FRESNO,CA---Known as the hub of the African-American community, The African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) celebrated the lives of Woody Miller (posthumously) and 79-year old Bobby Brown this past weekend at its annual Jazz & Blues Exhibit Celebration honoring Black Music month and Juneteenth.
As Juneteenth is celebrated throughout the nation on the closest weekend to June 19, the AAHCMSJV has been officially a part of the Black community Juneteenth celebration in the city of Fresno for more than two decades, providing historical, educational exhibits about Juneteenth and Black Music Month as well as musical concert tributes.
The history behind Black Music Month and Juneteenth:
Since 2011, the annual Jazz & Blues Exhibit - Celebration at the African-American Museum, has commemorated the talented black jazz and blues artists known in Fresno and throughout the San Joaquin Valley in honor of Black Music Month and Juneteenth.
It would be on June 7, 1979, President Jimmy Carter decreed June to be Black Music Month. Historically rooted in rich African traditions and the conflicted slave trade, black folk music provided the soil for jazz to grow. Other sounds began to join the chorus. From rhythm and blues to barbershop and swing, the artists responded to every era with a fresh wave of inspiration and visionary sound.
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a national American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States. Its name is a combination of "June" and "nineteenth", the date of its celebration.
Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in forty-five states.
The celebration started off with the professional, renowned artist, Will Portis's assembled and showcased Black artists Melody Glass and Bill Wolfmann inside of the AAHCMSJV.
Known as Black music month, it was given the name change, African-American Music Appreciation Month in 2009 by President Barack Obama who also noted in his 2016 proclamation, the major contributions of African-American musicians to this country.
The trio-co-founded idea of Dyana Williams, Ed Wright and Kenny Gamble came to life in steps.
Co-founder, radio personality and celebrity media coach Dyana Williams was able to get it officially recognized, but it was initiated by Wright and Gamble, and then established by decree from President Jimmy Carter June 7, 1979; Gamble is the legendary songwriter/producer, and Ed Wright was a successful broadcast executive; they also founded the Black Music Association the same year.
Wright’s idea partnered with Gamble would only make sense, being that Gamble was the successful music producer with business partner Leon Huff amassing 175 gold and platinum records from such well known songs as the Soul Train theme song, the Ojay’s “Love Train” and Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones”, earning them an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2008.
In 2000, the United States government officially recognized Black Music Month after Williams and Congressman Chaka Fattah tirelessly pushed to get the African American Music Bill passed through legislation, under the President Bill Clinton Administration
The night continued into a comfortable concert setting, with key sponsor banners and flags of Mercedes Benz of Fresno, The Fresno Bee and Guarantee Rel Estate flashing the stage, all in the name of honorees, Miller and Brown. The night began with professional performing artists, Al Turner and Friends, followed by Keysha Burns & The Impromptu Band and the Bobby Brown Tribute Band, featuring headliner and honoree, Bobby Brown.
The awards ceremony in the middle featured awards from elected officials, the Honorable Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and District 3 Fresno County Supervisor Sal Qunitero.
Honoree Bobby Brown is warmly armed by Michael Miller, the son of honoree Woody Miller
The pioneer Woody Miller persevering against all odds
Woody Miller's son, Michael Miller accepted the award on his father's behalf.
Woody Miller, was one of the first African-Americans in the country to own a radio station, known as KLIP in Fowler, CA. His show The Jazz World of Woody Miller brought the sounds of artists such as Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan and Oscar Peterson, to the Fresno airwaves in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Miller interviewed some of the greatest musicians in history such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ray Charles. Born in Dermott, AR, Miller moved to Fresno in 1935 and began his career in radio in the Central Valley; it was not easy for Miller to break into the broadcasting business in 1952 due to the blatant racism he encountered. So, he started small, working part-time in sales at radio stations KGST and KBIF in Fresno and Sacramento, becoming exceptionally so good at it, that he purchased radio station KLIP in the late 60s.
When KLIP shutdown in the late 80s’ due to the lack of financial support from the community, Miller distanced himself from radio for several years, until he co-founded and hosted a 30-min. Black talk program on public radio station KFCF in Fresno, CA, which was soon expanded to two hours and renamed “Valley Black Talk Radio”.
Later he migrated back to 90.7 FM, KFSR, in Fresno, CA exposing listeners to the hottest jazz, labeled with bits of rich history. Miller passed away in 2017 battling his last few years with Alzheimer's disease.
He is survived by his son, Michael Miller and daughter Debbie Miller.
Blues legend Bobby Brown playing for the love of music
Blues legend Bobby Brown was honored to be awarded that night in front of host of family, friends, and especially his grandchildren.
Bobby Joe Brown was born in Horatio, AR; by age 7, he started singing in church. By age 9, Brown was chaperoned throughout the state of Arkansas singing at college recitals, carnivals, fairs and talent shows, winning first place when singing solo, second place when singing with his siblings.
Eventually Brown became the song leader of the state of Arkansas.
In 1953, Brown’s family moved to Madera, CA, where he attended church with Mr. Bill and Edna McCallister. They created a quartet and named it the McCalister Silvers Tones. In 1955 Brown and his family moved to Fresno, CA joining Corinth Baptist Church under H.Y. Gordon where he became members of Singer Allowance. The group would tour to different churches to sing. By 1961 Brown started singing R&B with two of his high school classmates, Jackie Weedley and Don Hunt. They would perform at gigs throughout the Central Valley, including the Lemoore Navy Base, and a Hanford, CA night club called the Village which aired on local television, (Channel 21.)
Brown has performed music up and down the coast of California, from Los Angeles to San Francisco: the Casablanca in Seaside CA, the Shrine Auditorium with David Ruffin, Young Hearts, and other artist, just to name a few. In Fresno, CA, Brown has performed at many different night clubs such as the 20 Century Elk Club, The Legion, Jericho, Allen Corner, Chicken Shack, Wagner, Sugar Hill, and Fran/Papa Bear Den. In the year 2000, Brown started the Summer Blues Fest at the Hinton Center.
In his latter years to the present, Brown keeps it low key, singing at birthday parties and special engagements.
Stay tuned for full music concert video and local history documentary of Juneteenth in Fresno, CA, coming out at the end of this June.
#JazzBlue #Juneteenth #WoodyMiller #BobbyBrown #June19 #AAHCMSJV #WillPortis #AfricanAmericanHistoricalCulturalMuseumoft #SalQunitero #HonorableAssemblymemberDrJoaquinArambula #USSenatorDianneFeinstein