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'There’s Nothin’ the Blues Can’t Heal ...' First Black Mountain Blues Festival is in July

Local Music Makers

Six Black Mountain venues will host 46 bluescentric acts that include a diverse assortment: hundreds of local, regional, national and international musicians.

The first blues album I listened to over and over again was BB King’s sixth studio recording called My Kind of Blues released by Chess Records in 1960. I heard it for the first time around 1979 at a party I attended while living in Tucson, AZ. The host spun nothing but blues records that night.

“My Own Fault” is the second track on side two. When it came on, I moved from where I was sitting, nearer to the stereo speakers to give it my full attention. When it was through, I lifted the needle and played it again. The next day, I went to the record store and purchased that album.

After that, it was all over but the cryin’.

Irma Thomas’s Soul Queen of New Orleans album from 1978 was given to me by a keyboard player I knew in Tucson. I was making plans to move to Austin, Texas around that time and I made up my mind that I was going to start a band when I got there and do every song on that record.

I formed Peggy & The Escorts and we played blues bars up and down the infamous Sixth Street in Downtown Austin. We learned and played (and I still perform) “Hittin’ On Nothin’”, “Ruler of My Heart”, “It’s Rainin’” and “Hip Shakin’ Mama” from that album. And Irma Thomas is still the Soul Queen of New Orleans.

One of my prized possessions is a framed, limited edition New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster from 2008 where Irma is the subject of artist Douglas Bourgeois’ winning entry. When I’m feeling down and out, I cue up that playlist and I look at her face in that painting hanging on my office wall, and I’m lifted.

When I moved here in 2002, determined to continue my pursuit of playing the blues, I started by coming up with the band name I still use – The Daddy LongLegs. The first guitar player I worked with, the late great Eual Owens, played his lap steel guitar on a wooden stand he crafted that was supported by what looked like the long legs of a spider. When we added 6’6” tall Duane Simpson to the lineup, the band name stuck.

It took three decades of playing the blues in Austin and here in WNC, putting out two “Blues Infused” CD’s and winning my way to the International Blues Challenge, to find the confidence and give myself (a white blues vocalist) permission to produce a show and present it, honoring women in blues history; the Queens and Black Pearls of a bygone era.

I hoped that 15 years of playing the premier venues here, like Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues where five of those years I hosted a jam, afforded me the clout to shine a light on this often-neglected sect of blues music trailblazers.

It was my way to honor our foremothers, while educating blues music supporters who had become my fan base. For two hours we explored their vital contributions, we celebrated their lives through their music. Sharing their profound legacies was helping keep the blues alive in WNC.

Eddie LeShure’s Jazz Cabaret Music Series (2013-2015) and The White Horse Black Mountain’s stage was my platform for the debut of Women in Blues History – 1920-present.

That was on July 25, 2014. Blues ingénue, Jesse Barry was my special guest, along with saxophone matriarch, beloved friend and journalist Ruby Mayfield who sadly, passed away in 2021.

The band was a stellar combo of Duane Simpson on guitar, Aaron Price on piano, Joshua Singleton on harmonica, Michael Hynes on bass and Patrick Armitage on drums. Evalina Everidge and Peggy Swain were my guest student vocalists. It was a sold out show.

With an energy ignited by WNC’s love of the blues, a few eager devotees and I started a short lived, but revered Blues Society that lasted from 2009-2012. The name, Southern Fried Blues Society was suggested by internationally acclaimed, SC native, Mac Arnold (Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, BB King, John Lee Hooker) who since 2006, continues to tour with his band, Plate Full O’ Blues.

We sent Piedmont band, WSNB to the International Blues Challenge that first year along with youth band, Skinny Legs & All.

As we come up on the 10th anniversary of the debut of my Women in Blues history show at White Horse Black Mountain, I think it fitting and serendipitous to now, invite all of you to attend the inaugural Black Mountain Blues Festival, this July 12th, 13th & 14th.

Produced by an energetic team consisting of LEAF Global’s Leigh Maher, artist curator Melissa McKinney, and White Horse Black Mountain’s owner and manager, Bob Hinkle and Mary Ellen Davis respectively, this will be a history making event I encourage you to attend.

Six Black Mountain venues will host 46 bluescentric acts that include a diverse assortment; hundreds of local, regional, national and international musicians and musician-singers. Guitarist Kelly Jones, bassist Zack Page and I are honored to be among them.

From the pen of co-director Leigh Maher, “LEAF Global Arts and White Horse Black Mountain collaborate to create a new event to honor the tradition of the Blues while also nodding towards the future and acknowledging its deep roots.”

Writer and digital creator, Pramela Thiagesan’s engaging interview with Melissa McKinney can be found on the Festival’s website (

Pramela writes: “…Melissa McKinney is a passionate advocate for music education, driven by second chances and fresh starts. Her role aligns perfectly with Black Mountain Blues’ mission to offer an authentic experience that pays homage to the roots, soul, and historical importance of Blues Music through education, community, music, and a celebration of resilience.”

From their interview:

PT: “What impact do you hope the Black Mountain Blues experience will have on attendees?”

MM: “I aspire for every attendee to leave with a renewed passion for the Blues, a deep appreciation for its history, and a list of Blues artists to follow and love. Experiencing great music has a way of getting our “souls shined up” – I hope that Black Mountain Blues is a soul shining experience for everyone who is a part of it.”

I wrote a song called “Blue Persuasion” back in 2009 that honor’s many of my influences. I believe the last line of the lyric encapsulates the sentiments this music invokes: “There’s nothin’ the Blues can’t heal.”

Peggy’s July shows and gigs:

Thurs July 4th – River Arts District Brewing with Kelly Jones, Time TBD

Sat July 6th – Invitational Blues Showcase, One World West 4pm-7pm

Sat July 13th – Black Mountain Blues Festival, Foothills Grange 1:15pm-2:30pm

Thurs July 18th – River Arts District Brewing with Kelly Jones, with special guest Jenny Bradley 7pm-9pm

Fri July 19th – Tryon Summer Tracks Music Series, Rogers Park Amphitheater – Sweet Summer Rock & Soul Revue, 7pm

Sun July 21st –Oklawaha Brewing Co, Hendersonville, 2pm-5pm

Sun July 28th – Southern Appalachian Brewing, Hendersonville with Bob Songster & Adam Rose 4pm-6pm

photo of Peggy Ratusz

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach,

song interpreter, and songwriter.

For vocal coaching email her at


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