12-05-2016  10:41 am      •     
McMenamins

HOLT, Ala. (AP) -- Caroline Shines arrived home last week to find what she says ``is the best Christmas present I can think of.''
Her street off Crescent Ridge Road had a bright new sign designating it Johnny Shines Street, after her father, the late and great blues musician who lived in Holt for the last 20 years of his life before his death in 1992.
``It's both a Christmas present and birthday present, since my birthday is Dec. 26,'' Shines said last week as she, also a blues singer, got ready for a gig at the NorthRiver Yacht Club, where she and the Debbie Bond Fabulous Blues Band were to play for the annual Jim Walter Resources Christmas party.
Johnny Shines, a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, played slide guitar and was inspired by Robert Johnson, the great and tragic blues man of the 1930s with whom Shines often traveled.
Shines was born in Frayser, Tenn., and like many Black musicians of his era he eventually migrated to Chicago where he cut some classic blues records in the 1940s and 1950s. He moved to Holt in the early 1970s and was still playing locally when he died at the age of 76, less than a week before his 77th birthday.
``He had a show booked for the Train Station (a former Tuscaloosa music venue) the next week when he died,'' said Caroline, his only child.
It was Caroline's idea to rename what had been 11th Street, the only place she and her father ever lived in the Tuscaloosa area, Johnny Shines Street.
But to do so she had to secure the approval of every resident and property owner on the street before the Tuscaloosa County Commission, which has jurisdiction over unincorporated Holt, would give its approval.
``I walked up and down this street for weeks,'' she said Friday. ``I even had to get court records and get on the Internet to track down some property owners who live out of state and write them letters.
``It took a lot of time, but it was worth it.''
The commission approved her request in August, but commission clerk Lisa Whitehead, who Caroline says ``was a tremendous help at every step of the way,'' said the Johnny Shines Street signs did not arrive until earlier this week.
``They had to be special ordered, and I guess there was some sort of backup at the state highway department,'' she said. ``But they got here, and we got them up as soon as possible.''
Bond, one of the founders of the nationally-recognized Alabama Blues Project that teaches after-school music classes and tries to bring attention to blues musicians with Alabama ties, said she is thrilled the street where Johnny Shines spent his last years now bears his name.
``We can't let our rich heritage in the blues be forgotten, and we've got to not only preserve it, but keep it going through the young people,'' said Bond, who often backed up Shines on guitar.
Bond said the blues project also wants to raise money for a monument at Shines' grave in Cedarwood Cemetery south of Tuscaloosa.
``Two or three times a year we get people from all over the world contacting us and wanting to know where they can find Johnny's grave,'' she said. ``Sometimes I think there is more reverence for the blues in Europe than in the United States, where it was born.
``But at least now we have a Johnny Shines Street we can show blues tourists,'' she said.

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