Blues great B.B. King was a double winner at the 22nd Annual W.C. Handy Blues Awards in Memphis, Tennessee at the end of May. King took home the awards for Entertainer of the Year and Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.
"Ten Long Years" appears on "Riding With The King," the B.B. King-Eric Clapton album which earned King one of the evening's most coveted prizes at this year's W.C. Handy Blues Awards. Named after "Father of the Blues" William Christopher Handy, the awards were held at the Orpheum Theatre near B.B. King's world-famous Beale Street nightclub. Receiving this award was a fitting tribute to the 75-year-old guitarist and singer once known as "The Beale Street Blues Boy" who cut his first record in Memphis over 50 years ago.
The other double-award winner was singer Shemekia Copeland for Contemporary Female Artist and Blues Album of the Year. Shemekia Copeland is the daughter of the late blues guitarist Johnny Clyde Copeland. She was the opening act for her father during the last few years of his life. She recorded her first album at age 19 and recently followed up with her award-winning album "Wicked." With a deep, powerful voice and perfect sense of timing, Shemekia is already drawing comparisons to Aretha Franklin and Etta James.
Etta James was one of three performers inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. The 63-year-old singer also took home the W.C. Handy Award for Soul Female Artist of the Year. James began singing gospel music in her church choir but was drawn to R&B music in her teens. She had her first hit with "Wallflower" in 1955 and continued to have success throughout the 1960s. Her version of the Ray Charles hit "Come Back Baby" is from her latest album "Matriarch of the Blues."
No stranger to blues awards, Taj Mahal and his Phantom Blues Band won for Blues Band of the Year. Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band with "Corrina" from their live album "Shoutin' In Key."
Other W.C. Handy Award winners included Son Seals, Keb Mo', Koko Taylor, Irma Thomas, Otis Spann, Little Milton, Robert Lockwood, Jr., James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, the North Mississippi All-Stars and Roomful of Blues. Etta James, Rufus Thomas and Junior Parker were this year's inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Sponsored by the Blues Foundation, the W.C. Handy Awards were hosted by previous award winner Dr. John and featured performances by Taj Mahal, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and a veteran of the Chicago blues scene, singer and guitarist Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater.