About the Grant

$20,000 to support Between a Ballad & a Blues (MAP 2007), a new play with music written by Linda Parris-Bailey and based upon the life and stories of the late African-American string band musician Howard Armstrong.

About the Project

The Carpetbag Theatre celebrates the culture of African Americans in southern Appalachia through the reclamation of its musical heritage. Between a Ballad & a Blues is an important new ensemble theater work featuring music that restores the tradition of string band music to its rightful place among the musical traditions of American culture.

"We are losing all memory of the black string bands that were just as important and influential as the legends we enshrine." Suzanne Savell, Director of Traditional Music Program Appalshop, Inc. (Whitesburg, Kentucky)

Between a Ballad & a Blues tells the story of Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, an accomplished musician, painter, and storyteller, and the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, an African American string band of the 1930's. Armstrong, the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship award and a W.C. Handy award has been the subject of two documentaries, Louie Bluie and Sweet Old Song. Armstrong along with Carl Martin and Ted Bogan formed the core of the band that first recorded in Knoxville in 1930 and reunited in the 1970's touring extensively including a U.S. State Department tour to South America.

When asked what kind of music he played, Armstrong answered that his music resided somewhere "between a ballad and a blues." Armstrong's story is a story of adaptation and survival. It explores the intersection of so-called "race music" and what would become "country music" from shared Appalachian traditions both African and European in origin.


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