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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 10:53 am | Fair 60º


Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic Hears from a Blues Crew

Santa Barbara Blues Society — along with Stephen J. Cannell — lends its distinctive voices to the Record-A-Thon cause

Day three of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic’s 14th annual Record-A-Thon was all about the blues, the Baron, the blind reading for the blind ... and mystery. It was the busiest day of the weeklong event as celebrity authors, disc jockeys, musicians and Braille readers participated in recording books for students with print differences.

Bluesman Allastair Greene was happy to read from Ted Gioa's book, 'Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters.'
Bluesman Allastair Greene was happy to read from Ted Gioa’s book, Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters. (Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic photo)

The day began as a blues summit as members of the Santa Barbara Blues Society joined local blues musicians and blues radio hosts for the recording of Ted Gioa’s new book, Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters”. The book is being added to RFB&D’s audio textbook library for the visually impaired and learning disabled. Local blues icons Allastair Greene, Tom Ball and Andy Webb participated, along with Jimmy Mac (host of Blues Breakers on KTYD), Leo Schumaker (Bluesland on KCSB), Steve Daniels (Views of the Blues on KCSB) and Richard Dugan (Tell Me Your Story). Joining them from the Santa Barbara Blues Society were Charles Nicholson and Jimmy “Mac” McCurdy.

As the blues crew chowed down on cornbread and calico beans, RFB&D educational outreach director Kristen Reed told them how RFB&D changed her life.

“I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you today if it wasn’t for RFB&D’s books,” said Reed, who has dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other visual processing issues. “I hated to read until I started using RFB&D in sixth grade. Accessing my school books by listening to them, allowed me to go to college and get a masters degree.”

Dugan volunteered that he, too used RFB&D’s books as a teenager to help him excel in school.

“I had a visual impairment growing up and kids used to make me feel dumb because I struggled with reading,” he said. “RFB&D changed that for me.”

Author, television producer and actor Stephen J. Cannell was RFB&D’s next scheduled guest for the day. Cannell, who is dyslexic, drove up from Los Angeles to read his latest Shane Scully novel, On the Grind, released earlier this year. In chatting with RFB&D volunteers and staff, Cannell told stories about his struggles in school because of his dyslexia. “I’d flunk tests and always would be getting ‘Ds’ on my report card,” he shared. “I couldn’t even pass kindergarten. They held me back!”

Hollywood producer Stephen J. Cannell drove from Los Angeles to read what he wrote in his latest book, 'On the Grind.'
Hollywood producer Stephen J. Cannell drove from Los Angeles to read what he wrote in his latest book, On the Grind. (Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic photo)

Cannell wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 35. But, by then he had already established himself as a successful television producer and screenwriter. Asked what turned his life turned around, Cannell said, “Professor Salisbury. I got a football scholarship to the University of Oregon and decided to take a creative writing class. I wrote this one story and Salisbury called me into his office. I thought, ‘Oh, now it’s all over’ because I was used to people telling me what a failure I was. He said, ‘Cannell, you have a gift from God.’ It was really the first time that anyone said I had potential as a writer.” With the door opened wide to tap his potential, Cannell has since written numerous television shows and novels, including the Shane Scully mystery series.

One of the most interesting moments at Wednesday’s Record-A-Thon occurred during a visit by the staff, volunteers and board members of the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara. They were on hand to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille with a reading of Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille. What made the reading unique was that several chapters of the book were read by Bob Quackenbush and Serena Olson, who read the Braille text of the book while RFB&D volunteers monitored them with the printed version. Other Braille attendees included Jim Jackson, its board chairman, and executive director Michael Lazarovits.

Other Wednesday visitors to Record-A-Thon were author T.C. Boyle, who recorded a few chapters from his recently released book, The Women, and radio personality Baron Ron Herron.

The Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic is just $10,000 short of its fundraising goal of $65,000 to support operations and programs. The Record-A-Thon continues until noon Saturday. To lend your voice to the cause, call 805.681.0531. Click here to make a donation.

— Tim Owens is executive director of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

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