Vanderford is being recognized for maintaining and sharing the tradition of the Piedmont Blues harp. Learning harp from his grandfather, initially Vanderford blended a country style with the sound of the Chicago blues. However, once a teenage Vanderford discovered that the blues harpist and former medicine show performer, Peg Leg Sam lived nearby, he eventually developed a close relationship and added Peg Leg’s style to his own. Today, Vanderford’s playing represents one of the closest remaining links to the musical tradition of the early masters’ of the Piedmont Blues.
Vanderford entertains audiences playing solo or with fellow musicians such as “Little Pink” Anderson, Brandon Turner, Steve McGaha, Matthew Knights Williams and many others. His discography includes Piedmont Blues, recorded with Brandon Turner under the name of the New Legacy Duo and Vanderford is featured on Story, Song and Image: Celebrating the Roots and Ethnic Music of South Carolina. His music is also featured on Feel the Presence: Traditional African American Music in South Carolina and in Stan Woodward’s film BBQ and Homecooking, a documentary on foodways in the state.
A reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. at McKissick Museum on Wed., May 5 to celebrate Vanderford’s artistic excellence and lifetime commitment to maintaining and sharing the tradition of the Piedmont Blues harp. Dress is “come as you are.” For more information about the reception or the May 6 awards ceremony, contact Jill Koverman, at (803) 777-7251 or Julianne Carroll, S.C. Arts Commission, at (803) 734-8764.
The Folk Heritage Award is named for the late Jean Laney Harris, an ardent supporter of the state's cultural heritage. The award was created by the legislature in 1987 to recognize lifetime achievement in the folk arts.