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

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Album cover credit: Mark Austin


“Lord Hold My Hand”

Latest Release

Albert Smith - Thumbnail

Albert Smith, Big Belly Mama
Out 2.1.22


Press Results  |  See All

American Blues Scene Exclusive: “Down in Burningham”

Exclusive: Music Maker Relief Foundation Presents Albert Smith’s "Down in Burningham""Born in 1912 in Rembert, South Carolina, Albert began playing...

American Blues Scene Premiere: “Lord Hold My Hand”

Exclusive: Dedicated Men of Zion Premiere Funky Sacred Soul Single "Lord Hold My Hand""With Bruce Watson of Fat Possum at the helm, they have...

American Blues Scene Premiere: “Red Mama Blues”

Premiering exclusively today is the slow-burning “Red Mama Blues""Three years after her passing, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins’ first live album, In...

Uncut Review: Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Sacred Soul of North Carolina: Songs of praise, Southern style"3 1/2 stars...the stripped-back quality of the production has the effect of a...

Indy Week Review: Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Twenty Triangle Releases That Made This Long Year Better"Recorded in February 2020 in the small eastern North Carolina town of Fountain in an...

Folk Alley Previews Beverly “Guitar” Watkins Live Album

Music Maker to release live album of seminal blues guitarist Beverly “Guitar” Watkins"Coming in March 2022, blues label and nonprofit Music Maker...

American Routes Interviews Tim Duffy of Music Maker Foundation

Music of Healing & Elixirs: Little Freddie King, Anders Osborne, Dr. Michael White, & Music Maker Relief Foundation"Tim Duffy of the Music Maker...

Working Mojo Review: The Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Preaching the Blues of Gospel"Gospel and blues are two different art forms, but ones that are linked, not just in their foundations in African...

The Alternate Root Review: The Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Review: ​Various Artists, The Sacred Soul of North Carolina"Sourcing a tradition that reaches as far back as the 17th century, the dozen and a half...

Journal of Gospel Music Gives 5* Review to Sacred Soul of North Carolina

5 Stars: Various Artists, Sacred Soul of North Carolina"Among the highlights are Bible & Tire artists Dedicated Men of Zion singing “It’s a...

American Blues Scene Premiere: Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Exclusive: The Johnsonaires Premiere "Trying To Make It" From Sacred Soul Of North Carolina"The group is made up of all brothers whose musical...

Queen City Nerve Review: Sacred Soul of North Carolina

Eastern North Carolina Gospel Takes Center Stage in ‘Sacred Soul’"Daniels’ declaration, connecting intimately and one-on-one with the listener,...

Press Releases  |  See All

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...

Bruce Watson’s Bible & Tire Recording Co. Joins with Music Maker Foundation to Examine Quartet Tradition on New Compilation Sacred Soul of North Carolina, To Be Released October 15

Accompanying Documentary Film Out Oct. 5 Via FolkstreamsWhen Tim Duffy of the Music Maker Foundation took Memphis’ Bruce Watson (Fat Possum Records,...

Livestream Music Series Honoring Legendary Grammy-Winner Elizabeth ‘Libba’ Cotten

Performances by Amythyst Kiah, Johnny Ray Daniels, The Hamiltones, Alexa Rose, and Harvey Dalton ArnoldLivestream each concert via the links below:...

For Struggling Musicians without Internet, Vaccine Is a Phone Call Away

After year of unprecedented artist struggle, Music Maker Relief Foundation moves to fill the gaps, stave off pawn shops and predatory loans“One of...

Hiss Golden Messenger, Mandarin Orange, Phil Cook Highlight NC’s Online Freight Train Blues Concert Series 5/22-6/19

Livestream Music Series Honoring Piedmont Blues Woman Elizabeth 'Libba' Cotten To Feature N.C. ArtistsTune into the livestream via: Facebook LIVE:...

Cathead Donates Hand Sanitizer To Blues Artists In Need

Mississippi's Cathead Distillery Donates Hand Sanitizer to Blues Artists In PovertyIn the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi’s Cathead...

How COVID Is Affecting Aging Blues Musicians

And What Music Maker Relief Foundation Is Doing To Help Since 1994, Music Maker Relief Foundation (MMRF) has helped over 500 musicians and has been...

MMRF Brings Blues Revue to New Orleans Jazzfest

Former Bourbon Street performer Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen returns to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane KatrinaNew Orleans, L.A. – The...


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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