Year of the Blues

Yep, the Senate proclaimed it, and Little Milton Campbell returns to Sacramento to make it official

Little Milton, the ladies’ man, returns to make you sing, “Hey! Hey! The blues is all right.”

Little Milton, the ladies’ man, returns to make you sing, “Hey! Hey! The blues is all right.”

2 p.m. Sunday, February 9; at the Sacramento Horseman’s Club, 3200 Longview Drive; $15 advance (The Beat or or $17 at the door.

From the floor of the United States Senate last September came this resolution, designating the year beginning February 1, 2003, as the Year of the Blues:

“Whereas blues music is the most influential form of American roots music, with its impact heard around the world in rock and roll, jazz, rhythm and blues, country and even classical music;

“Whereas the blues is a national historic treasure, which needs to be preserved, studied and documented for future generations;

“Whereas the blues is an important documentation of African-American culture in the 20th century;

“Whereas the blues is the most celebrated form of American roots music, with hundreds of festivals held and millions of new or reissued blues albums released each year in the United States;

“Whereas the blues and blues musicians from the United States, whether old or new, male or female, are recognized and revered worldwide as unique and important ambassadors of the United States and its music;

“Whereas it is important to educate the young people of the United States to understand that the music that they listen to today has its roots and traditions in the blues;

“Whereas there are many living legends of the blues in the United States who need to be recognized and to have their story captured and preserved for future generations; and

“Whereas the year 2003 is the centennial anniversary of when W.C. Handy, a classically trained musician, heard the blues for the first time, in a train station in Mississippi, thus enabling him to compose the first blues music to distribute throughout the United States, which led to him being named ‘Father of the Blues’: Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Senate designates the year beginning February 1, 2003, as the ‘Year of the Blues’ and requests that the president issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the ‘Year of the Blues’ with appropriate ceremonies, activities and educational programs.”

Never one to be late to the party, Big Mike Balma and the Sacramento Heritage Festival people are getting right down to the Senate’s real nitty-gritty by throwing a 2003 Year of the Blues kickoff party that both sides of the aisle can attend.

Headlining is a magisterial man of soul-blues. Grammy winner Little Milton Campbell returns to Sacramento a full 10 years after his final performance at the lauded Sacramento Blues Festival, where he wowed the ladies as the regular headliner for 12 straight years.

“In my audience, you’ll have 75 percent females,” said Campbell, “which I love because they don’t mind screaming and letting you know. Guys, they want to be macho, and they don’t say too much. Yeah, I count on my ladies.”

For five decades now, fans have counted on his dramatic, pleading vocals, as he sings lyrics of dashed love punctuated by his T-Bone Walker/B.B. King-influenced guitar. On record, Campbell produces himself with strings, horns and background singers. Since 1984, he’s been with Malaco, a soul/R&B label based in Jackson, Miss. Before that, he had hits with every groundbreaking signature American roots imprint, including Memphis’ Sun and Stax labels and Chicago’s Chess Records. On Guitar Man, Campbell’s 2002 release, he closes with Paul Anka’s “My Way.” For Campbell, an entertainer who runs his own successful production company, his own booking agency and serves as his own producer, the song is a very personal statement.

W.C. Clark, the Texas guitarist, mesmerizing singer and “Godfather of the Blues” who wrote “Cold Shot” for Stevie Ray Vaughan, closes the show. The W.D. Gospel Singers bring “church and more” early on in the day, along with their special guest, Arbess Williams. And Balma always delivers on his brilliant down-home cooking and barbecue.

This extravaganza falls on the birthday of Sacramento blues legend Johnny Heartsman. For the sixth year, Heritage Festival proceeds from the Heartsman benefit will be used to buy musical instruments for local public school programs.

Hey, hey, the blues is all right.