02-19-2017  3:56 am      •     

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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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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