The Music Maker Blues Revue is an all-star band and a thriving musical institution. It was born in the early 1990s as a backing band for Guitar Gabriel, and quickly became a power cell of Music Maker’s live presence. Featuring dozens of different Music Maker artists over the years—from Etta Baker and Macavine Hayes to Robert Lee Coleman and Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen—the Revue has played all over the world in every kind of venue. They’ve busked on the sidewalks of High Point, NC, and received standing ovations at Carnegie Hall. From Argentina to Australia, Europe to Guatemala, and across the U.S., the Revue pleases all types of fans; “the boogiers and the bookworms,” as drummer Ardie Dean puts it..
Albert White (guitar), Ardie Dean (drums), Nashid Abdul (bass), and Lil’ Joe Burton (trombone) form the core of the group. These players—all veterans whose resumes include work with Ray Charles, B.B. King, Clarence Carter, Homesick James, and many others—provide the heartbeat for a rotating cast of Music Maker artists who perform with the Revue. They groove just as naturally with the acoustic Piedmont blues of Boo Hanks as with the deep soul of Robert Finley. Their enormous repertoire includes boogie, funk, soul, R&B, and the whole blues spectrum.
The group first played together as the Revue at the 1994 Jazz Charlotte Festival. Performers included Guitar Gabriel, Willa Mae Buckner, Macavine Hayes, Mr. Q, Chief Wahoo, Etta Baker, Ardie Dean, Preston Fulp, and Jahue Rorie. In 1998 and 1999, the Revue was joined by Taj Mahal for the 42-city Winston Blues Revival tour. The group continued to traverse the globe into the 2000s, giving artists like Dr. Burt—who had never played outside of Alabama before connecting with Music Maker—a platform to reach thousands of fans nationally and internationally. In 2016, the Revue made a splash at the prestigious Globalfest in New York City, an invitational festival featuring top talent from all over the world.
A Music Maker Revue show is fast-paced, with non-stop music. Each featured artist takes a turn in the spotlight and the band makes the transitions seamless. The group’s rollicking closers bring everyone out on stage together and often tear down the house. But, more than just a stirring performance, says Ardie Dean, “every Revue show is a cultural event. All of these artists have a story; a place where they come from.” The Revue tells those stories through music. And it brings those artists together as a musical community. They perform together, travel together, eat together, and form bonds. “They see that they are part of something bigger,” Tim Duffy says, “The Revue is the blues. The Revue will never end, just like the blues will never end.” — Will Boone