Lovely Eden Brent performed a couple songs solo piano next followed by one of the highlights for me, Joe Louis Walker. Walker was nominated for five awards, one of them for his song "I'm Tide" which is the tune he and his band opened with. The band was tight and Joe Louis pierced the room with some fierce guitar leads on that as well as "If There's A Heaven." These performances were followed by 96-year old Pinetop Perkins coming to the stage to present Brent with the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of The Year award.
One of the happiest moments for me was seeing Curis Salgado receive the award for Soul Blues Male Artist of The Year. Salgado wowed the crowd at Rum Boogie the night before with Nick Moss & The Flip Tops et al and was such a deserving winner. I don't know how many people leaped to their feet when he was announced but I sure as hell did.
The next two signature moments of the night were the Koko Taylor tribute and presentation of the award newly named in her honor to Debbie Davies and the Buddy Guy tribute leading up to his Lifetime Achievement Award. Koko Taylor passed away shortly after her performance at the BMAs last year, her final performance ever. Taylor's daughter Cookie was on hand to present the award now named for her mother and Davies, while excited for her win, seemed aware this moment belonged to the legacy of Koko Taylor.
For the Guy tribute, John Primer played Buddy's early hit "Mary Had A Little Lamb," famously covered by Stevie Ray Vaughan on his debut Texas Flood followed by a spirited, high-octane performance of "Hoodoo Man Blues" by Billy Branch. "Hoodoo" is actually a Junior Wells song but Guy and Wells made several records together and Guy played lead on that particular song and album when it was recorded.
Blues Foundation president Jay Sieleman read a prepared tribute to Guy before bringing Raitt and Guy to the stage. For a few moments, Guy seemed almost bashful and looked down at his shoes as praise was heaped on him. The timidity didn't last long as Guy strode to center stage, picked up his Stratocaster, and led into an atomic performance of "Damn Right I've Got The Blues." I hope and pray those filming the performance didn't find me during this because at one point I leaped to my feet and threw my arms into the air, uplifted by the intensity of the performance of one of my heroes. Guy had the crowd eating out of his hands as he brought the song to a hushed crawl before blowing things up one more time. He has been known as one of the finest, flashiest showmen around and he finished his performance by doing something I still haven't quite figured out- he thanked the crowd, set his guitar down, and left the band onstage to finish, never to be seen again.