Music Maker Foundation

Latest Release

Sacred Soul of North Carolina - Thumbnail

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Live in Paris 
Out 3.18.22

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Sacred Soul of North Carolina - Thumbnail

Click here to download high res photos
Album cover credit: Mark Austin


“Lord Hold My Hand”


“The Devil Don’t Like It”
DMZ – Official Music Video

Latest Release

Albert Smith - Thumbnail

Sugar Harp, Sugar Is My Name
Out 7.1.22


“Sugar Harp Is My Name”
Sugar Harp

Latest Release

Albert Smith - Thumbnail

Albert Smith, Big Belly Mama
Out 2.1.22

Latest Release

Johnny Ray Daniels - Thumbnail - Credit Bill Reynolds

Johnny Ray Daniels, Whatever You Need
4.15.22 (Bible & Tire Recording Company)

High Res Photos

Johnny Ray Daniels - Thumbnail - Credit Bill Reynolds


“I Shall Not Be Moved”
Johnny Ray Daniels”


Press Results  |  See All

Arts Fuse Highlights DMZ

Dedicated Men of Zion - July 28 - Boston Museum of Fine Arts"About once in a generation one of those groups makes the leap to the roots music...

Blues Blast Magazine Review: Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, In Paris!

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins – In Paris! | Album Review"This is a good insight into what made Beverly Watkins a great live performer, even at 73 years...

American Blues Scene Premiere: Sugar Harp

Exclusive: Harmonica Master Sugar Harp Premieres Title Track "Sugar Is My Name""When Charles Burroughs was 8 years old in Tampa, Florida, his...

The Audio Beat 4-Star Review: Johnny Ray Daniels

4 Stars: Johnny Ray Daniels, Whatever You Need"This album presents a tight set of sacred-soul music, a particularly spicy flavor of gospel that’s...

Daily Tar Heel Highlights Freight Train Blues

Freight Train Blues concert series brings Southern Folk and Blues music to Carrboro"Music Maker Foundation is holding a series of free concerts at...

All Music Review: Johnny Ray Daniels, Whatever You Need

Whatever You Need, review by Thom Jurek"Whatever You Need is the debut album from 76-year-old North Carolina-based singer/guitarist Johnny Ray...

Journal of Gospel Music Highlights Johnny Ray Daniels

After Seven Decades, it’s Johnny Ray Daniels’ Season"And Johnny Ray Daniels didn’t release his first solo album until age 76. It’s never too late...

Paste Review: Johnny Ray Daniels & DMZ

New & Notable Vinyl Releases: Record Store Day 2022 Edition"Johnny Ray Daniels is musical royalty in his native North Carolina."  |  Read More at...

Rock & Roll Globe Premiere: Johnny Ray Daniels, “Jesus Is Waiting”

We are proud to premiere the new single off the 76-year-old Sacred Soul vet’s long-awaited solo debut"And that’s why we are beyond thrilled to...

Mimi Spotlights New Beverly “Guitar” Watkins Track

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, "Do The Breakdown""It takes us back to the funk era, and although she’s no longer with us, hearing her play and perform...

Audiofemme Review: Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

MUSIQUE BOUTIQUE: Juanita Euka, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Karen Dalton, Irma Thomas"Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is another musician who broke ground as...

No Depression Review: Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

New Recording Shows Beverly ‘Guitar’ Watkins Rocking Hard"But slap a guitar in her hands, turn on the stage lights, and Beverly Watkins was...

Press Releases  |  See All

Dedicated Men of Zion Confirm NPR Mountain Stage, Northeast Tour, As Raves for ‘The Devil Don’t Like It’ (Bible & Tire) Roll In

Dedicated Men of Zion (DMZ) – the North Carolina sacred soul family quartet that’s been featured in an NPR Tiny Desk Concert – has confirmed a...

Bawdy Humor and Soulful Sounds Mark Alabama Harmonica Master Sugar Harp’s Debut Album Sugar Is My Name

Music Maker Relief Foundation to Release Album June 1 on CD to Its Listeners Circle, July 1 to the General Public via Streaming and DownloadFlames...

