No heart attack or dialysis machine could keep D.C. Minner from his lifelong mission: spreading the good news of the blues. And thanks to his tireless dedication to the blues through the Down Home Blues Club and the Dusk Til Dawn Blues Festival, which he started with his wife, Selby, the festival survives and thrives. D.C. Minner, who died May 6 at age 73, started the Dusk Til Dawn Blues Festival two years after founding the Down Home Blues Club in 1989, in the Rentiesville home of his grandmother. The annual Labor Day weekend event now attracts 4,000 blues fans, and Selby Minner said the outpouring of affection for her late husband is resulting in even more music for this year's festival, which runs from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. today through Sunday at the Down Home Blues Club, five miles north of Interstate 40 on U.S. 69 in Rentiesville. "It's going to be an emotional year,” said Selby, who played bass with her husband in their band, Blues on the Move. "We usually do 30 bands and we're up to 35. You can't turn them down on a year like this — it's really going to be an amazing amount of music.” Those players include Guitar Shorty, former Freddie King sideman Andrew Jr. Boy Jones, Johnny Rawls, Tony Mathews, Leon Blue, Jimmy Preacher Ellis and Australian aboriginal blues player Harper, who incorporates the didgeridoo into the 12-bar blues. Oklahoma favorites such as Miss Blues, Wanda Watson and Pure Silk also will play, with percussionist Jahruba teaching young blues fans drumming techniques at the Kids Village on all three nights. And Selby Minner continues her husband's tradition of playing each night of the festival. D.C. Minner spent many years in California playing with legends such as Freddie King and Bo Diddley, but when he and Selby moved to Oklahoma, his passion for the blues took on a new dimension: education. The Minners created the Blues in the Schools program through the Oklahoma Arts Council, performing music in classrooms and talking to students about the blues. The Minners won both a W.C. Handy Award and the Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive Award for their efforts. Despite failing health, D.C. Minner remained true to his destiny, often calling the shots for the festival from his bed during the last three years of his life. But when he had the strength to do it, he was on a stage — he and Selby even played several shows during that time, stopping in and seeing old friends from his California blues circuit days. "We went on tour with him on dialysis,” she said. "We were gone six weeks, we played 14 dates all the way up to San Francisco, and he never missed a note, four hours a night on dialysis. This was a very determined man.” To commemorate D.C. Minner's life and work, several musicians playing the Dusk Til Dawn Blues Festival will play some of the guitarist's favorite songs. Selby Minner said she felt it was the only way to pay tribute to a man who loved to fill the world with beautiful blues. "D.C. would never go for a moment of silence at a party,” she said. "He loved this festival, and I feel him all the time. I think him pulling from the other side is going to really help us grow, to tell you the honest truth.”
Dusk Til Dawn Blues Festival• When: 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. today through Sunday. • Where: Down Home Blues Club, 701 D.C. Minner, Rentiesville. • Tickets: $15 per day, children younger than 12 admitted free. • Information: (918) 473-2411.