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Get Into The Innocent Blues

Wanda King

Blues fans have a chance to help those railroaded by the justice system this Saturday at the Innocence Project of Texas’s

DNA Blues Ball

, a concert to raise funds for crucial DNA testing related to

Innocence Project

cases.

DNA tests can cost $2,000 to $5,000, says Innocence Project President Michelle Moore, and the non-profit organization relies on donations to pay for tests. About six men are lined up for testing, she says.

Blues was an obvious music choice for the concert. “It seemed appropriate,” Moore says. “Here we’ve got these guys that have been in the pen for 15, 20 years for a crime they didn’t commit. What better music to represent that than the blues?”

Wanda King, leader of the Wanda King Blues Band and daughter of Dallas blues legend Freddie King, jumped at the chance to volunteer for the cause. As the founder of the Freddie King Blues Foundation, which helps blues artists struggling through financial or legal difficulties, she’s a seasoned volunteer and crusader. Part of that spirit came from helping her late father’s estate win legal battles tied to copyrighted material, but it’s also a trait she picked up from the man himself.

“I remember when I was very young, he would do benefit concerts for Channel 13, the American Heart Association and several foundations,” she says. “He was always concerned with social issues. He didn’t focus himself on them entirely, but when he had the chance he would commit himself to helping. I remember he even did a fundraiser for my high school (Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas). So part of my character was based on what he did.”

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King was glad to be part of something that’s already led to the exonerations of 13 men in Dallas County alone since 2001, a number that will likely rise as new District Attorney Craig Watkins works with the non-profit to overturn flimsy convictions of his predecessors.

King will perform with her regular sidemen, guitarist Texas Slim and slide guitarist Chris Ruest. She hopes to have demo copies of her upcoming album available. Also performing are Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds along with recent Thunderbird members Jay and Johnny Moeller on guitar and drums, blues-belting mama Candye Kane, songwriter and studio guitarist Zac Harmon, blues harp pros Mikey Jr. and Cheryl Arena, Vaughan brothers collaborator Denny Freeman and funk-soul white-boys The Greyhounds, who are best known as Taylor Hicks’ backing band. The Ball starts at 8 p.m. at the Lakewood Theater, 1825 Abrams Parkway in Dallas. Tickets cost $30, with Gold and Platinum VIP tables available for $1,000 and $5,000.

Watkins, Innocence Project board members and exonerees will attend as special guests, Moore says, though she doesn’t expect any speeches from those exonerated.

“They will be around to tell what all they’ve been through, so people can be aware of how easy it is to be charged and convicted of a crime you didn’t do.” -- Jesse Hughey

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