Most people love a good concert. I’m no different. It’s on a rare occasion that you get to see a complete and total transformation. Music has been a part of Beverly “Guitar” Watkins’ life for almost 70 years. She just turned 80 years old and is still doing what she loves. When I first noticed her, I thought “That can’t be her.” She looked tiny sitting at the table behind her birthday cake. But then she stood up and slowly made her way to the stage and up the steps.
80 Years Strong
With each step, Ms. Watkins took, her demeanor began to change. Then it happened. She reached out and touched her guitar. It was tangible. She was no longer a petite, elderly woman. Oh, no….she was Ms. Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and she was there to tell you about it. From the first note, she commanded the audience and everyone in the building could feel the energy. People may have been there to see her and that was fine, but she was there to belt out some Blues music and that is exactly what she did. The Blue Roses opened the show and the Rick Fowler Band was there to spread some love and back up Ms. Watkins.
The Early Days
Born in Atlanta on April 6th, 1939, Ms. Watkins grew up in Commerce, Georgia where she started dabbling in music around the age of 12. By her high school years, she was playing bass guitar. As a junior, she was noticed and eventually began to play with Piano Red and the Meter-tones. Piano Red was well-known throughout the area for his radio show on the local station, WAOK.
Over time, Ms. Watkins’ popularity grew even though she never really got much airplay. Her musical talents landed her on stage with many of great Blues artists of all times including Eddie Tigner and the Inkspots, James Brown, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and B.B. King. Her place as a Blues’ icon was secured. You may not know her name, but I can guarantee you have probably heard her play.
Re-Discovering an Icon
Ms. Watkins never really left the Atlanta area. It was her home and for many years she played an active role in the Blues’ scene. In the 1990s, Tim Duffy of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, “re-discovered” Ms. Watkins. The Foundation helps to support musicians who played a pioneering role in keeping music moving forward. With the help of the internet, he brought Ms. Watkins back to center stage and began booking her for various events. She’s now a regular at many local establishments like the Northside Tavern in Atlanta and the Foundry in Athens, GA. She also appears at the Ladies Rock Camp ATL events as well.
After sitting through her performance on April 27th at the Foundry, it’s apparent that Ms. Watkins has no intentions of slowing down. Although she was hospitalized early in the month due to poor health, she’s back on track and not afraid to let anyone know it. She will be appearing at the Flagstaff Blues and Brews Festival in Flagstaff AZ on June 8th and the Bluesberry & Beer Festival in Norcross, Georgia on June 15th.
If you love music, blues or not, do not (and I am stressing, do NOT) miss the chance to see this great lady play. I have been around music all my life and have met many famous and (not so famous) musicians. It took me less than a minute to realize the presence this woman has. To be able to captivate an entire audience within seconds of setting foot on stage and keep them spellbound the entire time takes true talent and charisma. Ms. Watkins has both and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend. I even got to wish her “Happy Birthday” after the show! Hats off to you Ms. Watkins! I hope you had an amazing birthday!