The Blues Foundation has rescinded Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 2021 Blues Music Awards nomination for Best Blues Rock Artist over his use of the Confederate flag.
“The decision to rescind the nomination was based upon continuing revelations of representations of the Confederate flag on Shepherd’s ‘General Lee’ car, guitars and elsewhere,” The Blues Foundation explained in a statement announcing the decision.
The organization cited its Statement Against Racism recently released on March 15th, which reads,
“The Blues Foundation unequivocally condemns all forms and expressions of racism, including all symbols associated with white supremacy and the degradation of people of color. We will hold ourselves as well as all blues musicians, fans, organizations, and members of the music industry accountable for racist actions and encourage concrete commitments to acknowledge and redress the resulting pain.”
Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s father, Ken Shepherd, was also asked to step down as a member of its board of directors.
In a statement, Shepherd responded to the decision by claiming he had stopped using the flag on his Dukes of Hazzard-inspired car “years ago” because “it was completely against my values and offensive to the African American community which created the music I love so much.”
Shepherd previously claimed in a 2015 Wall Street Journal interview that people of all races love the “General Lee” car. “The Confederate flag can be controversial, but not in this case,” he said. “I get thumbs up from everybody, regardless of race. The African-American community created the music that I play; racism is not a part of my DNA.”
As Variety points out, however, some members of the blues community have claimed Shepherd only deleted photos and videos promoting the car in the past few days. The Blues Foundation’s decision came after prominent figures like blues pioneer Muddy Waters’ daughter, Mercy Morganfield, and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds said they planned to dissociate themselves from the organization.
Morganfield had said she was resigning from the board because of The Blues Foundations’ support for Shepherd in a since-deleted Facebook post titled “The Way My Daddy Looks At a White Man Winning a Blues Foundation Music Award While Waving A Fucking Confederate Flag.”
“It has come to my attention that a winner of the Blues Foundation Award for Best Blues Something or Other proudly displayed a Confederate Flag on his social media pages, drove around with it on his fucking car,” she wrote. “When this was pointed out to the Blues Foundation the official statement is ‘We are not a political organization.’ What do you all think the Blues is at its core?”
Morganfield continued by calling for the Blues Foundation to rescind the nomination. “Daddy’s greatest rebellion was refusing to return to Mississippi to perform. He avoided the Confederate Flag-worshipping southern states altogether,” Morganfield explained, before adding she “did not have the bandwidth to manage board participation after my brother and grandmother’s deaths. I really believe my wyte and blk (sic) colleagues on the board have the best intentions to ‘do the right thing.’”
In a subsequent Instagram post claiming she was kicked off Facebook for a month because of the aforementioned post, Morganfield praised The Blues Foundation for its decision. “Hats off to the Blues Foundation for doing it. KWS dad was asked to step down off the board as well. Thank you BF we are so happy you are listening.”
After seeing Morganfield’s original statement, Wilson requested to be “permanently” taken out of contention for “any blues award competition.” After Variety reached out to Wilson about the decision to rescind Shepherd’s nomination, he said, “If it’s true they rescinded it, then they don’t need to rescind mine.”
“I feel bad for him, but he made a big mistake in purchasing that car,” he added. “There’s no room for systemic racism anywhere, and especially in the blues music field… I played with Mercy’s dad and he was a big mentor of mine, along with almost every master and inventor of blues music, especially from late ‘40s on, the people who really invented the music.”