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A lesson From The Book of Billy  


 Doing a consistent email campaign to stay in touch with my fans has been one of my biggest weaknesses. For years I have thought about it. I've even tried it on and off. But I've never been consistent about communicating with my fans. That is so crazy. Especially knowing how important it could be.  

  Several years back I started writing a paper called The Book of Billy. The title came from meeting a blues artist in Mississippi Delta. The guy did a great performance. He offered to sell me a CD. I didn't buy it that day. I walked away. And I made notes about what I had just witnessed.  

  When I walked away, he didn't get my email. He didn't make any effort to add me to his fan list. And I thought about how many people he let walk away and I thought about how many people I let walk away and the difference it could make in my life if I were to communicate with them consistently.  

  So I asked myself the same questions everyone else asked. How often should I communicate with them? What do I need to say to them? How much is too much? What if they get tired of me? Would they consider me being pushy? I don't want to come off like selling something all the time. What am I to say to them? These types of questions go around in my mind .  

  So far just questions going around and no answers. My good friend VIP Kevin Fitch . TheDallas Blues man. And Ward Miller, both Texas VIPs, have been encouraging me saying that they would love to hear and see a consistent email campaign from me. They love my music. They've been following me for several years. But they feel that email communication could be one of my weaknesses. So I'm making an effort to turn that around.  And make email one of my strengths. This is the beginning of that journey.  

  How much is too much?  Ward and Kevin suggested that I emailed them every day. I can't see any reason why I wouldn't do that other than, Is that too much? I live stream  seven nights a week. This way it just goes hand in hand. They already receive notifications from me when I go live. Why not receive another notification from me?  

I don't know the answer to that. I'm sure I could do something every day because right now I do nothing every day. It takes just as much effort doing nothing as it does to do something .  

  I sit here today and sort out my ideals and plans of how to get this started . I've never been on anyone else's email list. No other blues artist is sending me consistent email communication. So doing that already puts me in a world  removed from many, not many people you could have this discussion with because they don't do it.  

  So today I sit down to be honest with myself and you and write out my ideas about starting an email campaign. What would you like to see? What would you like to get from me?  I appreciate your response.

Flex Time Again ! 


 I remember hearing the statement that if life is worth living, then it's worth writing down. I know the two are two totally different things. Opening up and writing about  oneself is totally different than living every day. 

   Being transparent enough to let my feelings and thoughts out can be a frightening idea . I've just never been an open type of person. So when I write this type of post, it can be intimidating or frightening. Knowing that someone in the world will be reading this. I don't know who. Someone will know how I feel.  Someone will know what i'm thinking today. That's a powerful thought.  

 I was brought up the opposite of that. I was taught to mind my own business. To stay to myself or stay out of trouble. My thoughts were not the ones that are important, it's the thoughts of others. Be sensitive to others thoughts and feelings more than my own. 

  I'm reaching a point in my life now where I want to be able to share and help others as much as I can. And of course to help myself. I found an amazing way to do both at the same time. By using the internet. The internet thrives on openness, it thrives on the ability to be transparent to share your feelings and thoughts. There are enough people on the internet to find someone who will boogie with you. 

 It's like exercising. You have to do a little bit at a time. You can't do too much, you don't want to overdo it. Do as much as you can today and then do a bit more tomorrow. So here goes my day of flexing and opening up. Now we can go out and have a great Blues day.


Snow brings back warm memories  


 The snow today this morning reminds me of my childhood. I was living with my grandmother in an old house in limestone county Al. Big Daddy Smith was as close to a grandfather as I knew. It was snowing and it was cold in our old house. Snow had got on the wood and it was wet. Big Mama wanted to go over to Big Daddy's house where we could be warm. We had to walk across the field to get there. I was a little boy, I guess 3 or 4 yrs old. The field seem huge to me. I was too big for her to carry me. 

   We went trekking through the snow. I can remember that slow sticking on my face and clothes and getting in my shoes. I was stepping high. Trying to step and walk through that snow going over Big Daddy's house. We had to walk through the little ditch and walk up the hill to get the Big Daddy's house.  

  Finally got to Big Daddy's house. He had a big fireplace. It seemed as tall as me. It had wood and a big fire going. I remember feeling that fire. Warming me up. It felt so good to me. Felt like the fire was warming me all the way down into my bones. It went through my clothes. I remember falling asleep. I remember feeling happy being around that fire. The snow today reminded me of that snow walk. It makes me smile.