Out This Week: “Soul-Stirring” (Paste) Johnny Ray Daniels Marks Solo Debut at 76 Years Old

Getting his start with rock and roll band The Soul Twisters before becoming multi-instrumentalist for sacred soul legends the Glorifying Vines...

Legends and New Discoveries from the Mississippi Delta & Beyond Feature On Putumayo’s Blues Cafe Album Out This Week In Collaboration With Music Maker Foundation

Putumayo is pleased to present Blues Café, a captivating collection of laidback blues by legends and new discoveries from the Mississippi Delta and...

Music Maker Foundation’s Eighth Annual “Freight Train Blues” Concert Series Returns In-Person May 13-June 10 After Two Years of Virtual Events

Artists Include Jimi Hendrix Collaborator Hermon Hitson, Documentary Film Subjects The Branchettes, Grammy Nominee Joe Troop, & Music Maker Blues...

This Week, Music Maker Foundation Releases Beverly “Guitar” Watkins’ Smoking Concert Album In Paris

“Fiery.”--New York Times “A total bad-ass.”--Guitar Player “Queen of the Blues Guitar”--Guitar World “One of the greats.”--She Shreds In the 1990s,...

NPR Tiny Desk Alums Dedicated Men of Zion (DMZ) Confirm Second Album The Devil Don’t Like It, Out March 4 on Bible & Tire

Bruce Watson Produced Album, Which Also Features Grammy Winner Matt Ross-Spang on Guitar“The world needs this music right now.” –Robin Hilton, NPR...

Music Maker Foundation Sets Release of In Paris, a Previously Unreleased Smoking Beverly “Guitar” Watkins Set, for March 18

South Carolina Barrelhouse Pianist Albert Smith's Debut Album Big Belly Mama to See Release As Part of MMF's Exclusive Listeners Circle Series on...

Cathead Distillery Pays Homage to Blues-Inspired Roots with Limited Edition ‘Tintype” Old Soul Bourbon

The first edition in this new series from Mississippi's oldest distillery now availableJackson, MS & Hillsborough, NC — Cathead Distillery,...

NPR Music, Mojo, More Hail Field-Recorded Sacred Soul of North Carolina Album and Film (Bible & Tire Recording Co./Music Maker Foundation)

Outlets like NPR, MOJO, WNYC, and DownBeat are hailing Sacred Soul of North Carolina, the compilation album and half-hour documentary film out last...

Bruce Watson’s Bible & Tire Recording Co. & Music Maker Relief Foundation Share Soul-Jolting New Single “Shake Me” by Bishop Albert Harrison & The Gospel Tones from ‘Sacred Soul of North Carolina’

Album and accompanying film recorded in the field in makeshift recording studio in rural, eastern NC right before pandemicBible & Tire Recording...


Charles “Sugar Harp” Burroughs


When Charles Burroughs was 8 years old, his great-grandfather would simultaneously blow harp and strum a handmade guitar formed from an orange crate and broomsticks. Charles would say, “Grandaddy, I need to do that.”

If you witness what Charles describes as his “down in the gutter, back alley, storytelling blues” today, you’ll know he inherited his great-grandfather’s creativity and musical talent. In the decades since he first picked up the harmonica, he has more than earned his moniker, Sugar Harp.

But recently, Sugar Harp found himself sugarless and harpless. On November 26, 2019, driving his van — packed with all of his treasured belongings, including his harmonicas — through his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, Sugar Harp noticed a driver in another vehicle motioning to him frantically. Sugar’s van was becoming engulfed in flames. Moments later, Sugar acted on instinct, jumping out of the moving vehicle, and rolling on the ground to extinguish the fire that had spread and caught onto his jacket. Sugar was completely distraught, and soon thereafter, when the pandemic hit, he worried he might be done playing the harmonica for good.

But a year and a half later, with the help of a few friends, Sugar had a new ride, a set of harmonicas, and an optimistic attitude. He joined Music Maker in Birmingham in May of 2021 to record a few songs. Upon first introductions, Sugar seemed like a wise, reserved, wordly professor. But despite his quiet demeanor, once you get Sugar started talking or singing, his passion and joy for the music is clear. Sugar has a way with words in his songs: His original lyrics are a little raunchy, full of innuendo but always clever. He guides listeners to draw their own conclusions, never saying anything X-rated outright, keeping his shows technically family-friendly but keeping the audience cracking up.

