Kent Cooper didn't discover the blues, they just crept up on him. When Cooper, a Durham area native, moved to New York in the '60s, he lived next door to blues guitarist Sonny Terry. The two became friends, and Cooper accompanied Terry to the Apollo Theater for blues shows that ran from noon til' 3 a.m. " I'd be up there with all these guys like B. B. King, and T-Bone Walker and all the greats of the day ... and just got to know all the blues guys," Cooper says. He began writing blues tunes Terry, Hooker and others recorded.
After moving back to North Carolina, Cooper became a playwright, writing the blues musical Standing At Your Door in '98. The play was based on conversations Terry and partner Brownie McGhee had about famous bluesmen including Durham's Blind Boy Fuller. Cooper has since written a book, The Harp Styles of Sonny Terry, more plays, and is at work on a fifth novel. He's also going to be writing and producing the Piedmont blues section of Public Broadcasting's series on African-American music.
Durham's ManBites Dog Theater has put on Cooper's work and he decided to pay the theater back with a benefit concert. "They're always suffering for money, so I just decided, well hell, let's give 'em a hand," Cooper says.
The show will present three local artists--Lightning Welles, Jemima James and Deneen McEachern, performing Cooper's songs featured on his latest CD, The Blues and Other Songs on Labor Records. The Cold Wind Band--Chris Berry on guitar, Sandy Darity on harmonica, Tom Latimer on keyboard and Sean Dowdall on bass--also appears. The show starts at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $10.