OUR MISSION : Music Maker Relief Foundation is a non profit organization dedicate to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day to day needs. Today, many such musicians are living in extreme poverty and need food, shelter, medical care, and other assistance. Music Maker’s aid and service programs improve the quality of recipients’ lives. Our work affirms to these artists that we value the gifts of music and inspiration they have delivered to the world. Our mission is to give back to the roots of American music. You can help by visiting our website, And for more information, contact us online at or by calling us at 919-643-2456.

THE STORY : Rediscovering the South’s venerable blues performers led this couple down a road of reclamation.

Visitors to Tim and Denise Duffy’s rural Hillsborough wood shop might mistake it for the end of the road. But the refurbished shop next to the couple’s log cabin home actually marks a beginning for them and dozens of aging musicians whose early work formed the roots of American music.

The Duffys founded the nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation to aid aging musicians across the South, many of who have been living in poverty for decades. While offering blues masters funds for medicine, food, and housing, Music Maker puts able artist back onstage – often after years of obscurity – restoring a joy to their lives.

In the last 15 years, the Duffys have helped nearly 100 musicians. “Poverty is not unique.” The music and the culture they spawned in this country have given birth to a recording industry making billions of dollars,” he continues. “There is not a popular style of music unaffected by the blues.”

In His Blood : Now 41, Tim developed his love for roots music before he ever picked up a guitar.

In 1989, working with the Southern Folklife Collection at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tim met James “Guitar Slim” Stephens, who introduced him to Carolina blues.

“Everyone had told me these people no longer existed,” Tim recalls. But Guitar Slim proved the scholars wrong, as did Winston-Salem bluesman “Guitar Gabriel” Jones, also known as “Gabe”.

A Crack in the Door : Tim built his relationships into a small business, booking gigs and recording CDs so the musicians could sell their own music. By 1993, Tim and Denise decided their altruism needed a framework. Thus, they created the Music Maker Relief Foundation with the help of audio pioneer Mark Levinson.

In 1995, Tim spent an afternoon with Eric Clapton talking about the foundation, listening to field recordings of rediscovered blues artists, and celebrating their music. Clapton, who rarely lends his name for endorsements, recorded acoustic guitar duets with Tim. That “stamp of approval,” Tim says, led directly to a jab with N2K Records – run by Larry Rosen and jazz legend Dave Grusin. Clapton later endorsed a book about Music Maker musicians.

The Living Past : The Duffys developed a program of roots music called “The Living Past,” raising $20,000 for Music Maker in its first weekend. With Tim as producer, Cello Recordings issued several Music Maker releases. Donations poured into the foundation, and musical giants such as B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, and Taj Mahal embraced the cause, advised the foundation, and lent their renowned names.

Today Music Maker provides grants for artist sustenance, professional development, and cultural access. They also offer a program that brings visiting blues artists to the Hillsborough studio for professional development.

Folklorist’s Musical Legacy : After 10 years, Music Maker’s efforts have resulted in thousands of concerts and 55 CDs.

Extract from a text written By Susan Byrum Roundtree


ERIC CLAPTON: “A fabulous project - real evidence that the music I have always loved is alive and well.”

B. B. KING: “I cannot encourage people enough to learn more about the Music Maker Relief Foundation and to listen to the music that they document and promote.”

TAJ MAHAL: “Music Makers clearly dispels the notion that real blues musicians are long gone.”

MORGAN FREEMAN : “Music Makers is a perfect complement to the exciting and promising resurgence in America’s roots music.”

BONNIE RAITT: “It’s great to have this window on some under-appreciated bluesmen and women...”

PETE TOWNSHEND: “A labor of love and honor for the blues, and all its loudly unsung old-timers.”

ROSANNE CASH : “Music Makers is an essential document of roots music in America. It is alive with the voices of these great musicians, and a pure pleasure to read and ponder.”

Short biographies of the artists :

Mr. Frank Edwards was born in 1909 in Washington County, Georgia. His musical career spanned close to 80 years of performing. In Florida he met and became friends with Tampa Red who was performing on the streets. In Atlanta he was friends with blues legends Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss. He recorded for the Okeh record label in 41, for Regal in Atlanta in 49, and later made an album for Trix, in the early 70s.