I woke up thinking , What is a #BluesVIP club ? 


Good morning Blues people. Downtown one day I looked down at the sidewalk and saw my name written in chalk. I laughed and took a picture of it. I thought it was cool. I went around on another block and saw it written again. Somebody had written my name on the sidewalk with chalk. It was cool promotion. Later that week my friend Mr. Dip told me that he did it.   

  Another time after playing the show a young lady walked up to me with my name written on her forehead. She asked to take a picture with me. Of course I laughed and did it. I thought it was so amazing. Another time a young lady wrote my name on her arm. And she held her arm out and showed me and it almost brought me to tears. I love my fans, and I love their promotion efforts. I think it's called Guerilla Marketing. And I really appreciate all those antics.  

    Some of my fans on TikTok have been buying T- shirts and making videos wearing them. The shirts promote the hashtag #BluesVIP are getting the word out even farther. 

   When I was in high school my best friend William was a promoter for a promotion company. His job was to put posters up around town and put flyers on cars. Sometimes I'd go out and help him. We'd go to the mall and go to big parking lots and stick fliers on the windshield of cars and put them on the windows in different stores around town promoting events coming into town. Sometimes we'd take tickets to the beauty shops. It was a fun job to help promote. I learned a lot doing it.

   I've been playing music for a long time. And I know quite a few musicians. But since the dawn of the new recording technology, I've seen lots of Blues artists make recordings of themselves. They have boxes of CDs at home. Boxes of DVDs sitting in their bedroom. Hundreds of CDs or thousands of CDs, but they don't have any fans to sell them to. It never dawned on them just how many 1000 is.  One thousand might not sound like many. But when you have 1000 CDs to get rid of you recognize just how many it really is . It's like playing in an empty club. You put on a great show, but there's no one there to hear it. Kind of heartbreaking. It's a nightmare. A situation I've tried to avoid. I decided to go about it backwards.  

  In the old days touring was a necessity. Trying to get the word out and expose an act to help build a market for people wanting the music . Since then live streaming and social media has totally changed the game. I believe it's possible to do pretty well without a lot of major touring. 

 To sum it up in one sentence. What we need is a giant Street Team. Imagine having a street team of promoters dedicated to promoting blues and soul music 1000s of people who are willing to put up a sign, willing to write your name on the sidewall or put up a poster. It would totally change the dynamic of music distribution. That's what I see as the blues #BluesVIP club. Thousands of people who love blues music enough and willing to put in some promotion muscle. In exchange for that they gain access to exclusive content and  privileges. And so, the #BluesVIP Club was born. I've been working on this since 2015.  We got work to do.

What on earth is a Discord Server ? 


Two years ago, Delof  suggested that I open a Discord account and move the Blues VIPs group over to discord from Periscope. Of course it sounded like French to me, a language that I couldn't understand. It's been a couple of years back. It didn't make sense to me. I can't say that it does now, but back then when I looked at it it looked like a bunch of gibberish. 

   I didn't see any need for it. So of course I let the idea pass. Delloff was ahead of his time. Now that I'm working with the social tokens one of the token administrators paired me up with a girl to help set up a discord account. And they suggested that I use it as a communication medium for the team. I'm open minded to it and I'll go ahead and download the Discord app.  

   That young lady helped me set it up last week over the phone. I looked at it. She told me I was an administrator and was free to make changes that needed to be made so that it could turn it into something to work with. Looks like a bunch of bullshit to me. I haven't seen enough of it yet to draw a conclusion. So here we go. Getting in deeper. 

  I announced it tonight on TikTok that I was opening up a Discord server and invited my listeners who wanted to, stop by. We had 22 People come in on the first night. That is unbelievable. Some of them say they already had Discord and were already using it. It's just new to me. 

   Now, all my life I've been known to get deep or try different things. But it is interesting to get involved with this type of communication.  

 I'm gonna invite anyone who reads this post, you're more than welcome to join my Discord. And maybe you can teach me what to do with it. Thank you

Let's Get back to the Music  


  Being an independent artist can be a bitch sometimes. Not having a record company, or anyone to back you or having assistance with different projects can be a bitch. Having to do so many things yourself is challenging but it brings out the creativity in an artist. 

   The future is coming regardless of what we think there will be a future so we need to get back to the music. I've been busy lately, working on my new Amazon store, working on social tokens, working on different ways to monetize my music.  I know that music is just going to be a small part of my enterprise. 

