You might have come across footage on social media of an elderly African-American woman shredding on guitar, complete with a Jimi Hendrix-style behind-the-back solo. That’s none other than Atlanta-based legend Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. The still-active 80-year-old performer’s career began back in the 1950s, when her band leader Piano Red helped popularize the term “rock and roll” in Atlanta. Since then, she’s earned a reputation as a Lightnin’ Hopkins-style blues picker and a living legend of Georgia music. Her Athens-based collaborator Rick Fowler is throwing a belated party—Watkins’ birthday was Apr. 6—that pays homage to a blues legend’s historic relevance, viral fame and stunning stage presence.
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