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Rebecca Dawkins of the Nouveaux Honkies

This is one of my favorite photos (from among the 25,000 or so photos on my website). As a photographer, I love her tatoos and think this image really highlights, both her tatoos and the power and grace of her music. Incidently, her right arm has a tatoo of a woman playing a violin. (her?) Rebecca is half of a duo known as the Nouveaux Honkies. The other half is Tim O’Donnell, who plays guitar and sings, and writes many of their song. They sometimes add drums, and/or a bass or a steel guitar and become a full band.

Note tatoo of herself on right arm

I was able to catch the Nouveaux Honkies at a bunch of different places along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, from Palm Beach to Fort Pierce, during the years I spent January/February on Hutchinson Island. Sometimes they were a duo, sometimes a 4-piece band. I think one of the things that originally attracted me to them was the blues that was in their music. I grew to enjoy them more as I discovered that there was so much more than Blues in there. They performed in an easygoing, sometimes folksy, but always unique, way – I was hooked! They were one of my favorite bands during those years. I believe I caught them not all that long after they began playing as the Nouveaux Honkies.

Eddie’s and other autographs on Chef John’s wall

Rebecca & Eddie Kirkland at Chef John’s

I saw them at Chef John’s (unfortunately no longer open), in Jupiter in early February 2011. They were playing with Eddie Kirkland, “The Gypsy of the Blues.” It was a great night of music! In earlier years, Tim had been a part of the backup band Kirkland had often used in the past, when playing in that part of Florida. (Unfortunately Kirkland was killed a couple of weeks later, February 27 on a highway in Homousassa, FL, when his car was hit by a Greyhound bus. (Eddie Kirkland was a storied bluesman. Watch for a separate blog with my captures of him, and stories from people who knew him.)

Music started in church for both Rebecca and Tim. She played in the school band, and majored in classical music, playing violin at the University of South Carolina. After playing there for a while she moved to Port Salerno, Florida (a small commercial fishing town). That’s where Tim grew up. Tim started on drums, moved to guitar, and played with several bands, off and on for several years. He says the reason he loves to play “is because it beats hot tar roofing in July.” They met at a local jam, and began playing together – The Nouveaux Honkies were born, and they gradually became popular throughout South Florida. Then for eight or so years they lived in a rebuilt RV and began touring much of the country. Tim says they are now “bi-statual”splitting their time between homes in Knoxville and Port Salerno, in south Florida.

It’s a little hard for me to describe their music – a mix of genres, songs with great stories (written by Tim) sometimes humorous, sung lightheartedly by Rebecca, always tight musically. Rebecca is a warm, always smiling performer, who really seems to have fun while she’s fiddling and singing. She really engages with the audience. Both are great musicians. They often play to, and off, each other, sometimes when doing light-hearted songs like “Big Heart, Hard Head,” and “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.” Maybe I should let Tim describe their music – “mother lovin’, country folkin’, blues.” Or perhaps a writer for the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, says it best – “If Johnny Cash and Freddy King had a baby it would be the Nouveaux Honkies.”

Whatever it is, I love their music and I love photographing them while performing. Rebecca’s ever-present smile and animated performing style elevates the “music for your eyes.” I’m glad Rebecca moved from South Carolina, and certainly agree with Tim – It’s good that he gave up roofing, in July, or any other time.

I haven’t seen the Nouveaux Honkies for five years now, but, as of this posting, Nouveaux Honkies are currently playing South Florida venues, including regularly at Gettin’ Crabby and Pirates Cove in Port Salerano, and weekly at Terra Fermata, in Stuart,

Plenty of tunes on youtube, including, this on their 5th CD – “Loud In Here.”:


Uncle Jessie White

Uncle Jessie White – 2004 [digitized portrait]

This image is based on a photo taken at the Attic Bar in Hamtramck (a small city surrounded by Detroit) MI, in 2004. It is one of my very first attempts at using software to digitally alter a photograph. And it is one of my favorites. I think it shows Uncle Jessie White in a dignified way, which I believe is well deserved. Uncle Jessie White is a true Detroit legend. While a humble man, I see him as larger than life (as depicted), a giant and respected man on Detroit’s Blues scene.

