King Center’s first music artist-in-residence is Georgia blues musician

Blues musician Jontavious Willis seated holding guitar
Georgia Blues Musician Jontavious Willis

MACON — Mercer University’s King Center for Southern Studies initiates its first music artist-in-residence with Georgia blues musician Jontavious Willis.

“The music artist-in-residence program explores the ways musicians weave both the past, or traditional forms, and current styles into their music,” explained Dr. Doug Thompson, professor of history and director of Spencer B. King, Jr. Center for Southern Studies. “The King Center for Southern Studies hopes to expand what we mean when we say southern music but also how that expansion tells us more about the forces that made the American South such a creative space for artistic expressions.”

Willis is resolved in his mission: to reinvigorate today’s blues with the spirit of the past. He was born and raised in rural Georgia, an environment with deep cultural roots that provides the inspiration he has continuously drawn upon to create his unique sound. He spent much of his childhood singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather, which provided him his first setting to perform for an audience. An early phenom, his passion for the blues was sparked at age 14 when he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

Inspired by a time when the blues were plentiful and rhythm reigned supreme, Willis leverages his unique sound, a synthesis of his Georgia heritage and reverence for traditional blues, to get the world dancing again. A Grammy-nominated musician and songwriter, he performs original, toe-tapping tunes in the style of Delta, Piedmont, Texas, and Gospel Blues. Dynamic vocals, technical prowess and an abundance of Southern charm keep Willis sending jolts of vitality through the blues community.

“The artist-in-residence broadens our reach to explore southern music’s influence in Georgia and beyond,” Dr. Thompson said.

The Music Artist-in-Residence Events
October 23–25

Georgia Blues Panel
Monday, Oct. 23
6 p.m., the Presidents Dining Room, the University Center
“Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes”: Georgia Blues Music Influence on the American South regarding Georgia blues music tradition with Jontavious Willis, Piedmont Bluz artists Valerie and Bendict Turner and Georgia Folklorist Fred Fussell
Free and open to the public

Georgia Blues Panel
Tuesday, Oct. 24
6 p.m., the Presidents Dining Room, the University Center
“Big Eighty Left Savannah”: Blues Tradition in a Modern Context with Jontavious Willis
Free and open to the public

Master Class
Wednesday, Oct. 25
7 p.m. in McCorkle Music Building choir room on the Mercer Macon campus
Free and open to the public

While in Macon, Willis will also perform at Capricorn Sound Studios.

Jontavious Willis Concert
Friday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Capricorn Sound Studios
540 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Macon
Visit here to purchase tickets.