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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 December 2006, 09:16 GMT
Memphis acclaims small blues mag
Issues of Blues Matters!
The magazine has grown since its 1999 beginnings
A magazine founded as a one-man operation in south Wales has won one of blues music's biggest awards.

Alan Pearce began Blues Matters! as a hobby at his Bridgend home in 1999, and has grown to a 10,000-selling magazine.

Now it has picked up 2007's Keeping the Blues Alive award from the Blues Foundation, a Memphis-based body which aims to preserve blues history.

It is only the second UK publication to receive the award, whose previous winners include Rolling Stone.

The blues is a bigger deal in America so to be based in Wales and win this award is a big accolade
Darren Howells, editor-in-chief

Paying tribute to a "true fans' magazine", the Blues Foundation said: "It features honest commentary, yet stills pays homage to the past masters and the music's traditions while remaining open to its contemporary adaptation and progression."

Mr Pearce said he founded Blues Matters! In 1999 after becoming frustrated with the "lack of recognition" of the music in the UK.

It was 18 months before the second edition in September 2000, but since then, it has grown to a 164-page, bi-monthly magazine employing five members of staff, with plans to export to the USA.

Blues Matters! issue 30
Blues Matters! features a mix of past and current artists

Mr Pearce said: "I did it as a hobby but within a couple of years it had got bigger.

"It's been very hard work but it's had it's high points - winning this award is probably the ultimate at the moment.

"For us to get it after just a few years says a lot about our approach.

"It was completely out of the blue."

The 55-year-old, who lists his musical heroes as John Mayall, Savoy Brown and Led Zeppelin, said the magazine had begun to attract younger readers beyond the "core 35-50-year-olds".

He said: "The magazine has a younger attitude and we attract people of all ages between 14 and 70, male and female."

Darren Howells, 27, was taken on as the magazine's first employee in 2003 and is now editor-in-chief of the title, which remains Bridgend-based.

He said: "When I first joined, it was still in fanzine mode - very much looking at local acts and 1960s acts.

Alan Pearce (left) and Darren Howells
Founder Alan Pearce (left) and current editor-in-chief Darren Howells

"I tried to make it a bit younger, looking at bands like the White Stripes and Gomez. We've now got more of a mixture.

"The blues is a bigger deal in America so to be based in Wales and win this award is a big accolade.

"Fans contribute much of what is in the magazine and we are still a fanzine at heart."

Founder Mr Pearce added he would "love to" go to Memphis to collect the magazine's award in February, but publishing schedules and a UK blues festival on the preceding weekend made it unlikely he would be able to collect it in person.


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