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L.A. band looks to win big at Blues Music Awards

May 4, 2009 |  4:00 am

As a child in Los Angeles, Randy Chortkoff had a visitor to his house who would later influence him in ways he could never imagine. Jazz great Louis Armstrong was friends with Chortkoff's dad and stopped by for food and jam sessions that filled Chortkoff's home when he was about 6.

Now, decades later, he is a musician and the head of Delta Groove Productions, whose artists have garnered 18 nominations at the 30th annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis. Chortkoff, 59, plays the harmonica and is the emcee of his label's group the Mannish Boys, who hope to take home prizes for album of the year, band of the year and traditional blues album of the year.

The awards, to be held Thursday, will feature performances by Irma Thomas, Taj Mahal, Bettye LaVette and more. B.B. King will also take the stage, bestowing the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award named after himself, at an event that shows off blues music's finest.

“We don't have a Grammys or a Country Music Awards,” Chortkoff said. “But when we all get together, we just see people we have known for years and years and it's like a big congregation, a secret society sort of. We hope that this year will put these awards and this event on the map.”

The Mannish Boys, who debuted in 2004 with the album "That Represent Man," is a fraternity all its own with nine band members ranging in age from mid-30s to 70s. The band name comes from the Muddy Waters song of the same name, in which the singer brags youthfully that he is a “full grown man.” It inspired Chortkoff because he says the guys are all “kids at heart,” who love the blues.

“Blues music is the foundation of all music. It came from the cotton fields of the South and translated into jazz and rock 'n' roll and other forms of music,” he said. “I just know that there is a niche throughout society and throughout the world that is just touched by blues music.”

As for the Blues Music Awards, Chortkoff is quick to note that the festivities would be nothing without the Blues Foundation, a group that aids ailing blues musicians, as well as those getting their start in the artform.

“The Blues Foundation does a lot to increase awareness [of blues music],” he said. “It's a great organization.”

The Blues Music Awards will be held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Other nominees include B.B. King for traditional blues album of the year, Etta James for soul blues female artist of the year and Buddy Guy for contemporary blues male artist of the year, contemporary blues album of the year and album of the year.

– Lora Victorio