A celebration of roots and branches, the “Take Me to the River” tour sprang from the Memphis-set film of the same name. In the 2014 documentary, classic blues and soul men William Bell, Bobby Rush and Charlie Musselwhite collaborate with rappers Snoop Dogg, Frayser Boy and Al Kapone.
The “Take Me to the River” road show, coming Friday to the Manship Theatre, features Bell, Rush, Musselwhite and the Hi Rhythm Section Memphis with Memphis rap artists Frayser Boy and Kapone.
The tour follows Grammy wins for Rush and Bell in February, a first for both of the veteran artists. Rush, 83, won in the traditional blues category for his made-in-New Orleans album, “Porcupine Meat.” Bell, 78, claimed a best Americana album Grammy for “This Is Where I Live.”
“We’re elated about it,” Bell said of the win. “It validates the hard work we’ve done over all of these creative years. It says somebody was listening.”
Rush released his first recording in 1951. He’s issued 374 records since. He often blends funk and soul into his blues foundation.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Bell’s singing and songwriting helped make Stax Records in Memphis a Southern soul rival to Motown Records in Detroit. Bell wrote and recorded the early Stax hit, 1961’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” He co-wrote his popular duet with Judy Clay, 1968’s “Private Number,” with his fellow Stax mainstay, Booker T. Jones. Another of Bell’s best-known songs, “I Forgot to be Your Lover,” is featured in “Take Me to the River.”
Despite knowing each other for decades, Bell, Rush and Musselwhite hadn’t worked together much until now.
“William and Charlie are both great entertainers and musicians,” Rush said. “I’m great, too. I try to be the best I can be every time I hit the stage.”
For Bell, working with Rush and Musselwhite feels like going home.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Bell said. “And Bobby and Charlie were up there in Chicago with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and those guys. So, this show brings all of the elements together, including the youngsters. The youngsters are soaking up all of the information and the music. It makes for a wonderful atmosphere and concert.”
Rush didn’t know Frayser Boy, an Oscar-winning composer for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” until production for the “Take Me to the River” documentary.
“Frayser Boy told me, ‘Bobby Rush, my mother is your best fan!’ I didn’t think these young rappers knew anything about me," Rush said. "But these guys know more about me than I know about myself. They respect what I do and I respect them.”
The “Take Me to the River” concert and film share the same message, Rush said.
“It’s passing the torch down to the younger people,” he said. “It’s about the roots of music. We want you to fall in love with the blues. If you don’t love the blues, you don’t love your mama, because the blues is the mother of the music.”
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
Featuring Bobby Rush, William Bell and Charlie Musselwhite
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge