Dudley Harris is a Chester County, Tennessee-based blues guitarist and vocalist who has been performing for over fifty years. Dudley’s music preserves the West Tennessee country blues tradition cultivated by legendary bluesmen Sonny Boy Williamson, Yank Rachall and Sleepy John Estes, among others. Influenced by these artists while growing up in Henderson, he honed his skills playing in juke joints and nightclubs throughout Chester County and other areas of Tennessee. His performing also took him as far as Mississippi, Kentucky, and Nebraska. Dudley remains one of the few, if not the only, African American country blues players in rural West Tennessee. He is currently working on his first album project, funded in part by a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Dudley is excited about the opportunity to help preserve the West Tennessee country blues tradition: “The tradition is very endangered in my community. Mississippi gets a lot of credit for the country blues and that’s alright. But, Tennessee has its own tradition and own legacy that is often overlooked. Also, I think the blues in general needs to be preserved. Other forms of music are more popular today, but the blues is the roots of those.”
Part of Dudley’s excitement is related to his dynamic apprentice, Rita Nicole Perry, a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Jackson, TN. Rita is an artist who draws on wide-ranging influences including folk, soul, rock and country, along with the blues. She’s excited about working with Dudley to preserve the blues tradition of her native West Tennessee: “I’ve loved blues music for so long. I’m very eager to learn more about the blues culture of Southern West Tennessee. This area has so much history and my ancestors were a part of it.”