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Show highlights Blind Willie McTell

Author of bluesman’s biography to appear at Averitt on Friday

Show highlights Blind Willie McTell

Show highlights Blind Willie McTell

Michael Gray


    Blind Willie McTell is one of the most recognizable names from Statesboro’s history. Friday night at the Averitt Center, an Englishman will bring McTell’s story and music to life.
    Author Michael Gray is British, but he made many trips to Statesboro to research the first-ever biography of local hero Blind Willie McTell, “Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In  Search of Blind Willie McTell.” The book was published in hardback in September by Chicago Review Press.
    Gray’s one-man show is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Averitt Center. Tickets are $18 and are available at the Averitt box office or by calling 212-2787.
    2009 marks the 50th anniversary of McTell’s death, and the Averitt Center show pays timely tribute to one of Georgia’s greatest blues and gospel musicians.
    “I heard a Bob Dylan song called ‘Blind Willie McTell’ in 1983,” Gray said. “Dylan didn’t release it but keen Dylan fans get things that are unreleased. And every verse in that song ends with ‘Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.’ Of course, that made me wonder how McTell did sing the blues. So I checked him out and became more and more fascinated with him because he wasn’t very famous and he never had a hit and yet he seemed to be Georgia’s most important blues and gospel musician.”
    Gray’s show about McTell is described as “lively, witty and acute, using unpredictable slices of loud music.” He is considered an expert on popular music history, bringing a unique outsider’s perspective to Georgia’s history and McTell’s claims to fame.
    “I’d like to think of it more of a performance,” Gray said. “I don’t stand behind and lectern, I don’t read from notes. I talk, I play a DVD and each talk that I’m doing is tailored to the place that I’m speaking. So, the one in Statesboro will have a good deal of how Statesboro’s history fits in with Willie and how Statesboro’s history helped form the person that Willie became.”
    Using McTell’s recordings and an array of new and old photographs, Gray will recount his adventures researching the book in some of the places McTell lived and performed, including Statesboro, where McTell grew up. Known locally as “Doog,” McTell owed much to the city’s formative influence, and even today some folks still recall the days when he was a much-loved figure often seen in public.
    Gray also is the author of “The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia” and “Song & Dance Man III: The Art Of Bob Dylan” – both comprehensive studies of Dylan’s work.
    Gray has performed at the Rock and roll hall of Fame in Cleveland and to sell-out crowds on US college campuses and at arts theaters, arts centers and festivals.

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