Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

Teaching the Blues

Last month, on his way home to Brattleboro, Vt., after performing and teaching at Washington and Lee, blues guitarist Scott Ainslie, of the Class of 1974, took a detour—all the way to Clarksdale, Miss. His destination was the Delta Blues Museum, where he dropped off more than 100 instructional DVDs — the bounteous beginning of the museum’s new Delta Blues Museum Media Archive.

The archive comprises instructional DVDs for blues guitarists, singers and keyboard players, as well as archival footage of famed performers such as Son House, Skip James, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Students of all ages can use the material to supplement their learning from Mississippi-area musicians.

Scott came up with the idea of the archive during a conversation with the museum’s executive director, Shelley Ritter. He’d just taught at the museum and donated a copy of his instructional DVD, “Robert Johnson/Guitar Signature Licks.” He realized that he knew a lot of people with similar material, and he thought an archive would be just the thing for the museum.

Scott contacted Stefan Grossman (Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop) and Happy Traum (Homespun Tapes), both well-known instructors and purveyors of educational material. He felt embarrassed to request 85 titles from Grossman and expected him to shorten the list, but Grossman didn’t blink. Traum followed suit with another generous donation.

“Grossman, Traum and I have all had the life-changing honor and pleasure of working with senior musicians in this tradition,” Scott said in a museum press release. “We have each been moved, inspired and compelled to take up the music of this region, and we all see this as a way of giving back to a culture and a people who have given so much to the rest of us.”

You can learn more about the archive, Scott and his music at his website, cattailmusic.com.

If you know any W&L alumni who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.