Brian Blake was named the Memphis Songwriters Association’s 2021 Songwriter of the Year on April 8 at the Orpheum Theater’s Halloran Centre for Performing Arts in Memphis, Tenn. The nomination came as part of MSA’s annual “Songwriter Showdown” competition for area artists, which had 49 entrants from around the Memphis area.
The top three songwriters were chosen by a panel of judges from the music industry in Memphis and Nashville. Blake, who currently resides in just south of Memphis in Nesbit, Miss., was declared the winner for his song “Move on J.D.”
Blake’s winning entry was inspired by a picture he saw of J.D. Lowe on a Liberty-related Facebook page. Lowe, who was from the Liberty area, was a World War II veteran who is still remembered by many in Liberty. Although he lives in the Memphis area, Blake and his family have deep roots in Liberty. His grandparents were Joe and Rosie Blake, both now deceased. His father, Ron Blake, and numerous cousins still live in Liberty and in Texas.
About the winning song, Blake says “J.D. was disabled from a war-related injury and known around town as kind of a wanderer. As a kid, I remember seeing him from time to time in town, and after recently learning more about him, I felt compelled to write this song.”
MSA president, Mark Parsell said “This is a moving tribute about a homeless veteran in small town America. Brian is a songwriter that keeps your attention and he does this with ‘Move on J.D.’”
The songwriter, who still frequently visits family here, is working on an album that will have a number of songs about the Blake family’s long connection to the area. The soon to be recorded album will be entitled “Rice Field in the Distance.” The title track of the same name is about his great-grandparents, Charlie and Kate Blake, of Devers.
Of his family’s Liberty ties, Blake says, “Going back generations, we’ve been preachers and teachers, cowhands and rice farmers, veterans and civil servants, speculators and roughnecks, horse traders and car dealers and everything in between. It’s important for me to tell the story of those generations and our long connection to Liberty.”
“I’m grateful to the MSA for being named Songwriter of the Year and honored that the judges thought a folk song about a homeless veteran from a small east Texas town was worthy of this award. I’m excited about the opportunities the recognition will bring and with my upcoming album, I hope to do Liberty proud.” Blake says.
Following the release of his album, Blake is planning a tour of performances including stops in Liberty, Houston, and Galveston. For more about Brian Blake, he can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brianblakeguitar.