WGLT Wins Prestigious 'Keeping The Blues Alive' Award

Feb 7, 2017

"Delta" Frank Black in the GLT Studio holding the "Keeping Blues Alive" Award.
Credit Jon Norton / WGLT

WGLT picked up a coveted "Keeping The Blues Alive" award presented by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.  GLT Morning Edition host and Music Director Jon Norton accepted the award for the station during the KBA awards luncheon February 3 at the Doubletree Hotel in Memphis. The ceremony coincided with the annual week-long "International Blues Challenge," where musicians from around the world compete for cash, prizes, and industry recognition.

The KBA nomination was made by Bruce Iglauer, President and founder of Alligator Records, widely considered to be the Cadillac of blues record labels.  From his perch in Chicago, Iglauer has been keenly aware of GLT's impact on blues in central Illinois.  But a nomination doesn't ensure an award, as he told Jon Norton when he first nominated the station in 2014.

“Only one award per year is given to non-commercial radio, and there are many veteran broadcasters who have been spinning blues for decades, so the competition is fierce," said Iglauer. "However, I believe WGLT is the only 24/7 non-commercial station in the world playing nothing but the blues, so I was confident that the Blues Foundation’s Awards Committee would realize that WGLT is a vital force in Keeping The Blues Alive.”

Norton spoke at the awards ceremony about GLT's 30+ years devoting a large chunk of its weekend programming to blues music.  He told the packed room that blues can be heard 33 hours every weekend over the airwaves in central Illinois, and since 2006 , 24/7 on "GLT Blues Radio" from wglt.org.  He also used his time at the podium to salute long time blues host "Delta" Frank Black, who retired from the station in 2014.  To a packed ballroom of  blues dignitaries mostly unaware of "The Blues Doctor," Norton outlined Black's impact on the central Illinois blues scene.

Jon Norton talks about GLT Blues February 3 in Memphis while accepting the prestigious "Keeping The Blues Alive" award from the Memphis based Blues Foundation.
Credit Brian Anderson

"It's difficult to convey in words the impact 'Delta' Frank has had on central Illinois," said Norton.  "For those of you who have heard of, or maybe even had known Dewey Phillips, that's as close as I can get.  Frank has had the same impact on blues in central Illinois that Dewey Phillips had on Rock 'N Roll in Memphis.  Like Phillips, Frank was a tireless ambassador for the music, and had a visceral connection to his listeners.  When the spirit moved him, which was often, Frank would turn on the microphone in the middle of a song and sing or hum along.  He might even talk back to the song or tell it to 'get along.'  Listeners loved his infectious and at times irreverent personality, and would call him with requests, swap stories, or pour their heart out to him.  At area events including blues festivals, he was like a rock-star.  His voice was instantly recognized and every listener felt they knew him."

Norton also highlighted promotions GLT Blues has pulled off over the decades, including the March Madness styled "Mojo Madness," where listeners called in to vote for their favorite blues artist in a head-to-head battle of blues stars inspired by the NCAA basketball tournament.  He also mentioned "New Blues on Monday," and "300 greatest blues songs of all-time," a one weekend countdown determined by listener voting.

You can hear a sample of Frank Black's post-retirement guest appearance during GLT's 50th anniversary celebration by clicking the "Listen" button below.