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Published on August 5th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Blues Artist Drink Small Wins National Award

A South Carolina native is being recognized for his soulful grit and raw blues talent with a national award, which is also the highest honor for traditional arts in the United States.

Drink Small is 82-years-old, but he still had the crowd clapping and dancing along to his tunes recently at the Tapp’s Art Center in Columbia.

“I feel honored to get this recognition and in fact, I feel as good as new,” Small said. “Nothing is finer than being in South Carolina.”

Small will be among the 2015 National Heritage Fellowship recipients. This award is a lifetime honor given by the National Endowment of the Arts to master folk and traditional artists. Small and his peers will be honored during a free concert this October in Washington, D.C.

“We are honored to have Drink Small here tonight. In 1999, he was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame,” said Ken May, executive director at the South Carolina Arts Commission. “Drink is now the fifth South Carolinian to have received this award and it it much deserved.”

Small played most of his old favorites but also performed a new song for the audience at Tapp’s. His new song is about nurses in honor of his wife.

“I’m 82, but I’m going to make it to 99,” Small said. “I think I am the only blues singer to make a song about nurses, but nurses know when a man is hurtin’.”

More than 100 people filled the room to hear Small sing and play his electric blues guitar. Alex Gorelik of Columbia is one of Small’s biggest fans and has seen him perform several times.

“This award is long overdue. He is one of the last few of his generation who is still active and performing,” Gorelik said. “I appreciate his significance to South Carolina and I think this award is good for our state.”

Small also told the crowd, “It’s never too late to do right, but it’s always too soon to do wrong.”

“I’ve been living here for 82 years and I ain’t going no where,” Small said.

By Ali O’Hara on

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