LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- In an ambitious salute to The Year of the Blues, The Right Stuff/EMI will issue six CD "best of" packages for artists whose repertoire resides within EMI Music's extensive catalog. The Blues Kingpins series, due to hit the streets on August 5, contains "best of" volumes from six of the most influential artists in blues and rock'n'roll: Fats Domino, Ike Turner, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James and B.B. King. The reissues were produced and annotated by noted blues journalist/author Bill Dahl.

A portion of the profits from the series will be donated to the Blues Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation headquartered in Memphis serving as the organization for the worldwide resurgence in blues music.

The series brings together many of the classic postwar blues artists in the EMI vaults for long-overdue "best of" packages, all of them tying in perfectly with the ongoing Year of the Blues campaign geared to create new interest in the blues genre. In every case, the selections are seminal vintage recordings by some of the greatest pioneers in the blues field which span their earliest and in many cases most creative periods.

The six volumes are all culled from EMI's vast blues catalog. Los Angeles-based Imperial Records was the source of the Fats Domino material; EMI acquired the firm in the early '70s at the same time they acquired United Artists Records. Aladdin Records, another L.A. label, source of the lion's share of the Lightnin' Hopkins material, had been purchased by Imperial some years earlier.

Los Angeles blues labels Modern and RPM contributed the John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, and B.B. King recordings, half of the Lightnin' Hopkins sides, and all the Ike Turner, except for his savage instrumental closer "Prancing," originally on Juggy Murray's New York-based Sue Records -- another label acquired by EMI.

In addition to being the first time much of the material has been released on CD, the Blues Kingpins series offers some sides which were previously unissued in the U.S. altogether. J.W. Walker's "Can't See You Baby" (he later became known as Big Moose Walker) on the Ike Turner disc has only seen the light of day on a very rare Japanese two-CD set until now. Many tracks have never been reissued previously in the U.S., including the Hooker recordings cut with his Detroit road band, the Lightnin' Hopkins sides from Modern/RPM, most of the Ike Turner, some of the non-hit Fats Domino, and at least one B.B.King ("Please Hurry Home.")

"This is a project I've been wanting to do for years. Hopefully all the focus on the blues this year will renew interest in music that's a national treasure and that would be a good thing  for all labels," says The Right Stuff president Tom Cartwright.

According to producer/annotator Dahl, "I'm very excited and pleased about the Blues Kingpins series because these priceless vintage performances deserve to be heard and cherished by a whole new generation of blues fans, as well as by the aficionados who will hopefully be as delighted as I am to have them domestically available and handsomely presented. And hopefully they're only the first batch in the series!"