UPDATED: Houston Blues Museum Pushes For a Place of Its Own

UPDATED (October 4, 3:55 p.m.) to correct the name of Blues for Two and the Billy Blues sign. The saxophone-shaped sign is in fact still in front of The Horn; the HBM owns a different Billy Blues sign.

The Houston Blues Museum is hoping to jump-start its campaign for a permanent home for its growing collection of recordings and other artifacts related to the city's rich blues history, which the foundation behind it hopes will become everything from a community center to a tourist attraction.

This month the HBM, a nonprofit founded in 2010, is co-sponsoring the "Blues and Burgers" series of free lunchtime concerts at Discovery Green. Each week the performances, which begin at 11:30 this morning with a set by local duo Tea Blues for Two, will highlight a different period from Duke/Peacock Records, the twin Houston labels that were a crucial influence on both rock and roll and soul music in the '50s and '60s via such artists as Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Johnny Ace, Big Mama Thornton, O.V. Wright, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Junior Parker.

Rather than by musicians or other people in the music business, the HBM was started by local blues fans -- "lay folk, I guess you could say," smiles HBM Marketing Director Sandra Harper Scott -- who wanted a permanent place to honor the city's blues history. Scott and the other directors want the museum to become a headquarters of Houston's very-much-alive blues community more than just a resting place for old photographs, records and similar memorabilia.

"We want it to be something the community can come to and not only find out about blues history, but experience blues as well," she says.

To that end, the HBM's ideal facility would also include a performance space an educational outreach program. It has engaged some local graduate architectural students to design what what the museum might look like; Scott says one building they are looking at is big enough to include residential quarters where some of Houston's aged blues musicians would be able to live.

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Scott says the museum is "constantly collecting things," and has already accumulated a sizable archive in its large storage facility, including a the large saxophone-shaped sign from the old Richmond nightclub Billy Blues, instruments and other gear donated by families of local musicians, and vintage concert posters digitally recreated by artist (and blues fan) Martin Miglioretti. Miglioretti's posters were displayed in the exhibit "Blues In All Its Colors" at the Heritage Society in Sam Houston Park back in April.

However, the HBM has a long way to go before even breaking ground. Although the museum has already been able to secure a few private grants and belongs to the Houston Arts Alliance's incubator program, and a gala and more fundraising efforts are in the works, the kind of place HBM has in mind doesn't come cheap.

"You're talking about in the millions," Scott admits. "We're nowhere near that."

But they have only just started. In fact, HBM's current fundraising campaign, scheduled to go on until 2014, is called "Be Part of the Start." (Disclosure: I have asked that any leftover money from by medical bills relating to my heart attack last year be donated to the museum.)

Still, Scott believes there are enough blues fans in Houston -- and across the Gulf Coast, for which the HBM is intented -- that the museum will be able to meet even such a lofty number.

"Oh yes, yes," she says without pausing. "One thing about Houston -- Houston has great musicians, and Houston has a great fan base. The thing is, there has not been a museum of this type proposed in the Houston area, and of course it's going to take a lot of education of the community.

"And then hopefully there'll be some type of philanthropic effort from someone here," she adds, "but it's definitely doable."

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