Winston Hardy's Contribution to Local Blues Is Significant to Current Popularity

By Rocky Adcock-Amaretto

In June of 1984 an unlikely group of local musicians assembled on the back steps of the Kenmcky Center for the Arts, during the Kentucky Folk Life Celebration, to perform the blues to a majority white audience. The band was the 26th Street Blues Band, hailing from the 26th St. Tavern at 26th and Garland. Winston Hardy, the leader of the group and the only white musician in the group, was instrumental in arranging this unique opportunity for local blues fans. With Hardy were Annie Ophelia Robinson, Fred Murphy, Fred Townsend, Smoketown Red, Marshall Anderson and E. J. Page. The same group also appeared in September at the Louisville Jazz Society Festival at the Water Tower. The 26th Street Band was not widely known outside of the 26th Street Tavern's sphere of influence and there were not many blues bands around the area. In a fairly short period, however, things would start happening.

Although Hardy was unable to keep the 26th Street Band together, for a number of reasons, he did re-form as the Winston Hardy Original Blues Band and provided the opening act for Robert Jr. Lockwood at the Kentucky Center in November of the same year. The outcome of Hardy's activities resulted in emergence of renewed interest in the blues in this community.

Bom to a prosperous Shepherdsville, Kentucky family, Hardy was fascinated with the idea of a musical career and performing at an early age and has pursued little else in his lifetime. His flair for show and public display are legendary, largely due to his burning desire to make some statement. During the sixties, he developed his musical and political ideas in Califomia and was very much involved in the emerging rock music scene there. He returned to Kentucky in, the late seventies.

A superb vocalist and songwriter, Hardy's strong, resonant voice was often overpowered by the sheer volume of his instrumental performances. His musical style has always been loose and spontaneous and somewhat unrefined. Nevertheless, each time he emerged on the local scene, he played to packed houses until the inevitable break-up of the group, due to personal differences in business and developing musical philosophies between Hardy and his musicians.

Many of Louisville's blues musicians have played in Winston Hardy's groups and a lot of musicians are somewhat indebted to his efforts of getting them started in the business. Blues fans are indebted, too.