Sugar Harp was born Charles Burroughs on August 29, 1947.

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins


Few people outside Atlanta, Georgia, remember a rhythm and blues artist named Piano Red. But those who do know of him believe that Red’s barrelhouse piano style paved the way for the success of artists like Ray Charles. Red was the first blues musician ever to hit the pop charts with his 1950 recording, “Rocking With Red.”

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was Red’s guitar player beginning in 1959. “I was a senior in high school when I started playin’ with Piano Red,” Watkins once said. “I started travelin’ before I graduated. Piano Red would go to the principal and get permission so I could take my lessons on the road.” Beverly played with Red until 1965, when Red’s band, which had gone by several different names as they toured nationally, broke up. In the years that followed, she played with a host of different musicians, including greats such as James Brown, B.B. King, and Ray Charles.

It was in 1995 when Music Maker first crossed paths with Beverly. She was playing one of her regular gigs in Underground Atlanta, an entertainment district built in the viaducts beneath the center of downtown. Beverly’s style was extraordinarily flashy, and one of her trademarks was playing her guitar behind her head. Soon after, Music Maker began working with this fierce Southern grandma, and got her touring and playing package shows, including a 1998 revue called Women of the Blues: “Hot Mamas.” A year later, we released her first solo album, “Back in Business.” When the great Taj Mahal heard Beverly he fell in love with her playing and took her on a 42-city tour with him. We’ll always remember Beverly “Guitar” Watkins’ flash, her sass, and her extraordinary guitar playing.

Liner Notes:

If you ran across Beverly “Guitar” Watkins playing at Underground Atlanta, you might never know that she was a guitar veteran who had been in the trenches with Piano Red, James Brown, B.B. King, and Ray Charles. By the time these recordings were made in 2012, Watkins had regained some of her notoriety with a string of groove-heavy albums for Music Maker that focused on her stellar songwriting. The bulk of these songs is original material, with one reprise of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.”

On this fiery set recorded in Paris, Watkins is backed by vets, including rhythm guitarist Albert White (Elvin Bishop, Clarence Carter, Ben E. King, Ray Charles, Joe Tex), keyboard player Eddie Tigner (formerly of The Ink Spots), and Lil Joe Burton (Bobby Womack, Otis Clay, B.B. King).

Everywhere she played, from Atlanta taverns to Lincoln Center, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was beloved, but in few places was she more treasured than in France. Listening back a decade later, one can imagine Watkins slinging her guitar behind her head and giving an all-out, wild, sweaty performance to an admiring crowd.

Albert Smith


When you talked with Albert Smith, you’d find him a gentle, soft-spoken man. But when he sat down at the piano and began to play and sing, he transformed. He played in a rollicking, barrelhouse style. When he sang the gospel or blues, it brought out of him shouts that sounded as if they came straight from the bottom of his soul.

Born in 1912 in Rembert, South Carolina, Albert began playing piano when he was 15 years old on an instrument his parents bought him from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. For his entire life, he lived on his family’s farm in Rembert. He made his living playing music In church and teaching piano lessons.

When we met Albert, he was still playing his first piano, but it would no longer stay in tune. The following week, Music Maker sent him a good used piano. He loved it. Albert was offered shows all over the country, but he refused every one. “I’m not much for traveling,” he said. “I like being around home.”

About Music Maker Foundation

Music Maker Foundation, a nonprofit organization, preserves and promotes the musical traditions of the American South which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2019. Since 1994 they have partnered with senior roots musicians living in poverty, sustaining their day-to-day needs while building their careers. Through Music Maker, our rich musical heritage will not be lost with the passing of time. Music Maker has been featured on PBS NewsHour, NPR Weekend Edition and CBS Evening News and has assisted hundreds of musicians. In February, 2019, Z2 will release a graphic novel in partnership with Music Maker; Music Maker will release a 25th anniversary music album; and Tim Duffy will release his third book of photographs and words entitled Blue Muse, published by UNC Press and the New Orleans Museum of Art. More information on Music Maker and their anniversary is available at

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