Algia Mae Hinton was born on August 29, 1929 in Johnston County, North Carolina. Her parents, Alexander and Ollie O’Neal, were farmers who raised tobacco, cotton, cucumbers and sweet potatoes. Her husband died in 1965, forcing Algia to raise her seven children alone by working long hours on the farm. Over the years Algia’s music has gained international recognition.

Neal Pattman - Nobody used to make moonshine, work a cakewalk, chop wood or play a harmonica like Neal Pattman who just passed away (May, 4th, 2005). Losing an arm in a wagon wheel at the age of nine hasn’t slowed him at all. "66 years ago the Blues knocked on my door and they wouldn’t leave." His testimony can be heard in a sound and a style his daddy taught him as a child in the country outside Athens, Georgia.

Captain Luke was born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1926. Luke’s rich dry baritone provides a panoramic tour of his musical influences and arrives at an unusual convergence that might be called Outsider Lounge Music, basic and sophisticated in the same moment.

Cool John Ferguson of Beaufort, South Carolina is described by Taj Mahal as among the five greatest guitarists he has heard in his career.

Guitar Gabriel was born Robert Lewis Jones in Atlanta, Georgia on October 12, 1925. In 1939, his father, Sonny Jones, traveled to Memphis with Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Terry to record some records with Vocalian. In Baltimore he made a record in 1950 on the Orchid label. At the age of ten, Gabriel first met and played with Piedmont blues legends Blind Boy Fuller and Rev. Gary Davis. Gabe died April 2nd 1996, just as he was reaping the recognition and acclaim the world had with-held for so long. He was the grand architect for the Foundation.

Pura Fe’s voice soars the heavens, taking us on a visionary ride, elegantly stating the Indigenous influence on the birth of the Blues. An history and anthems for her Tuscarora Indian Nation of North Carolina. Pura Fe’ explains the musical contributions made by Southeastern Indigenous people. "My Nation has been systematically disenfranchised and disregarded. Charley Patton the first King of the Blues is Choctaw, Scrapper Blackwell is Cherokee, Jimi Hendrix, Don Cherry, Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, Lina Horne, Little Richard, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan… There are so many blues and jazz pioneers that have expressed their Native ancestry through their work.”

Cootie Stark was one of the last authentic Piedmont blues guitarist/singers alive today. He learned his songs at the feet of the originators of Piedmont Blues Baby Tate, Pink Anderson, Walter Phelps, Peg Leg Sam and Blind Sammy Doolie. Cootie Stark has a repertoire of 100’s of Blues and Gospel songs, making him one of the last direct links to a South long gone.

Cora Mae Bryant is the daughter of Georgia guitar legend Curley Weaver. Curley would perform from one house party to the next often meeting up with his friends Blind Willie McTell and Buddy Moss. Cora Mae Bryant is a blues scholar, her house is a blues museum. She can tell you everything one needs to know of the old blues

John Dee Holeman was born in Orange County, North Carolina in 1929. He is a storyteller, dancer and a blues artist that played with musicians who had learned directly from Blind Boy Fuller. He possesses an expressive blues voice and is a wonderful guitarist incorporating both Piedmont and Texas guitar styles.

Sol first met the blues at the age of 11 when his father took him to meet Guitar Gabriel and his wife Dot in the housing projects of Winston-Salem, NC. During the summers he would tag along with Tim Duffy and travel the Deep South, meeting and recording the unsung heroes of the blues. In this album sol reveals his modern musical vision of the men and women of the Music Maker Relief Foundation.

Mother Marie Manning (b.1934) is the wife of Bishop Dready Manning. They both, live in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina where he is the Bishop of a Holiness Church. He is a former bluesman who long ago converted his music to songs in praise of the Lord. Marie is a wonderful singer of old gospel songs.

Etta Baker of Morganton, North Carolina was born in 1913 and has been playing guitar since the age of 4. She is the premier woman Piedmont blues guitar instrumentalist. Her only contemporary was the late Elizabeth Cotton of Carrboro, North Carolina.

Drink Small : “They call me the blues Doctor ’cause I can play all the styles, bottleneck, ragtime, Piedmont Blues I can tear them up, Chicago Blues; I am the blues Doctor. I was born in1933 in Lee County in Bishopville, South Carolina. I started playing when I was 11 years old. I joined the Spiritualaires. We recorded on the Vee Jay label. We played the Apollo and toured with Sam Cooke, the Harmonizing Four, and the Staple Singers.
-  Drink Small

Mudcat : Born on the banks of the Mississippi and raised in Georgia, Mudcat dropped out of acting school in New York to pursue a Blues major on the streets. His tutelage continues under Cootie Stark, Frank Edwards, Eddie Tigner and Cora Mae Bryant. A world class slide guitarist with a voice so rich it feels fattening. Mudcat serves on the Foundation’s board of directors.

