The Blues is deeply rooted in American history, particularly African American history, and many of the most important recordings in Blues history were made at the studio of Paramount Records. The company, which was founded in 1917 as a subsidiary of a company which made phonograph cabinets, was the home to Blues legends such as Alberta Hunter, Lucille Hegamin, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, considered by many as the “Mother of the Blues.”
Thanks to Tony Award winning-director Kenny Leon’s Atlanta-based True Colors Theater Company, the little-known story of Paramount Records is unfolding on the stage. Chasin’ Dem Blues featuring acclaimed performers Brad Raymond, Maiesha McQueen, Anthony David, Jeremy Cohen, Spencer Bean and Che Marshall and an incredible set and costumes opened on July 7 at Atlanta’s Southwest Performing Arts Center.
Brad Raymond plays “Blue,” a singer who helps to tell the Paramount story. Maiesha McQueen is cast in the role of “Queen,” a singer who is the female side of the show and provides a rousing rendition of Handy Man. Jeremy Cohen is the show’s music director and also acts, sings, dances and helps to narrate the history of the music. The cast is rounded out with Atlanta-based Neo-soul singer Anthony David who provides guitar playing and singing along with Che Marshall on the drums, and Spencer Bean on guitar.
The production, which has been heralded as a “foot-stomping, multi-media musical celebration, which thrills audiences with storytellers’ accounts,” was written and directed by Kevin Ramsey. Ramsey, according to his bio, “is committed to the historical examination and retelling of the African-American musical experience(s), and its artistic contribution to American and world culture.” Ramsey did a lot of research in order to relay the importance of the role a Wisconsin furniture company turned record company played in the development and rise of one of the most significant musical genres in the early 20th century.
Due to high demand, Chasin’ Dem Blues has been extended and now runs through Aug. 9. For ticket information: www.truecolorstheatre.org.
Listen to writer & director Kevin Ramsey talk about his inspiration for this piece.