November 19, 2009


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Blues players lend a helping hand
Bring a turkey, hear some tunes
By Michael Witthaus

In the latest example of the music scene giving back to those in need, a blues show benefiting Friends of Forgotten Children will be held on Sunday, Nov. 22, at its headquarters in Concord. The family-friendly event begins at 3 p.m. and features two of the area’s most venerable bands: Dr. Harp’s Blues Revue, and the Brooks Young Band. 

The show is free to the public, but guests are urged to bring a frozen turkey.

“It’s a first-time event,” said the organization’s director, Andy Barnes. “If we get 60 turkeys, I’ll be thrilled.” Donations of other perishable food items or cash are also welcome — the suggested amount is $10.

Friends of Forgotten Children is the Concord area’s largest private service provider.

“First and foremost, we’re a food pantry,” Barnes said. “We serve over 5,000 families a year.” The group’s pantry also stocks items like soap, detergent and toothbrushes, items that can’t be purchased with food stamps.

Tough economic times have caused demand for the organization’s services to grow, Barnes said: “We’re on a pace to be up about 30 percent higher than it was last year.”

The idea for a benefit came after Dennis “Dr. Harp” Martin had a conversation with Brian Tilton, host of the weekday Bulldog Live program on Bow talk radio station WTPL-FM.

Dr. Harp asked his longtime friend for help locating a venue for a show to help feed hungry families at Thanksgiving.

“Immediately, I thought of Friends of Forgotten Children,” Tilton said. Bulldog made a quick call to Barnes, and the wheels for the benefit concert were in motion.

“Dr. Harp is giving a very special gift to the community,” Tilton said. “I have no doubt it will respond well to enjoying a free concert in exchange for donating a turkey, cash or other food items to help the needy of our community. It’s a perfect fit.”

Asked why it’s important to do this kind of event, Martin said simply, “I’m going to sit down with 15 people in my family [for the holidays]. I’m fortunate enough to have a home now, and I know what it’s like, because I’ve been on that other end of that — going to a soup kitchen just to have a Thanksgiving dinner.” 

Martin’s four-piece band specializes in the driving boogie blues popularized by Johnny Winter, George Thorogood and the J. Geils Band, a sound that owes equal debts to Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker. Martin took up the harmonica at age 10; over a 30-year professional career, he’s performed all over the world, including the former Soviet Union, and opened for everyone from B.B. King to Steppenwolf.

Brooks Young is a rising star in the blues world. He and Martin met at a Dr. Harp-hosted open-mike night at Blues-ology in Belmont a few years back and have been friends since. “He’s a great guitarist, very focused and he’s doing well,” Martin said.

Young has sat in on guitar with the Dr. Harp Blues Revue Band in the past. Lately, he’s been in the studio working on an upcoming album of original material, and he’ll share the stage with James Montgomery and J. Geils in Franklin next month.

Hear it live
Who: Dr. Harp’s Blues Revue Band, Brooks Young Band
Where: 224 Bog Road, Concord
When: Sunday, Nov. 22, 3-7 p.m.
Admission: Frozen turkey, perishable food items or $10