   I noticed lots of artists beginning to do endorsements for different companies and coming out with their own lines of clothing, and any other way they can in order to supplement their music, money. I'm no different. I'm doing all the things that I can as an independent.  

   The pandemic has taught us all a lot. One thing it taught me was that a live performance is a valuable thing. It's a premium. And when handled well. It should be worth something. A live show, especially a blues show is a treasured moment. And I think people are going to be ready for live shows when they do come back.  

    We have to focus on the bottom line. And the bottom line is can you make a living with your music? As challenging as it might be? I'm sure some can and some do. Most blues artists are struggling and trying to make it, it's always been that way. But I believe it's possible to organize your fan base and make a sustainable living as an independent blues artist. Again it does take some work. It takes coordinating all the elements and pulling a lot of things together.  

  Nowadays the attention span is short. Online and offline. People have things on their mind. And they're moving forward and gaining bits of information from places they go. To hold a minute of someone's time or even 30 seconds of someone's time is asking for a lot nowadays.  

   I say the landscape is changing in the music industry. In fact, it's already changed but it changed for the better. I believe artists are looking for a way out of the streaming paradox because they're not making the money and it's not working out. They're not selling the amount of records and things that they need.  

  The record sales account for only 25 to 30% of the income coming into that record company, even if they're their own record company. Being independent  is definitely a challenge. It stretches your creativity in many directions. 

   But the most important thing that we have to do is run back to the music. That's where we need to get back to the music. Let's Go !

" Lean on it Ricky " Henry Bradley taught me  


 Integration was a big step for me. In fact, integration was a big step for everyone in the seventies. When I was a child, I remember my school being closed down. A little black school New Hope Elementary was closed down ,Trinity High School in Athens Al was closed and we were forced to integrate. It just so happened that year my mother was moving into Madison County, with her husband, and I was able to attend a Madison county School. Madison schools were thought to be better equipped schools than the schools in limestone County Al.  

   Some of my cousins on my dad's side were already attending that school. That was a status symbol to go to school in Madison County. So there we go bussing and integration. I'll never forget the first time I got off the school bus. How terrifying that was to go to school with these white kids. Well, they were cool. It wasn't my first time being around white kids, it was my first time being with them in the classroom. And everybody was uptight.  

   We kids were so uptight. Yeah, we broke out in fights. We were children. We were being mean to each other. We'd fight each other in the hallway whites against blacks. And we'd fight each other on the bus. We were just kids learning to live out the fantasies of our parents. We were continuing to foster their myths and lies. Fighting was the thing to do.  

  We did that for many days. We weren't able to finish a complete day of school. We had to turn around, get on the bus and go back home. Half a day. Some days we couldn't make it the whole day. They had to close the school down and send us home. But eventually things settled down. 

    We were able to make some kind of a year. Forced integration was real. At Madison school we met a black assistant principal whose name was Mr.Henry Bradley. And Elbert Deason was the principal but Mr. Henry Bradley was the assistant principal, one white man, one black man. So we were able to identify . Whoever made that decision made a good one to put one white man, one black man. We looked up to Mr. Bradley. He comforted us and gave us a sense of hope. He also gave us a sense of what could be possible with education. Mr. Brandley went on to become the principal of another school, the first black man principal in that county in Al. 

   We all looked up and admired Mr. Bradley. He eventually became the bass player in my early blues band. Can you imagine how good that felt for me ? For him to think enough of my music to play bass for me . I was so honored to have him with me. That feeling is still with me today. “Lean on it Ricky boy” He would always say, “ Lean on it” And that's what I'm still doing today. I'm leaning on it.

$BVIP Tokens can turn Nothing into Something  


 I was out doing my walk and laughing the whole time. People asked me every day about these social tokens. The biggest question I get is: How much are they worth? It? It is so funny when I tell them that they're worth nothing. Yeah, I've got 10 million of them, but they're not worth a damn. They're not worth anything. I tell them they aint worth shit ! But I'm willing to share some with you. That is so funny to me.  

  To be able to share nothing with my fans. Yeah I was just thinking about sharing nothing. Then I smile and imagine turning them into something. Wow. 

  Back in the day, when people made albums and cassettes I was offered a job working with a record company as a street team promoter rack job, my job was to stock records, put up posters and pass out flyers and help promote events in the area. I didn't take the job. I couldn't do that at that time. But I understood the assignment. Just promote the records and events that come to town. My friend William took the job. He would be working at the Civic Center, or he would put up posters and pass out tickets at the beauty shops, he was actually involved in promotion with the promoters. He got FREE tickets to the shows. It was a street team activity.  

