BR Blues Foundation to honor artists at annual gala

The Baton Rouge Blues Foundation’s annual blues gala will honor Leslie “Lazy Lester” Johnson, Jimmy Dotson, Robert “Pete” Williams and Otis “Lightnin’ Slim” Hicks.

The event, taking place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, at the Capitol Park Museum, includes a tribute to the late “Rockin’ ” Tabby Thomas and a blues jam led by Chris Thomas King and featuring 2014 living legend honorees Lazy Lester and Dotson.

Lazy Lester, born, June 20, 1933, in Torras, is among the architects of the Louisiana swamp blues sound. A singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player and resourceful percussionist, he was in residence at Miller’s Crowley studio for more than a decade.

Lazy Lester recorded as a solo artist and worked as an arranger, harmonica and percussion session player for recordings by Lightnin’ Slim, Slim Harpo, Katie Webster, Lonesome Sundown, Whispering Smith, Silas Hogan, Henry Gray and many more.

“Oh, it’s so much stuff I played on, I can’t remember,” the former Scotlandville resident told The Advocate in 2006.

Dotson, born Oct. 19, 1933, in Ethel, performed with his fellow living legend honoree Lazy Lester as well as Hogan in a band called the Rhythm Ramblers.

Dotson recorded with the Rhythm Ramblers and also as a solo artist. He moved to Memphis but later returned to Baton Rouge, where he performed at Tabby Thomas’ Blues Box and Heritage Hall.

In May, the Memphis-based Blues Foundation inducted Zachary native and Baton Rouge Blues Foundation centennial honoree Williams into its Hall of Fame. In 1959, Harry Oster, a folklorist and member of LSU’s English department faculty, made the first recordings of Williams at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Serving time on a murder conviction, Williams claimed self-defense at his trial.

Before he entered Angola in 1956, Williams performed for local gatherings and did farm and lumber yard work. Oster and other supporters helped secure his parole in 1959. An unconventional singer-guitarist, Williams made his Newport Folk Festival debut in 1964 after Gov. John McKeithen pardoned him in full. Despite being an internationally known blues artist, Williams supplemented his music income by collecting and selling scrap iron. He died in Rosedale at 66 on Dec. 31, 1980.

Centennial honoree Hicks, aka “Lightnin’ Slim,” was the first blues to star to emerge from producer and studio owner J.D. Miller’s studio in Crowley. Miller’s deal with the Nashville-based Excello Records gave recordings by Louisiana acts national distribution. In 1959, Hicks’ “Rooster Blues” reached the R&B charts.

Hicks was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1913. His family moved to St. Francisville. By the late 1960s, Hicks was living in Detroit and touring with his fellow Excello artist James “Slim Harpo” Moore. Following Moore’s unexpected death in 1970, Hicks joined the American Blues Legends tour until his own death in 1974.