Dick W Memorial Post

On the passing of Dick Waterman…

30 January 2024

I’m deeply sorry to mark the passing of my friend, Dick Waterman, who made such a huge impact on the lives and careers of so many great blues artists, championing them as people as much as their music, booking and managing them with great care, integrity and skill. He gave me my start as well, going on to book and represent me for 15 years. He was also a renowned photographer who published a book and his wonderful photographs of some of our most legendary roots artists… He was an incredible storyteller, popular columnist in the local Oxford (Mississippi) Eagle and packed a great deal into his 88 years. We are so sorry to lose him and I am deeply grateful for the gifts he gave me and the life he lived.  My sincere condolences go to his wife Cinda and all his family.

Dick published a book of rare photographs and personal recollections called Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive in 2003. While the book itself is out of print, you can learn more about it here: http://tinyurl.com/yduhh6sa and read an excerpt (below) from the preface I was honored to contribute.

To learn more about his life, you can check out his biography, “Dick Waterman: A Life In Blues” written by Tammy L. Turner. https://www.upress.state.ms.us/Books/D/Dick-Waterman

— Bonnie

From Preface: 
My friendship with Dick developed as closely as did the ones with the many blues artists we both adored. Through his connection I received the education and gift of a lifetime, hanging and learning about life and the music from all my heroes as well as being given a job I’d love for the rest of my life. Within a couple of years, I was opening for his acts and Dick went on to manage me for the next fifteen years.
  While so many mostly white, middle class Blues aficionados seem to obsess about only the actual Blues recordings, huddling around their hallowed 78s, speaking in hushed tones about this or that obscure song, the living, breathing scions of the music walk among us. Often forgotten, neglected and  long occupied in jobs other than music– farmer, porter, you name it, ..having given up on the idea of recognition of making a living in music, suddenly their lives are transformed by being ‘rediscovered’ during the heralded Folk/Blues revival of the mid-1960s. 
After starting his own management and booking agency, Avalon Productions,  Dick knew the meaning of rent money, medical bills, proper billing and payment. How to get a person from some small town in the Delta up to the big east coast cities for the gigs and back. He knew how to help these often rural, unsophisticated geniuses fare in the alien, impossibly whirlwind world of the folk/blues festival and concert circuit.
By gathering so many greats under one roof, Dick was able to collectively bargain to ensure each artist got to play the best gigs and be paid what they deserved. He steadfastly guarded every aspect of his artists’ professional life and was often the family’s solid rock during personal crises as well. 
For helping raise the quality of life for so many artists with whom he worked, for reminding the white progeny of these mighty scions wherein their debt lies, for refusing to compromise probably at the expense of his own advancement, taking the high road and loving the people as well as the music, Dick has helped shepherd the Blues to a place in history truly befitting its worth. 

For this, and for the gift that are these extraordinary images and reminiscences brought together in this book, we thank you. 

Photos: Dick Waterman and Son House, 1969; Dick Waterman and Bonnie Raitt, 2006 (photographers unknown.)

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