Uncle Jessie White was born in Terry, Mississippi on September 24, 1920, and he died in Detroit January 29th, 2008. He began playing music when he was 9, a harp, and played off and on until he was about 20 years old, when he stopped music completely. He had a hard life. He began picking cotton when he was 5- years-old, plowed with a mule, worked in a saw mill and in gambling houses. He left it all that when his parents died, moving to Detroit in 1950. In Detroit he made his living as a junkman, collecting discarded items, scraps of all kinds from neighborhoods and where ever else he found it, then sold it to scrap yards.

An excellent documentary – “Uncle Jessie White: Portrait of a Delta Blues Man in Detroit,” 20 years in the making, provides a very personal insight into the life and music of Uncle Jessie. (see link below)

He began playing music again in the 1960’s when Detroit’s Butler Twins (Clarence and Curtis), began coming around playing music. That seems to be the beginning of what developed into Uncle Jessie’s famed weekend-long jams. His house on 29th Street became a place where local musicians came to play music, and young ones came to learn. Uncle Jessie played piano and harmonica, and he sang. The music continued all-night, off and on, from Friday night thru Sunday night. I hear that some people stayed until time to get back to work at the factories on Monday morning. Sometimes well-known musicians in town for a gig would stop by Uncle Jessie’s house jam. There are many stories about those weekends at Uncle Jessie’s house.

Uncle Jessie and the 29th Street Band at the Attic Bar — shelves covered with heirlooms. Jeff Grand – guitar; Betty Brownley – bass; Uncle Jessie White – piano.

Later he had a regular weekly gig at the Attic Bar for about 20 years, until it was sold in 2007. The Attic Bar was really like a Blues joint – nothing fancy, just the Blues. It featured most of the local Blues bands, several nights every week. While he played in other places around town – the Attic Bar was perfect for him. I believe the bar got its name from all the “antique” items scattered on shelves near the ceiling – things that might well have come from grandma’s attic.

One unique thing about Uncle Jessie was his “rig.” It hung around his neck, and held a microphone and his harmonica, leaving his hands free to play the piano. Over the years there were several different versions of the rig. All were made from an incredible array of salvaged materials he gathered while “junking.” One used what appeared to be the handle of a lawn mower to hang the rig around his neck. Another used clamps from car battery charger cables to hold his harmonica to the rig. Then, a bent piece of copper tubing to hold the rig away from his chest. And what seemed to be the plastic bottom of a milk crate, or the wire bottom of shopping cart, as the base of the collection of repurposed items. It looked uncomfortable, but did serve its purpose.

Uncle Jessie at piano, wearing one of his “rigs.”
Uncle Jessie with another “rig.”

The piano at the Attic Bar that Uncle Jessie used is also unique. The stains on the white keys on the left are said to be dried blood from his his fingers, dry and cracked from age. The missing paint and scratches on the board at the back of the keys come from the way he played the piano – often sort of clawing at the keys, rather than the playing in the style that a symphony concert pianist might play.

Piano at the Attic Bar

Uncle Jessie White was a kind and gentle man, with a wry sense of humor – he once described an incident in a gambling joint when a woman who stabbed him in his arm back in the 1930s in Mississippi. He said she was “the stabbingest woman I ever seen.”* I have heard that he used to play the guitar before that, but the injury to his arm forced him to abandon the guitar. A true Delta blues musician, he was sometimes called Detroit’s Godfather of the Blues, because of his influence on the Detroit Blues scene. He encouraged young musicians, allowed them to sit in, and mentored them in other ways.

Uncle Jessie had a profound influence on many Detroit area musicians. Plenty are still playing the Blues because of his mentoring. I produce a monthly live music concert series, Jazz & Blues at the Southfield (MI) library, and was fortunate to book him and his 29th Street Band during the very first year of the series (2005). I never got to know Uncle Jessie very well but I always enjoyed his down-home Blues, and love him for the valuable contributions he made to the music of Detroit.

Uncle Jessie’s 29th Street Band at Attic Bar – Duke Dawson, drums; Jeff Grand, guitar; Betty Brownlee, bass; Uncle Jessie White, piano

*Very interesting article about Uncle Jessie’s life:

See more images of Uncle Jessie White, his rigs and performances here:

Last Years at the Attic Bar (2003-2007), here:

Uncle Jessie White & 29th Street Band play “Bad Luck Child”:

A documentary – “Uncle Jessie White: Portrait of a Delta Bluesman in Detroit” is available on Youtube at:

“Butch” Mudbone

King Biscuit Blues Festival, Helena AR 2004

Jan. 21, 2023 – A Homegoing parade was held along Beale Street, the fabled Memphis, TN street of music, with Native American drummers, many people following on foot, and led by a horse-drawn white carriage.  That was followed by a Blues jam tribute in the Memphis Music Room.   These tributes were held for Dennis L. “Butch” Mudbone, (Jan. 6, 1947 – Jan. 2, 2023), a long-time Memphis based Blues musician.  He  was killed in a car crash on his way home from a Native American Church ceremony in Philadelphia, MS.  

