The Three Village area is brimming with talented residents, including a renowned music researcher and author who received a prestigious award this month.
John Broven, an East Setauket resident and TBR News Media proofreader, received the Slim Harpo Music Award in the Legend category Nov. 16 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The awards are named after the late musician James Moore, whose stage name was Slim Harpo. The Louisiana swamp blues man’s first song was 1957’s “I’m a King Bee,” which was covered by the Rolling Stones. A few years later, Harpo had hits with “Rainin’ in My Heart” and “Baby Scratch My Back,” according to Broven, and other British bands covered his music including the Kinks and Them with Van Morrison.
“He became quite a figurehead of the British R&B boom in the early 1960s,” Broven said.
A native of Kent, England, Broven is the author of “Record Makers and Breakers,” “Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans” and “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous.” In the latter two books, the author delved into Louisiana swamp blues, and in “South to Louisiana” he went into depth about Harpo’s career.
In the 1990s, while a consultant with Ace Records in London, Broven was responsible for transferring Harpo’s master tapes to CD which resulted in a three CD set release of the musician’s songs. The author said he never had the opportunity to meet Harpo due to the musician’s death at the age of 46 in 1970, a few months before Broven arrived in Baton Rouge to conduct research.
“The thousands of people who have read his books come in contact with Slim Harpo as a result of him and that is one of the reasons we chose him as our legend this year, because he’s been doing this sort of research for 40, 50 years now.”
— Johnny Palazzotto
“He was on the point of becoming an international star when he died in 1970,” Broven said.
The author said he was surprised when he was told that he was chosen for the award a few months ago.
“It’s great that Baton Rouge is preserving its history and keeping Slim’s name alive, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s an honor to be considered for this award,” he said.
Broven added that about 200 people attended the event, that also raises money for music education in schools and included a jam session with legendary rhythm and blues musicians such as Henry Gray, Carol Fran and Deacon John. Broven was introduced by Baton Rouge media entrepreneur Cyril Vetter.
Johnny Palazzotto, who is a member of the Slim Harpo Music Awards committee, said the board consists of nine members and includes Harpo’s stepson, William Gambler.
“We look for and search out people who have shown appreciation for his work, and not just for Slim’s, but Louisiana music in general,” Palazzotto said.
He said Broven was the ideal choice for the award, because the author is both a fan of Harpo’s work and Louisiana music.
“The thousands of people who have read his books come in contact with Slim Harpo as a result of him and that is one of the reasons we chose him as our legend this year, because he’s been doing this sort of research for 40, 50 years now,” Palazzotto said.
Broven is currently working on a revision of “South to Louisiana,” which will be released in 2018. The author said continuing to spread the word about regional roots music is important to him.
“The blues artists came out of the segregated South, and they did it by using their own talents,” Broven said. “It’s great to see this talent recognized not only by established musicians but also by young musicians who can learn so much from these first-generation artists.”