At 90 years young, John Dee Holeman is nothing short of an enigma. The 1988 NEA
National Heritage Fellowship award recipient boasts multiple tours overseas, shaking it down at NYC’s Carnegie Hall, 3 full length records with Music Maker Relief Foundation, and an
insatiable appetite for endless boogie, 12 bars or otherwise.
Hailing from Durham, North Carolina by hard way of the farms of Orange County, Holeman
came up farming tobacco. He completed the fourth grade then promptly gave up schoolwork for farm work to assist his Daddy on the farm. Trading in a formal education edified him a
doctorate in the Blues. “I think the Blues is hardship and working hard,” Holeman says. “You really can get into it then and I’ve had it hard. The way I take it is when you’re down or out, more less, that’s what I take to be the Blues.” Scoring a $15 Silvertone at the hardly ripe age of 14 commenced a journey that keeps on giving, and Holeman just wants to give more.
Entering his ninth decade, Mr. Holeman has admittedly made a decent living thus far but
looks even more forward to continuing his righteous path in music. From pig-picking backyard North Carolina parties to packed venues in Thailand, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey, Canada, and even Africa, learning a few chords from an uncle and a cousin has proved to be the world’s greatest gift. Not only providing countless hours of comfort for the long, arduous, albeit inhumanely hot nights of drying out leaves in a tobacco barn but an ethereal distraction and ultimately a golden path for his later years. North Carolinian drummer and manager extraordinaire, Zeke Hutchins, produced Holeman’s most recent offering, You Got To Lose, You Can’t Win All The Time, in 2008. A new record is nigh entitled Last Pair of Shoes, again on Music Makers and out this coming Friday, 8/2/19.
Holeman’s signature ditty is the infectious “Chapel Hill Boogie.” A 12 bar boogie that cooks in all its funky juices, highlighted by the fuzzy rhythm riff and a harmonious harp on top of it all. It’s the type of groove you’d like to keep on repeat, if not only for the song, but just to keep catching the feeling over and over. It’s our great honor to premier that song to you here, right now…
John Dee Holeman
*Feature image courtesy of Music Maker Relief Foundation