Like so many blues icons of a certain generation, James “T-Model” Ford has fallen on hard times. Over the last year, the 93-year-old has suffered a series of strokes which have rendered him unable to play his guitar or walk and which have created a mountain of medical bills. In addition, the resident of Greenville, Mississippi, had to vacate his long-time home after it was condemned by the city.
Efforts are underway to provide financial support for T-Model and his longtime companion and spouse Stella, thanks to Ken Valdez, a rock blues artist based in St. Paul, Minnesota, who is willing to put his money where his respect is. “People say he’s lived a good life; you can’t be around forever,” says Valdez. “That’s absolutely true. For a man who’s larger than life and who brought me and many people happiness, you never want your heroes to die.”
Valdez is determined to make life a bit easier for his idol and friend. He recently released Jack Daniel Time, an EP containing five songs composed by T-Model and performed by Valdez and The River City Renegades. All proceeds from sales of the CD go directly to T-Model and Stella. Valdez understands that people are cautious about where they send their money, so he is in the process of establishing a 501(c)(3) organization for T-Model’s benefit. He also suggests that donations be made directly to T-Model.
In addition to the tribute CD, Valdez has organized a T-Model benefit concert and CD release party to be held at Plums Bar in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Sunday, July 14, at 6 pm. He describes some of the items that have been donated for the silent auction which will be held at the same time: Attorney Brian Lukasavitz is offering free legal services; there is a massage session with the Twins’ masseuse; and a psychic reading is up for bid. The cover charge of $10 includes a copy of the tribute CD.
Valdez first met T-Model over ten years ago at a performance in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Valdez’s hometown. “It was the most amazing music I have ever heard. It was primal; it was raw; it was amazing,” recalls Valdez. “He didn’t have any set of rules. That whole north Mississippi hill country thing – they don’t really have a structure to it. That was my first introduction to hill country and to him.”
The two musicians became friends and have performed and written songs together, including “Can You Hear Me?” on the EP. Valdez feels frustrated that his friend has not received the credit he is due for his contributions to the art form. “T-Model was the real deal as far as I was concerned. He knew his blues, and he completely did the blues in his own way,” maintains Valdez. “This guy should be in the upper echelon and get that kind of respect, like Hubert Sumlin and Honeyboy Edwards. It’s the truest American art form. He presented something that was so different. It seems like everybody has been there and done that in some way, shape, or form before, then all of a sudden these guys are doing something different.”
With the recent downturn in T-Model’s personal circumstances, Valdez felt compelled to reach out. “He is such a character and a good guy; his interaction with the crowd. I have admiration for him and his craft. I want to do something.”
After a call from Stella last week to report that T-Model was not doing well, Valdez is feeling the urgency of the situation. “I’m walking on egg shells now. After talking to Stella, they’re looking at things now in a very real fashion. What kills me is the fact that they’re taking a look at funeral costs: a casket and plot. So they’re trying to raise money for that. They’re trying to cover $7000. Again, I’m that guy who has all this respect and love for T-Model Ford, but I don’t have that kind of money!.”
SEND DONATIONS DIRECTLY TO T-MODEL:
PH: 662-335-5258; FX: 662-378-4429
OR MAIL CARDS, CHECKS, ETC. TO HOME — (NOTE NEW ADDRESS AS OF JAN 2013):
216 North Delta Street