Debbie Bond, photo - Thomas Z'Graggen

Debbie Bond, photo – Thomas Z’Graggen

“The last thing Willie King said to me was, “Keep on pushing Debbie!” – Debbie Bond

Debbie Bond will be playing for the first time tonight in Nashville at The Nashville Blues and Jazz Awards  that begins at 4PM with a $10 door at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar and is presented by The Marion James Musicians Aid Society to benefit the heritage musicians that lived and worked around the Jefferson Street community in the R&B heyday from about 1950 through the mid-70’s.

debbie bond album coverDebbie’s most recent album Hearts Are Wild got a thumbs up from the Nashville Blues Society last year after its release. Hearts Are Wild is Debbie’s second solo album and her first since Willie King passed away in 2008.

Debbie, as well as her husband Rick had been a part of Willie King’s band for several years playing in and around Alabama as well as touring Europe.

Debbie Bond has also spent several years developing The Alabama Blues Project that educates young and not so young children about blues music and gives them the opportunity to develop the skills to play blues music.

Debbie feels that Alabama has never received the recognition that it deserves in relation to the development of Blues and American music. Essentially, Alabama really is joined at the hip with Mississippi and there was a lot of cross-state-lines intermingling goings on from the very beginning.

Brad Hardisty/ The Nashville Bridge: How long have you been living and playing the Blues in Alabama?

Debbie Bond:  Thirty years. I actually came here in 1979.

TNB: Was it originally to work with Johnny Shines?

Debbie Bond, photo - Robert Sutton

Debbie Bond, photo – Robert Sutton

DB: It wasn’t.  It was just to visit some friends and I was kind of going through some heartache stuff in England and I…uh…originally it was just to come for the summer to get away. But, one thing lead to another and well… included hooking up with Johnny Shines (A contemporary of Robert Johnson).

TNB: You were playing guitar at the time?

DB: Yeah, I was playing guitar. I really started off playing acoustic guitar. I was playing folk songs and I love the blues. I was in a band in England when I was in College in ’75 through 1978 and we played that music in Brighton, England. So, when I came here, you know, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  I had a lot of prejudices about Alabama and Alabama culture and the south.  I had my mind blown by the music and the food and the southern culture.  I was humbled. I was brought to my knees. I ended up staying.

TNB: I was kind of the same way. I thought the south would be a certain way and it was totally different than I figured.  So, the last project that you were in was a group before you went solo and that was playing with Willie King, right?

Debbie Bond onstage with Willie King

Debbie Bond onstage with Willie King

DB: Yeah, the last band and probably the most serious musical situation that I was in was with Willie King for the last seven years of his life. I toured and recorded with him. Rick, my husband is British and before I married him he had hooked up with Willie and Willie introduced me to Rick. Willie was the best man at my wedding and we married at Freedom Creek and so I have Willie to thank for that big time besides the musical experience and so that was a really big blues experience in my life.

TNB: Did Willie meet Rick overseas?

DB: No, he met Rick here. This is a crazy story but Rick was in Clarksdale, Mississippi and went into Jim O’Neal’s little shop downtown and asked where there was he could hear some blues tonight and they said, “Well, there’s no blues here.” But, because of the connection to Jim O’Neal, a lady who ran the record store and also sold kind of voodoo stuff, said, “There is the Freedom Creek festival over in Alabama tonight.” Rick actually drove all the way to Pickens County, Alabama, which was four and a half hours away. He ran into somebody who didn’t know where The Freedom Creek Festival was and sent him all the way to Tuscaloosa which was another hour out of the way. Rick happened to see my notice and directions in the local record store, Oz Records in Tuscaloosa, then drove all the way back, I mean, then ended up driving into the Festival. His mind was blown. He ended up…Willie said. “Stay.” Rick stayed with Willie camping out there and staying in his trailer and went on the road with Willie and toured just like that. Rick plays harmonica and keyboards.

TNB: What year was that?

