the shows from setting up the stage to running sound to getting rooms for the artists to running the door was executed through volunteer labor, and Penn (and everyone else) did it for the love of the blues.
Over the years we had many national acts perform: R.L. Burnside, Eddie Shaw, Lonnie Brooks, Gloria Hardiman, Jerry Portnoy, Kenny Neal, Matt Murphy and Bobby Radcliff to name a few. It was a heyday for the blues and Greensboro blue enthusiasts loved it!
In 1990, Bill accepted a new position with an airline company in Phoenix. Penn and Freddie stepped up to fill his shoes. In 1988 the festival had moved to the Depot in downtown Greensboro. Today, after renovation, it is a modern building, and the hub of city busses and the railway. But back then it was pretty run down. We staged the festival on the outside terrace upstairs from the main building. Somehow Penn rented a flatbed truck for the main stage, Audio and Light provided a professional sound system and with a well-rounded lineup that included the winner of the talent contest, a Piedmont blues artist and electric blues people, the Depot venue was a hit. Penn became the festival chair in 1990 along with other obligations for the society.
In 1987, PBPS created the Blues Talent Contest, which today is affiliated with the yearly International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Because Penn was so well acquainted with all the bands in the region, he got the word out that the contest was happening in August at Somewhere Else Tavern on Freeman Mill Road. Back then there was no internet, no social media, hell, we didn’t even have computers. So we hand made flyers, and sent out mailings and printed the Bluesletter. But by word of mouth, the first year we had 30 bands and solo acts. It took three qualifying rounds of ten bands each and one final round to get a winner. It took all day Saturday and Sunday, but was great fun and gave exposure to so many blues enthusiasts. Again Penn and Freddie’s enthusiasm made the event a big success.