Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman needs no introduction. He is one of the most beloved actors of our time and has appeared in countless movies over the span of multiple decades. And of course, that voice. But Freeman is more than just his face and voice. This past year he has been using streaming technologies as an owner of the celebrated Ground Zero Blues Club, which leaned heavily into tech during a year of quarantine and distancing. He joins us as part of our ongoing coverage of CES 2021.
“We knew we had to do something just to keep going,” Freeman says of his club. “So we launched the ‘Quarantine Series.’” The performers streamed live from the club in Mississippi, because “fans around the world wanted to hear us, and authentic blues.” In fact, so many people from around the world have tuned in that they launched an entirely new series, ‘Deep Fried Blues.’” In that series, blues artists share favorite recipes, they cook their favorite dishes, and then they play a set of blues.
Both series, which he promotes on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, were designed with an intimate feel in mind, as if you were in the same room as the performers. This series not only connects blues lovers around the world — “we’re bringing the delta blues to Israel, to England, to France, Portland, Brazil and beyond,” Freeman says — but it allows artists to keep afloat during lockdowns.
The origins of the Ground Zero Blues Club are rooted in Freeman’s own origins. “I love music — any kind of music!” he sings with a laugh. “For a kid growing up on the Mississippi delta, music is the blues. [And] it’s not only just a part of my heritage as a Southerner,” it’s part of America’s heritage. One day Freeman and his business partner were working on a building they were going to open into a restaurant when they saw a crowd gathering on the street. When asked what they were doing, the crowd asked, “Where can we hear some blues?!” “We couldn’t give them an answer,” Freeman says. “That’s when we decided we had to do something about it. So, we opened Ground Zero Blues Club in May of 2001.”
Even amid the chaos of the last year, Freeman says there were valuable lessons. “We actually learned so much from the streaming series, [and] that our customers are loyal and want to stay connected,” he says, pointing to the fact that their club’s Facebook page has grown 40% over this past year. “We’ll keep streaming, even after things have settled down,” he says. “It’s a good connection, so we’ll do that, even when we’re up and running.”