  When I think of the $BVIP group, that's what I imagine it being. It's a giant street team that helps promote events, online and offline events. I could imagine that if these promoters were compensated with this $BVIP token  the possibility of that token increasing in value could be great. 

   Think ahead a year from now, two years from now. Imagine hundreds of people, maybe thousands holding  these tokens. And imagine that they are worth something because the things that we all promote have become worth something.  The tokens are tied to the blockchain. That means they won't disappear. Imagine being a part of it. No matter how small. And I can also imagine not being a part of it. That's funny to me. Just so funny. It's a beautiful day . Enjoy it !

I Love Homemade Blackberry Wine. Do You ? 


  I don't know what got me thinking about homemade wine. I can taste it now. I love the taste of homemade wine. Especially blackberries. I also like muscadine and some apple wine. I just love the taste. I wish I had some right now. I have two quarts of apple wine I've had for 20 years sitting here in the house. I've had it for so long I'm afraid to taste it. I got a recipe book around here somewhere. I got to find my recipe book.  

  I think it will be a good year to make homemade wine. I can remember some of my home folks had wine stashed up under the house. In the fall and early winter, Mr.Grays would get one of us kids to crawl underneath the house and pull it out. 

   My grandma made homemade wine for years. I can recall when the time of the year came. I'd be sleeping in bed and she'd be pecking on my bedroom window. The window would be up. I had a screen on the window trying to catch air. We didn't have any air conditioning. My grandma would be scratching on the screen telling me,  “Get up boy get up come on,let's go pick some berries”. I hated that. Her getting me up early in the morning like that. But I'd get up and go with her. 

   She gave the hoe to me, I put on some long sleeves and we'd go out into blackberry bushes and pick berries. We carried a hoe to pull vines or kill snakes or whatever we saw. Sometimes we'd get two or three bowls full of blackberries. Then we wash them. I was eating them. 

   I don't know why she let me do that with her but I'm glad she did because she put that taste in my mouth.  Eating those berries and washing them and then she would put them in the jars and mash them up and get the juice out. She'd make several gallons. I can see them sitting on the table. They were deep purple and so pretty. Those jars were full of wine. She’d put something over the top of them like a cloth. 

  Every once in a while I would ask her, “is the wine ready”? And she said no, it's not time yet. But when it was time she gave my dad a few quarts and gave each of her son's a few quarts. It was delicious. And of course I'd get a little bit for helping out.  I learned how to do it on my own. I know how to do it now. It's been a long time. But I'm getting that taste in my mouth.  

  Looks like spring is going to come early this year. We've had quite a bit of rain here in Alabama. I believe those berries are going to be good this year. I can taste it now. Do you like homemade wine ?

Making videos terrifies me, but its a new day  


 Reality TV never made much sense to me. Guess I'm old school. I remember when television programs had a script and a budget. This reality TV blows my friggin mind. It's bullshit to me . Video nowadays is hard to mess up. And if you do mess it up you can just delete it. Don't even need film anymore, no script .Just record and delete.  

   I've seen some quality stuff coming off a cell phone camera. It's amazing what technology has done. And apparently making videos is a good skill to have. I can see there's a demand for it. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube are like TV channels used to be . It’s possible to do well and make money if a person is willing to make videos. So as a skill it's a good one to have.  

   The pandemic has driven up the value and demand for video content . People locked down with not much else to do but consume video. It could be the news or just wanting to know the covid numbers for today in town. 

    I've heard it takes up five or more hours a day of the average person's watch time. Some people are spending four or five hours a day on TikTok. That's amazing. It's a big part of peoples life. 

    I need to face it head on and come to grips with my fears and things that are holding me back. I think one of the things that holds me back is for so long you couldn't make videos because the cost of the equipment was out of reach. So in the back of my mind I still have those apprehensions. But that's not true anymore. 

   Video is definitely a great teaching tool. Using video to teach and can be a time saver. Video keeps you from telling the same story over and over again. Hard to beat as a communication tool. But cost kept it out of reach for so long. Now everyone has a video camera.  

  Personally, I've just never gotten into it much. I make short videos and people say they liked my videos. I just never did much of it. I can remember when editing was done on a steenbeck editing table. 16 millimeter film or editing was done in a cutting room. To think that you could shoot video and edit it in the palm of your hand is a big stretch for me. But I'm stretching and it's time for me to get busy. So let's do some video. Here I come.