May 5th 2011 – Chicago, IL

The newly formed Blues Committee of the Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy was stunned by the announcement on April 6th 2011 that the Best Traditional Blues Album category and the Best Contemporary Blues Album category would be eliminated and replaced by the umbrella category: Best Blues Album of The Year.

The mission statement for our committee from the outset has been to bring more mainstream exposure to the genre and advocate on behalf of it so that it receives the recognition it is due for being the seminal music form (if not art form) ever to come out of America. One of our goals was to add one or two more categories to this diverse and vastly influential genre, for instance, best Blues Song of the Year and/or Best Vocal performance of the Year.

The differentiation between contemporary blues and traditional blues is key to understanding just how the more popular and supported music genres evolved. For instance, listening to the best contemporary blues album of the year replete with the highly electrified guitar and drum sounds, illustrates how Blues gave birth to Heavy Metal music and other rock forms. How else are the (and I quote from the Overview on the Grammy web site) “inheritors of America’s great cultural legacy” to understand the history of their inheritance? Not to mention that instead of two blues artists receiving recognition each year, only one will have this career-changing honor bestowed upon him or her. And only one artist will reap the rewards that this award affords the recipient.

Why is this? Why is it that the genre that literally spawned Jazz, Rock and Roll, hard rock/Metal, Rap, R&B, Soul Music, Zydeco Music, House Music (and the list goes on) has been relegated to receive, at first, only two awards and now just one? If the mission statement of the Academy is “to positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members and our society at large” then why has the taproot of all American music been left to wither?

The blues committee feels this decision has added injury to insult and we are now more energized than ever to appeal to the Academy not to follow the tradition of mainstream America and marginalize the needs of a music form that should be considered a national treasure. It was the “British invasion” that hipped white America to The Blues. And this attention brought Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and their contemporaries out of obscurity and afforded a few of them a living. We remember: when Keith Richards met Muddy Waters, Muddy was standing on a ladder painting the ceiling at Chess Records.

If we hope (and again I quote the mission statement of the Academy) “to positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members and our society at large” we must put an end to the marginalization of Blues music in America and what better place to start than with The Grammy? If you are indeed (in your words again) “the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position” this should not be an issue.

The Blues Committee intends to launch a campaign this summer to increase membership of Blues professionals.

We appreciate your consideration in these matters and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the Academy.

(Written by Matthew Skoller on behalf of the Blues Committee of the Recording Academy Chicago Chapter)