Brooklyn Heights

St. Francis professor returns to her southern roots for new film

October 7, 2016 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
St. Francis College professor and filmmaker Augusta Palmer. Photo courtesy of St. Francis College

Augusta Palmer Produces ‘The Blues Society’

St. Francis College communication arts professor and Fort Greene filmmaker Augusta Palmer returned to her southern roots for her latest film project, “The Blues Society: A Documentary Film,” which explores The Memphis Blues Society, a collective of artists and musicians who shared their passion for blues in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Palmer also lived for a short time in Memphis, Tennessee, but it was her father who provided the strongest connection to The Memphis Blues Society. Robert Palmer was an author, music critic and member of the society. He was also a member of the jazz-rock group Insect Trust.

To complete the film, Palmer has begun collecting archival footage of the concerts the Blues Society produced, and she has interviewed several members. She is also in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds to continue principal shooting of the production in Memphis and on the West Coast.

In 1966, The Memphis Country Blues Society created its first festival with what society member Randall Lyon called a “heroic passion” for the blues. This collective from the counterculture launched an integrated music festival featuring bluesmen like Bukka White and Furry Lewis playing alongside younger white folk musicians like John Fahey at the Overton Park Band Shell (now the Levitt Shell), a space where staff restrooms were still segregated and the KKK had held a rally just one week before.

Even in the face of the violence following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, the Blues Society persevered. A recording from the 1968 festival became a major international release on Seymour Stein’s Sire Records, and the 1969 festival was broadcast nationally on “Sounds of the Summer,” hosted by Steve Allen. “The Blues Society” traces the journey of the festival from improvised local celebration to an event of national prominence. The film centers around the Memphis Blues festival and the racial tensions in the midst of the civil rights movement.

For more information, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-blues-society-a-documentary-film-music#/.

Palmer’s previous film, “A is for Aye-Aye, An Abecedarian Adventure” combined live-action and animation with vintage images selected from the New York Public Library (NYPL) Picture Collection to tell an alphabetical adventure. That movie was screened at film festivals across the country, including the BAMkids Film Festival in February, and it was also on display as part of the centennial celebration at the NYPL.

 

Leave a Comment