Mudbone was a superb Blues musician who I was fortunate enough to see a bunch of times in the Delta,  at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. When I was in Memphis for the International Blues Challenge, I saw him playing on Beale Street.  At King Biscuit, on stage, or on the street, he was always one of my favorites.  He and his band would set up on the street, and when they began playing, a big crowd would gather, sometimes in a big semi-circle, leaving space for dancers, and for Mudbone to walk around, and play to individuals in the audience, especially women!  As he continued to play, the size of the crowd grew.  Guitar, vocals, harmonica, keys – he did it all! And he seemed to especially love to play to individuals in the crowd.  

King Biscuit Blues Festival, Helena AR 2001

For the last 30+ years, Mudbone played Blues all over the county, including more than 30 times at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, as well as in many countries overseas. Over the years Mudbone opened shows with many famous musicians including B.B. King, James Brown, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton and Professor Longhair. 

Mudbone was a descendant of the Seneca Nation, born to the France people, and for much of his life he was very involved in Native American cultural and ceremonial activities.  He participated for in the Sundance ceremony at Big Mountain, and was an avid traditional dancer and a Roadman for the Native American Church.

The Blues world lost a very special man and a valuable and much-loved maker of Blues music.  I offer a respectful and sincere salute to the life and music of Butch Mudbone!  And wish for peace and comfort to his family, friends, and his many fans!  Let us never forget Butch Mudbone, the man & his music.  

See more images at:

Catch some of his songs on YouTube

An extensive obituary at:

A Mudbone video interview on YouTube at:

Alberta Adams

feature Alberta Adams

King Biscuit Blues Festival 2002

Thinking of Alberta Adams today. It is really hard to believe that it has been 4 years since we lost Detroit’s original Queen of the Blues. Alberta Adams died on Christmas morning in 2014, at age 97, after a long period of failing health.

The first time I saw Alberta Adams was at the Detroit Festival of the Arts in the mid-1990s. I didn’t know anything about her – don’t think I had ever heard her name before.  She was introduced as Detroit’s Queen of the Blues.  I definitely remember thinking – “they got that right!”  The next time I saw her was at the 2002 King Biscuit Blues Festival, in Helena, Arkansas.  Boy was I proud – Detroit Blues at the Biscuit!

After that I saw her once or twice a year.  I always loved her songs, her style and her attitude. Alberta performed in the very first concert in the monthly Jazz & Blues@ the Southfield Library concert series I produce – May, 2005, along with her manager R J Spangler and others.  I booked her twice more – in 2008 and 2011. The audience always loved her.  Alberta was born as Roberta Louise Osborn on July 26, 1917, in Indianapolis.  However, she was raised in Detroit, and by her early teens, she was tap dancing in Hastings Street Clubs.  Early on a lucky break at the B & C Club, gave her a chance to move from dancing to singing.  She performed in Detroit for  years, and later she toured  with many well-known bands, and also recorded quite extensively.

Four of Alberta Adams’ CDs are available on line: “Alberta Adams – Born with the Blues”, “Alberta Adams & the rhythm Rockers – I’m on the Move”, “Say Baby Say” and “Detroit is My Home”.

I never did get to know Alberta very well – only spoke to her briefly on occasion. But I loved to hear and see her perform. And, I loved to photograph her during performance. Most of my photos were taken at various Detroit area clubs and other locations, beginning in 2006.

Her birthday parties were always special, with her fans and many of Detroit’s top musicians stopping by to wish her Happy Birthday, often gifting her with cash pinned to her dress.

cash Alberta Adams

And, some would sit in with the band to play or sing a tune or two.

join Alberta Adams

with Cee Cee Collins (Paul Carey) Callahan’s Music Hall

For more images I captured of Alberta’s celebrations, visit this gallery on my website: R.I.P. ALBERTA ADAMS (b. 07/26/17 d. 12/25/14).