Red, White and Blues at the White House

The House was a’rockin Tuesday night when the President and First Lady hosted a Black History Month salute to the blues featuring a host of artists ranging from longtime performers such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Mick Jagger to “the future of the blues” in Gary Clark Jr. to recent Grammy Award winners Susan TedeschiDerek Trucks, and the evening’s music director and bandleader, Booker T. Jones.

If you missed the live stream of the program on the web, here are a few of the night’s more memorable moments that you can look for in Monday’s edited broadcast on PBS (9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central):

  • Following opening remarks and an introduction from the President, B.B. King takes the stage, flanked by the evening’s other artists, with a “Let the Good Times Roll” that features King, Shemekia Copeland, and Susan Tedeschi on vocals, along with solos from Trombone ShortyJeff BeckWarren Haynes and Derek Trucks
  • After a performance of “The Thrill is Gone” from King, Trombone Shorty brings some Mardi Gras to the White House with “St. James Infirmary”
  • Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy offer a funky “Let Me Love You Baby”
  • Mick Jagger reminisces about meeting Sonny Boy Williamson in England and the Rolling Stones’ 1964 session at Chess studios between performances of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime” with Jeff Beck, and the Stones’ “Miss You” featuring Copeland and Tedeschi on background vocals and Jagger on harmonica
  • Copeland and guitarist Gary Clark Jr. take a turn on “Beat Up Old Guitar,” followed by Clark on “Catfish Blues” and the slow blues of Leroy Carr’s “In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down).” As good as the rest of the program was, Clark’s solo performance may well have been the evening’s main highlight
  • Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, and Warren Haynes offer a tribute to Etta James with “I’d Rather Go Blind”
  • Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr., and Jeff Beck join Mick Jagger on “Five Long Years,” with all but Beck taking a turn on vocals
  • In the evening’s finale, the “White House Blues All Stars” (as dubbed by the Chief Executive himself) offer an especially fitting “Sweet Home Chicago” that allows Guy, Copeland, Jagger, Tedeschi, Keb Mo, Haynes, and even Obama himself a turn on lead vocals, in addition to guitar solos from Clark and Trucks

If you haven’t surmised it by now, this was nothing short of a colossal night for the blues, and we applaud the White House, PBS, and, of course, the artists for sharing it with us and the students who made up the audience.

While you have to wait until Monday to see the full concert again on PBS (you can, of course, find segments of it – particularly the President’s participation – on YouTube and a few news outlet sites), you can view the blues workshop that took place earlier in the day – led by the Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum and featuring a panel of Trombone Shorty, Keb Mo, and Shemekia Copeland – on the White House website. And here are some nice photos of the concert, courtesy of The Washington Post.

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