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Mable Hillery – Highlight of The Week

Mable Hillery – Sweet Georgia Blues

Mable Hillery is an American singer, performer, songwriter along with educator and a political activist.  Besides her own side projects, she joins the “Georgia Sea Islanders”, as a contralto for the group.  Alongside John Davis, the community leader; Bessie Jones, the song leader; Peter Davis, bass; Emma Ramsey; and Henry Morrison.

The College Circuit

Furthermore, Mable passes on her dances, blues, spiritual and gospel repertoire to her children and the children she taught.  In addition to having a unique voice, she also has no issues performing in public. Such is the case when she appears in an episode hosted by Alan Lomax in 1962.  Then between 1961 and 1965 she tours the college circuit of campuses, coffee houses, churches along with church basements and festivals. She tours from Berkeley to Philadelphia, from Ash Grove in Los Angeles to the Café à Go-Go in New York City.

The Newport Folk Festival

The Newport Folk Festival held a preview concert at New York City’s Central Park in the summer of 1965, at the height of the Civil Rights era. Alan Lomax produced and emceed the concert, in order to bring New York audiences closer to the black South and what was happening there through this event. The concert included Mable and the Sea Islanders, among others, who talked about their material.  

In 1966, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto produced a film, Blues Special, for its TV series, Festival. Highlights from those sessions have been released on Blues Masters, a DVD whose performers include Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Willie Dixon, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Otis Spann, Sunnyland Slim, and Mable Hillery. In the late 60s, Mable often performed on Johns Island with the Sea Island Singers, and from 1966 through 1975, she sang throughout the South, not only on college campuses but in prisons as well.

Hillery also worked with six Atlanta schools and, in 1969, at Manhattan Community College. In the 1970s, because of her special interest in the preservation, historical interpretation, recital, and uses of “play songs” for black children. She apparently also taught in seminars at the Bank Street School, an innovative teacher-training school.

Shortly after she passes away at age 46.

This is just an overview of this amazing musicians life for more information check out the Alan Lomax interviews. 

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