The Killer Blues Headstone Project exists to provide headstones
for blues musicians lying in unmarked graves.
Steven A. Salter.....President, Whitehall, MI
Aaron Pritchard......Vice President, St. Louis, MO
Leslie M. Salter......Secretary, Whitehall, MI
Dave Wright............Board Member, Marquette Hts., IL
Hank Mowery..........Board Member, Grand Rapids, MI
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It was a fateful road trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1997 that The Killer Blues Headstone Project was born. On his way through Chicago Steve decided to stop at a couple of cemetaries in the Chicago area known for the resting place of several blues artists he knew and loved. "I wanted to pay my respects to those that had enriched my life with their music" Salter stated. He was greatly shocked to find that many had no marker on their grave. It was at that point he decided to do something about it. He had already begun compiling a list of birth and death dates of blues artists and researching where they were buried. He then began in earnest visiting their graves to see if they had a marker. Although he found that some did, many more did not. Steve photographed those that did which later became photos in his calendar.
Steve began immediately working to place headstones. At this point in time CD sales were slowly dwindling with the rise of the internet and he began to look for another source for funding. He came up with the Buried in the Blues Calendar and spent several years researching and putting it altogether before finally going to print in 2008. No other calendar was available that listed over 1000 birth and death dates of blues artists. Also, in 2008 Steve put on the first White Lake Blues Festival in his hometown of Whitehall, MI. to bring awareness to his cause and to raise more money for headstones. The festival was a success the first headstone for Big Maceo was placed.
In 2009, The Killer Blues Headstone Project became a non-profit 501(c)(3).
Steve's headstone list of artists in need of a marker is long and growing. "I keep adding more to my list as I become aware of them through research or notification from other blues fans" Steve said. "I feel driven to place as many as I can in my lifetime", he added.
Steve Salter created Killer Blues in 1995 after spending time helping out Billie Thomas at "Tant Enterprises" a distributor of folk, blues and independent labels in Montague, MI only 5 miles from Steve's home in Whitehall, MI. He and Billie spent many a weekend listening to old 78's and drinking beer in Billlie's warehouse. "He became a kind of mentor to me. He was an irracible crumudgeon that had a wealth of knowledge of early jazz and pre-war blues", Salter stated. Soon Billie invited Steve to assist him at festivals selling jazz, folk and blues CDs. "It wasn't long before I decided to branch off on my own and service a niche market focusing on blues only". He and Billie continued their friendship until Billie's death in 1998.