Arts & Culture

Houston Blues Museum Archives Find Home At Rice University

A piece of Houston’s music history will now live on at Rice University’s Woodson Research Center.

Known for hits like Shirley Jean, Big Walter “The Thunderbird” Price is one of the legends of Houston blues. And his original recordings, cuff links, recording contracts and other treasures were some of the first items that the Houston Blues Museum delivered to its new home at Rice University on June 19.

“We felt that June 19th was a very significant date. It’s Juneteenth, and it’s a very important day in Houston,” said Sandy Hickey, museum co-founder. “And they have the big concerts at Miller Outdoor Theatre, and a lot of our blues artists perform there.”

The museum has struggled to find a permanent location for its archives, which span more than seven decades, and include items from the city’s famous blues musicians, such as Lightnin’ Hopkins.

“Our history is here. It should be as well-known as what is in Mississippi and Chicago. So that’s why we’re so passionate about it and love that it’s going to get preserved,” said Jomonica Phoenix, co-founder with Hickey.

Rice archivist and special collections librarian, Norie Guthrie, offered the museum space at the Woodson Research Center, which is also home to the Houston Folk Music Archive

“When I think about a music scene, I think about [the fact that] there are a few big names and then there’s everybody else,” said Guthrie, who believes that the collection is an important way to tell the stories of artists that might be overlooked.

“I think it’s also just a way to celebrate Houston, and I’m especially happy this is a great way to celebrate Black life in Houston,” said Guthrie. “It’s a way for people not to be forgotten.”

Hickey and Phoenix have a storage unit and several closets full of items still to turn over to Rice, including clothes from Texas Johnny Brown, memorabilia from Jimmy “T99” Nelson, about 20 guitars, amps and a bass guitar.

The Woodson Research Center will begin cataloging items and digitizing audio and video materials, which will be accessible to the public.

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Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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