The Blues Family Tree Project
Founded in 1990 as a non-profit documentary collective, the Austin Blues Family Tree (ABFT) was conceived as an oral history project intended to capture a vanishing, but distinct cultural community in East Austin, Texas. Harold McMillan, a University of Texas graduate with an MA in American Civilization, recognized the need to create, as well as preserve, documentation about the lives and work of African American blues/jazz/gospel musicians in Austin. These individuals not only helped develop the unique sound of Austin blues, but also nurtured young white musicians, newly awakened to the music long familiar to segregated Texas black communities. Most of the now elderly (or deceased) musicians who were introduced into the Austin scene in the late 1940s-early 1950s drew on the influence of pianists/singers such as Grey Ghost, Robert Shaw and Dr., Hep Cat, legendary Texas blues guitarists T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins, country blues and gospel styles, and the touring territory jazz dance bands, connecting local musical roots to a distinct community-Black East Austin.