DB: That was in 2002 and then we met. I think we went on one date then moved in together and then we got married and Willie was our best man. We married on Freedom Creek and had our wedding ceremony there and then had our party at the local juke joint.

TNB: So, in 2008 you started working on Hearts Are Wild?

Debbie Bond, photo - Robin McDonald

Debbie Bond, photo – Robin McDonald

DB: Yeah, I just started focusing on my own music. I was running the Alabama Blues Project. I founded the Alabama Blues Project and I really just wanted to do my own thing for a change.  The last thing Willie King said to me was, “Keep on pushing Debbie!” I just really wanted to do my own music. So, I kind of got the Blues Project on its own feet. We still do things with the Blues Project, but, we just tried to focus on my own music and eventually we ended up putting out Hearts Are Wild. I think our official release date was 2012.

TNB: Have you toured overseas since the release date?

DB: Yeah, we played over in the Tarragona Blues Festival and also we played in England and France actually. When it first came out we played a show in France and also at a radio station then a show in England. The Tarragona Blues Festival is in Spain.  We are actually going back to play the festival again in November. I’ve written a song called “Tarragona Blues.”

TNB: So, that is where you are establishing your crowd?

DB: Well, it just so happens, you know how things kind of fall into place. I don’t have a booking agent, so, I am just kind of doing things myself as they come along through Facebook really. Facebook has been really great for me. So, it just so happened that we were going to be in Spain and we were going to be in Europe and The Tarragona Festival just fell into place. I mean it was so synchronistic on the only dates we could possibly do it. So, we did it and they really loved the show. They loved us and are having us back. We are definitely building an audience there and I’m hoping I can release the song, “Tarragona Blues” which I wrote the night before the festival and played at the festival. They really enjoyed it. I want to record it and release it in Spain as a single.

TNB: Are they getting into buying vinyl in Europe like we are in the States?

DB: I don’t know.The fact of the matter is times are hard in Spain like they are in other parts of Europe. Maybe not as bad as Greece, but, it still is hard times. So, I don’t know the answer to that.

TNB: As far as releases. Are they buying songs on the web or do they want product?

DB: I find most people are buying CD’s at shows. You know the web is great for promoting, but, I haven’t found that with my audience. My audience seems to like the real CD.

TNB: Yeah, it seems like here in the states we have a lot of hardcore vinyl collectors now.

DB: I’m hearing that.  If I could get just a little bit more on the map and more successful, I would definitely consider putting out a vinyl recording.

TNB: Yeah, it seems like even in limited runs a lot of bands are doing it here in Nashville because we have United Record Pressing. They used to press all of Motown. They have a Motown Suite upstairs in the plant. They are pressing a big portion of what is being done right now.

DB: That’s good to know. I know there is a way to go back to vinyl and I have all my records and we do listen to our records on our record player.

TNB: I’m actually buying more vinyl than I do CD’s right now.

DB: I am hearing that from the record stores. I am going to definitely take that into consideration. But, at this stage in the game I just think it’s so affordable to do CD’s.

TNB: Okay, you have never played Nashville before. Have you played in Tennessee before, maybe, Memphis?

DB: I have not played in Memphis.

TNB: So, this is your first gig in Tennessee.

DB: Yeah it is.

TNB: You are also going to be playing on the Mando Blues Radio Show on Monday.

DB: I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping you can make it.

TNB: What are you looking forward to the most about being in Nashville?

Debbie Bond, Rick on keys, photo - Robin McDonald

Debbie Bond, Rick on keys, photo – Robin McDonald

DB: I feel like it’s an adventure. I have great sympathy for Nashville because I think it is kind of like Alabama. People don’t think of the blues when they think of Nashville and the fact that there is this really cool blues culture is exciting to me. I fell like it is an honor to be part of the line-up at The Nashville Blues and Jazz Awards that includes Marion James and all these veteran blues musicians. I’m really thankful and excited to be part of it.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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