Beverly Watkins has had a long career as a blues guitarist, but for much of life she’s plied her trade in obscurity. While still in high school, she began playing guitar with Piano Red & toured with his band the Meter-tones until the combo broke up in 1965 (the group was also known as Piano Red & The Interns, Dr. Feelgood & The Interns, & Dr. Feelgood); following this she performed with such groups as Eddie Tigner & the Ink Spots, Joseph Smith & the Fendales, & Leroy Redding & the Houserockers.
Watkins’ solo career didn’t really take off, however, until she became associated with the Music Maker Relief Foundation in the 1990s. This wonderful organization, which we learned about also in an earlier post on guitarist Precious Bryant, describes its mission as follows:
Music Maker Relief Foundation preserves and promotes the musical traditions of the American South. Since 1994 we have partnered with traditional artists over 55 years old who survive on a yearly income of less than $18,000, sustaining their day-to-day needs while building their careers. Through Music Maker, our rich heritage of folk music will not be lost with the passing of time.
Beverly Watkins is a truly remarkable musician. Still rocking hard in her 70s, she sings & plays guitar with great power, verve & energy. Watkins says of her music:
My style is real Lightnin’ Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues.
Since joining Music Maker, Beverly Watkins has released three albums, & her 1999 debut Back in Business was nominated for the Blues Foundation’s W.C. Handy Award. She has followed that up with The Feelings of Beverly "Guitar" Watkins & The Spiritual Expressions of Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. Watkins keeps up an active touring schedule.
Why is her middle name “Guitar”? Just watch these videos & you will find out! Enjoy!
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