From Bob Corritore
March 4, 2009
- RIP John Cephas 7/4/1930-3/4/09: Steve Hecht of Piedmont Talent reports that Piedmont blues legend John Cephas (AKA "Bowling Green" John Cephas) passed away at his home today of natural causes. He was 78. He had retired from music recently due to illness. John Cephas was born July 4, 1930, in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, D.C. in a musical and religious family. He picked up the guitar at an early age, and learned gospel from his family and blues from some of the records available to him. He mastered a gentle finger picking style that has become known as the Piedmont style of blues guitar. He first worked was as a gospel artist touring with the Capital Harmonizers. In the early 1970s, he was heard by pianist Big Chief Ellis and hired Cephas to play guitar in his band. Cephas appears as a sideman on Ellis's beautiful album on the Trix label. It was in Ellis's band the Cephas met a young harmonica player by the name of Phil Wiggins. This meeting would become an enduring and highly celebrated partnership. The duo of Cephas and Wiggins has made numerous great records on labels such as L+R, Flying Fish, Evidence, Bullseye Blues, Alligator, and Chesky, In 1989 John Cephas won a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship with The National Endowment for the Arts. In 1996, Cephas and Wiggins won the W. C. Handy Award for the Best Traditional Album of the Year, and were also named Blues Entertainers of the Year. In 1988, Cephas received a Washington, D.C., Mayor's Arts Award. Just last week, he was awarded the Library Of Virginia's 2009 African-American Trailblazers in Virginia History award. Cephas was also the founder of the Washington, D.C. Blues Society, and served on the Executive Committee Of The National Council For the Traditional Arts. A sweet, unassuming man with a rich voice and phenomenal, yet understated guitar ability, John takes with him his true representation of the Southeastern blues tradition. Thanks, John, for all the great music you gave us.