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Mississippi's "Kingfish" Ingram Fulfils His Star Promise At An Online Blues Music Awards

Rory Doyle

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, the 21-year-old phenom from the seminal blues town of Clarksdale, MS, had a career landmark evening Sunday as he celebrated winning five Blues Music Awards. Ingram’s eponymous debut recording was named Album of the Year overall, while also winning in the categories for Contemporary Blues Album and Emerging Artist Album. 

The prizes were announced in an unprecedented online awards show, edited together with clips from around the country in lieu of the annual early May awards gala in Memphis. Host Shemekia Copeland anchored the event from her home in Chicago, winning Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year in the process.

The webcast, archived and posted below for viewing in full, also featured pre-recorded greetings from stars at home, such as Bonnie Raitt, Steve Cropper and Steve Miller. Presenters included Charlie Musselwhite, Warren Haynes, Fantastic Negrito, Ruthie Foster, William Bell, Beth Hart, and Nashville’s Keb’ Mo’. There were contemporary performances by Luther Dickinson, Larkin Poe, Musselwhite and others, while flashback clips from past Blues Music Awards included Dr. John, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and Koko Taylor. 

Caron “Sugaray” Rayford was another big winner, taking the show-capping B.B. King Entertainer of the Year after being nominated for that honor for six consecutive years. The Texas-born, Los Angeles-based singer was also named Soul Blues Male Artist winner for the second year running. Band leader Nick Moss, a frequent nominee going back to 2006, won all three awards for which he was nominated: Band of the Year, Traditional Blues Album for Lucky Guy!, and Song of the Year for that album’s title track. 

Due to the pre-recorded stream, winners were not able to make acceptance speeches in real time, but they quickly took to social media to do so. “This is pretty amazing,” wrote Kingfish Ingram. “These Blues Music Awards are something that I’ve thought about privately, but never figured it would happen. As a wish coming true, I am so blessed and thankful.” In response to his band win, Nick Moss posted “I can’t thank the guys who surround me enough... they’ve always been winners - now they’re bonafide and verified!”

Ingram, who has performed at the White House and been tapped as the future of the blues by numerous publications, appears to be the youngest-ever winner of the Album of the Year prize, but key blues and roots veterans won awards on Sunday too. Bobby Rush’s Sitting On Top of the Blues was named Soul Blues Album Of The Year. Bettye LaVette was dubbed Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year. Jimmie Vaughan was proclaimed Traditional Blues Male Artist and the vocals of Mavis Staples were recognized in that instrumentalist category.

Barbara Newman, CEO of the Blues Foundation, addressed the surreal situation on a video of her own from her Memphis headquarters. “We’re in some very difficult times right now,” she said. “And as you know blues musicians are suffering with cancellation of festivals, of clubs closing down, of events being postponed or cancelled. And we as a community are really able to come together to help. If you’re able, help the clubs. Help the festivals. Send them some of your resources.” And she pointed viewers to the Blues Musicians Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund

Sugaray Rayford, beside thanking his band and crew for his award (“I’m over the moon”), tipped his hat to Newman for “making lemonade out of lemons. You did a great job as always.” 

A complete list of winners follows the video. 

BB King Entertainer of the Year

Sugaray Rayford 

Album of the Year

Kingfish, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram 

Band of the Year

The Nick Moss Band feat. Dennis Gruenling 

Song of the Year

“Lucky Guy,” written by Nick Moss 

Best Emerging Artist Album

Kingfish, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram  

Acoustic Blues Album

This Guitar and Tonight, Bob Margolin   

Acoustic Blues Artist

Doug MacLeod 

Blues Rock Album 

Masterpiece, Albert Castiglia 

Blues Rock Artist

Eric Gales 

Contemporary Blues Album

Kingfish, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram  

Contemporary Blues Female Artist

Shemekia Copeland 

Contemporary Blues Male Artist

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram 

Historical Blues Album

Cadillac Baby's Bea & Baby Records - Definitive Collection, Earwig Music 

Soul Blues Album

Sitting on Top of the Blues, Bobby Rush  

Soul Blues Female Artist

Bettye LaVette 

Soul Blues Male Artist

Sugaray Rayford 

Traditional Blues Album

Lucky Guy!, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling  

Traditional Blues Female Artist

Sue Foley 

Traditional Blues Male Artist

Jimmie Vaughan 

Instrumentalist Bass

Michael "Mudcat" Ward 

Instrumentalist Drums

Cedric Burnside 

Instrumentalist Guitar

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram 

Instrumentalist Harmonica

Rick Estrin 

Instrumentalist Horn

Vanessa Collier 

Instrumentalist Piano

Victor Wainwright 

Instrumentalist Vocals

Mavis Staples

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org