September 2002

Drink Small

Blues Musician

Originally from Bishopville, South Carolina, Columbia resident Drink Small is known as the ‘Blues Doctor.’ Growing up in a family of singers and musicians, Small honed his talents while listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry, gospel, blues, folk, and big band swing. His musical career began with playing guitar at house parties and at church. He also sang in the glee club and formed a quartet called Six Stars. After high school, Small played guitar with the nationally known Spiritualaires, a gospel group that recorded for the Vee Jay label, and performed at the legendary Apollo Theater. Small is a gifted songwriter and arranger. In the early 60’s, Small performed as an R & B singer and guitarist. He played the college circuit, several world fairs and numerous blues festivals. In the 70’s he continued to perform and record his material on his own label, Bishopville Records. He performed and taught at music seminars for students throughout South Carolina. The most distinguishing features of this gifted artist are his bass voice and his impromptu song writing abilities. Small’s reputation as a musician and recording artist has earned him many honors from his peers. In 1986, one of Small’s recordings, The Blues Doctor, Live and Outrageous was nominated for a W. C. Handy award. Then in 1989, he performed at the prestigious New Orleans Jazz Festival. Later, in 1990 and 1991, he recorded on the major independent R & B label Icheban Records, The Blues Doctor and Round Two. In 1992 he was featured on the cover of Living Blues magazine. 1994 saw the release of The Electric Blues Doctor Live on the Mapleshade label. Small, inducted into the South Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 1999, shares honor with such luminaries as James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Joanne Woodward, Bill Pinkney, and others. 2000 was a significant year for Small. He appeared at the Three Rivers Music Festival, sharing the stage with other R & B legends such as Nappy Brown, The Tams, The Impressions, and Wilson Pickett. He also participated in the ‘Blues Tour 2000,’ at Columbia’s Township Auditorium. Headlining this show were such stars as Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Betty Wright, and Shirley Brown. Small performed his original tune at the 6th Annual Cammy Awards, hosted by the legendary Jerry Butler. Mayor Bob Coble declared Small’s self-penned tribute to the state dance, I’m Gonna Shag My Blues Away, as the official city of Columbia shag song. This resulted in an award of the key to the city of Columbia. Small was inducted recently into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame.