Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, the Last of the Bentonia Bluesmen, with William Lee Ellis, guitar

Join us for an evening with guitarists Jimmy "Duck" Holmes and William Lee Ellis as they trace the deep history of the blues in this interactive concert event. Holmes is known the world over as the most important living practitioner of the country blues tradition and as the proprietor of the Blue Front Café juke joint in Bentonia, Mississippi. At this concert, Holmes will be accompanied by William Lee Ellis, a fellow guitarist with an equally impressive pedigree—his godfather was the pioneering bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. Together, Holmes and Ellis will perform a selection of original songs and Southern standards. The concert will be followed by a Q&A session and a reception with refreshments. Hosted by Washington University voice faculty member Candice Ivory.

General Admission: $15
WashU faculty/staff: $10
WashU students with ID: FREE
(Washington University Box Office - (314) 935-6543)


Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the embodiment of raw country blues as one of the most original and uncompromising acoustic blues musicians playing today.  From his first, Back to Bentonia (2006), to the Grammy Nominated Cypress Grove (2019), Duck’s albums have won numerous blues music awards, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Blues chart, and been hailed as “the most important active performer in the country blues tradition" by critics.  Duck and his rhythmic and haunting minor-tuned blues have been featured in numerous documentaries and programs by the BBC, Netflix, and independents including the acclaimed Canadian documentary I am the Blues, which won Best Feature Length Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards.  

Duck’s importance as a blues musician was recognized when the State of Mississippi featured him on the Mississippi Bi-Centennial Forever Stamp issued by the United States Postal Service.  Duck has developed fans across the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South America through appearances at various festivals and by attracting fans to Bentonia for the past 50 years to the Bentonia Blues Festival, held the third Saturday in June each year.  In connection with his Grammy nomination for his album Cypress Grove recorded with Dan Auerbach on Easy Eye Sound, Duck was invited to perform for the Grammy’s and was featured on the CBS Sunday Morning segment, On the Road

Duck is referred to as the Last of the Bentonia Bluesmen since he is the last direct musical descendent of Henry Stuckey, Skip James, and Jack Owens.  After Henry Stuckey and Skip James passed, Jack Owens continued Jimmy’s instruction while the two would sit and play at the Blue Front Café, the oldest surviving juke joint in Mississippi.  Started in 1948 by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ parents, Jimmy took over the old juke in 1970.  The local blues musicians would meet at the Blue Front, shoot pool, have a few drinks, and play for each other.  Today, blues fans from all over the world travel to the Blue Front to soak in its history and hear authentic Blues from Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and others. 

William Lee Ellis is Chair of the Fine Arts Department and Associate Professor of Music at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, where he teaches courses in American music, music theory, and equity studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Musicology – Southern Regional Studies, a master’s degree in classical guitar, and he has worked much of his life as a professional musician and music journalist, winning, among other accolades, first place for Arts & Entertainment in the esteemed Missouri Lifestyle (formerly Penny-Missouri) Journalism Awards. He has performed internationally, including State Department tours, and his music – under his own name and with his father, banjo composer Tony Ellis – has been licensed for film and television. He has co-authored several instructional books and written liner notes on the music of Reverend Gary Davis, penned the chapter on Delta blues for the multidisciplinary book, Defining the Delta (University of Arkansas Press), and has a chapter in a forthcoming Lexington Press book on theology and the blues. He curated the spring 2023 show at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, Build a Heaven of My Own: African American Vernacular Art and the Blues, and released his latest album for the Yellow Dog label, Ghost Hymns, this past summer.