CM: The International Blues Challenge has grown substan-
treat them with respect and treat them as if they were a part
tially during your tenure. What are your thoughts moving into
of the blues community. This kind of feedback has pushed me
the 31st IBC?
to better our relationships internationally. Two-thirds of the
JS: The IBC kicks off with the international showcase, which
funding for the Hall of Fame came from individual blues fans
I’m really looking forward to. You get to hear two songs from an
from around the world, and we have 15 to 20 different countries
act before it moves on to a performance from another country.
represented at IBC each year.
It isn’t until the challenge gets going that you start to get a feel for who’s making waves and gaining traction in the industry.
CM: Can you tell me about your decision to step down?
The musicians always make us look good!
Why now? JS: There are a couple reasons, namely that I’ve done everything
CM: Photographers Jenn Ocken and Greg Johnson have been
that I know to do. There are things that we have accomplished
so moved by the IBC that they endeavored to create a memoir
during my time — such as the Hall of Fame — and there are
profiling the challenge. What are your thoughts on this?
things that we haven’t. I think it really is time for someone else
JS: Greg’s probably one of our best volunteers at IBC and at the
to take the reins. Each person brings their own skills, talents
Foundation; they’ve both served the Foundation tremendously.
and prejudices to the position. The next person will bring
I’ve seen some of the pictures and I know the book is generating
something new, and I’m excited to see what they can do.
a lot of buzz. I know there was a fundraising campaign to donate copies of the book to our Youth Competition participants. My
CM: Once the transition is complete, what are your plans?
wife and I sold half a dozen copies.
What’s next for you? JS: Nothing! I’m looking forward to taking a break. There have
CM: Can you tell me about the process to finally building the
always been things that you mean to do, like going to the zoo
Hall of Fame? What can we expect to see?
on a nice afternoon or checking out the new Mississippi Blues
JS: When visitors would come into to our office on Union
Trail markers. Once I retire, I’ll be able to hop in the car on a
Avenue — especially our European visitors — they would
Tuesday afternoon and go exploring, if that’s what I want to do.
expect something to be there. The Blues Foundation wasn’t a destination like many believed it should be. With the construction of the Hall of Fame, people will have a reason to come visit the Foundation. We weren’t looking to get into the museum business; our consultants — Design 500, in collaboration with architecture firm archemania — came up with the idea. The new location has the space, and we know it’s something that will attract visitors. Signed instruments, iconic clothing and 78s are among the items to be showcased, and there will also be interactive displays where you can look up songs or biographical information on an artist. As you do this, you start to realize it’ll be a work in progress. Someone will loan or donate something five years from now that we don’t even know about yet. A woman in New Zealand is making a bronze bust of Memphis Minnie specifically for the Hall of Fame and bringing it to the grand opening. CM: Looking back, what would you say your proudest moment has been? JS: Seeing the construction of the Hall of Fame, not only because it pays respect to the artists, but also because of the thousands of people who will be exposed to the history it holds. The footprint of the Foundation will be so much bigger. I’m also proud of our growth internationally. I’ve traveled to Canada, Europe and South America on business and it’s always proved to be a good experience. While doing work for the Foundation, I’ve had people say I was the first person to Click magazine | JANUARY 2015 13