love for everyone and hardly noticed color.

Today I, like many try to be like the past "Unsung Heroes". However, we are expecting to be heard for some reason. Though I would like to be heard myself, several years ago I decided to create an online connection to bring blues musicians and fans together thebluessite.com. The site not only has helped give light to other musicians that are truly struggling, but makes me feel I'm doing my part as a blues lover. I personally think that the unheard artists are the few real bluesmen, for it is them that lived the "blues life" and till this day remains unheard. Almost every ones life is hard, only a few are given the gift to explain it in a few songs! And only a few of them are heard and actually make a difference in one persons life, I want to be one of them!

By Vince Cheney

Read more Blues Heroes Stories
from the bookTouched By the Blues

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