Following a two-year delay caused by COVID-19, Laurens is finally getting its Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival. The single-day festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, on the Historic Square in Laurens.
“My primary goal – and I think it’s in line with the city’s primary goal and that of Main Street Laurens – is to bring awareness of the people who were born here that have, in my opinion, not been properly celebrated or recognized here,” said festival organizer Hunter Holmes, a musician and aficionado of blues and roots music genres. “That became, you know, extremely influential, known worldwide musicians.”
Bluesmen Pink Anderson and Rev. Gary Davis, both born and raised in Laurens County, played a style of music now called Piedmont Blues. They have been recognized as influences among some of the most recognizable names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Keb Mo. Pink Floyd’s name was inspired by Anderson and bluesman Floyd Council.
“I just feel like it’s time to celebrate those guys and get some recognition for them here,” Holmes said, noting that music tourists have come to Laurens County in search of the legacies of the famed musicians only to find nothing.
He hopes the festival begins to change that and would like to see a statue erected in honor of Davis, a blind pastor and musician who was born, preached and performed in Gray Court.
“There’s no other reason for (enthusiasts) to come here in their mind, except that they’re on a roots music odyssey, and they’ve gone to Memphis to see Sun Studios,” Holmes said. “They’ve gone to Nashville to see the honkytonks and Ernest Tubbs’ record shop or whatever. And one of those stops for some people is Laurens, South Carolina, because of Rev. Gary Davis and Pink Anderson.”
Holmes said the festival will honor the county’s most famous musicians and will also pay homage to lesser known artists who played roots music locally in the early 20th century, setting a path for blues, rock and country music that would be recorded later.
The lineup of performers has yet to be set, but Holmes said it is his plan for the festival to remain authentic to the Piedmont Blues and Roots music it is celebrating.
“It’s a humble music to begin with – usually just one musician with an acoustic guitar, so people can’t expect a face-melting concert,” Holmes said. “We want people to come and discover what they’ve been missing and also cater to the people all over the Southeast who do know what Piedmont Blues is and do appreciate it.”