Jerry "Boogie" McCain is the greatest post war harp player alive today. In 2001 he remains at the height of his powers, constantly writing and delivering amazing live performances with the energy of a teenager. Born in 1930 in Gadsden, Alabama, Jerry began playing his harp and singing along with jukebox records at his fathers barbecue stand, the Green Front Cafe.

Samuel Turner Stevens (1925-1999) made beautiful fretless banjos, fiddles, guitars, mandolins, wooden mallets, canoe oars, telescopes, windmills, rifles, lamps, sleds, chairs and was an award-winning pool player. His mother was a ballad singer. He was very proud to represent Music Maker and it was a very sad day when he was tragically killed crossing a street near his home by a car.

Sweet Betty : Born in Duluth, Georgia, Betty Echols Journey grew up listening and performing to gospel music. Her powerful vocals and talent inspired the late great Grady "Fats" Jackson. She became his protégé and he began to bring Betty with him to his performances. Through this relationship Betty met former Muddy Waters guitarist, “Steady Rollin” Bob Margolin.

Jack Owens (1904 -1997) was a farmer his entire life in the small town of Bentonia, Mississippi where he ran a juke joint on weekends at his home. Alan Lomax visited him once and encouraged Jack to keep playing his guitar in his unique minor tuning. I arranged for Jack to go on his first trip abroad to a festival in Utrecht, Holland. It took great efforts to get him a passport. A friend finally arrived at the airport to have Jack detained as he had a pistol in his boot. Somehow they made the flight and got to the show.

Carl Rutherford was born and raised in the coal mining community of War, West Virginia. He was taught old ballads from his mother and he picked up the guitar as a young boy. In his late teens he migrated to Bakersfield, California and worked up into Washington State in sawmills. His music is a unique blend of blues grass, gospel and country musical traditions.

Elder James Goins (born July 18th, 1921) is Pastor for the Spiritual Holiness Church in Simpson, South Carolina. He and his wife Mother Pauline are a classic example of performing great music at its most basic and powerful best. It just shows you how much that less is more. Their music is a combination of the ancient African musical traditions and the early African American gospel traditions coming together. Electrifying !

Little Pink Anderson of Spartanburg, SC began singing at medicine shows and carnivals with his legendary father Pink Anderson at the age of 3. He still performs the highly entertaining old folk songs that his Dad made famous such as “Travelin Man” and “Cook Good Salad.”

Mr. Q was born in 1913. He is an old hep-cat whose music just makes you have to smile. A self-taught pianist, he has fashioned his own sound by mixing the piano styles of Art Tatum, Earl Hines and Oscar Peterson interspersed with songs by the Ink Spots. He soon migrated to Harlem, and got a job, playing harmonica with the Savoy Sultans, the house band at the Savoy ballroom.

George Higgs was born in 1930 in a farming community in Edgecombe County near Speed, North Carolina. George got to catch the medicine showman and harmonica player Peg Leg Sam playing locally in Rocky Mount during the tobacco market season and he made a lasting impression on the young harp player.

The Branchettes, Ethel Elliot and Lena Mae Perry, have been performing hymns and gospel songs together for the past twenty-two years. Their style and repertory have their roots in the congregational hymn singing of earlier generations of African Americans. Mae Perry compares their singing to healing. "For those that feel real bad, those songs can be as a doctor. People get into the spirit and forget about the pain”.

Preston Fulp grew up in Walnut Cove, an area just north of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where his family sharecropped tobacco. He played hillbilly music with Ernest Thompson and Vernon Covenant and listened to the 78 records of the Carter Family, and Uncle Dave Macon. Preston was unique in this ability to perform both styles of music. Working all week at the sawmill Preston would make $4.50 and then perform at the auction houses all night Friday and Saturday, often coming home with $100.

Essie Mae Brooks was born in Houston County, Georgia in 1930. Her father was a great drummer in the nearly forgotten African-American tradition called "Drumbeat." Her grandfather was a harmonica player and Essie started singing to accompany him.