Meet the Author: Kari Fretham

kari FrethamKari Fretham is privileged to have spent the last eight years immersed in the blues community of South Los Angeles. A week did not go by when she was not soaking up the sounds and conversations in juke joints, bars and clubs, bungalow garages and trucking yards. Once her consistency and joy proved her commitment, down home bluesmen and women shared their stories which she meticulously recorded. In particular, she was able to document through interviews and external corroboration the iconic journey of South Side Slim, internationally recognized guitarist, who baptized himself in honor of the side of the city where he found the roots of his people.

Ms. Fretham has numerous relationships in the mainstream blues community, including the Blues Foundation, the Southern California Blues Society, Living Blues Magazine, national and international blues publications, blues radio, the University of Mississippi Center for Southern Culture, club owners, and blues festival directors.

She was a guest on the LA36 television show, Cultural Pluralism, about researching and writing Sweetback Blues: The Twelve Bar Tale of South Side Slim.

Her article, "Lovin' the Blues South L.A. Style" (2005), has been published on several web sites. She co-authored a series of nationally distributed training books, Decoding Student Behavior (1996), for Spectrum Center. Radix Magazine, of Berkeley, California, published her article, "Yet I Love Thee: The Poetry of George Herbert" (1995).

Kari Fretham has traveled throughout the Mississippi Delta, considered by many as the birthplace of the blues, reviewing primary documents and conducting interviews as part of her research for writing Sweetback Blues. She is well-versed in African American history, the history of the blues as art form and social code, blues musical structures, and its lyrical patterns and themes.

She lives in Venice, California.



Kari Featured in Wartburg Magazine

Kari Fretham

Kari's alma mater, Wartburg College, has featured her in an article in their seasonal magazine!

"Instincts have guided Kari Fretham, 70, on her life's journey along a route with frequent detours but no signs of stereotypes. The farm girl from Waseca, Minnesota, headed to California to teach and ended up a chronicler of the South Los Angeles blues scene as an author (Sweetback Blues: The Twelve-Bar Tale of South Side Slim) and documentary filmmaker (Hot Love On Me So Strong: The Blues of South L.A.). Her affinity for the blues—the soundtrack for much of her journey—may have been preordained as she wrote in an article about her life.

'There were early signs on the farm in Minnesota that this raunchy, heartfelt music would take over my life. Few memories predate the conviction that my Creator, finished with everything inside, tossed a coin for the final skin decision. Heads ‘black.’ Tails ‘white.’ Tails it was, so into the Scandinavian north I landed.

'One generation removed from Sweden, mom insisted that top-volume (gospel singer) Mahalia Jackson wake us Sunday mornings, and when Amosandra was born on the Amos ’n’ Andy radio show within a year of my own birth, she (a doll) arrived via Montgomery Ward mail order to rarely leave my side.'

Fretham arrived at Wartburg in the late ’60s, amid the civil rights and Vietnam anti-war movements."

Read the complete article at Wartburg College!



Kari Awarded Sony Pictures' Teacher of the Year

Kari Fretham

As we waited to get in to Sony Studios for the 2012 Tribute to the Stars, one those very stars, Kari Fretham, came over and suggested we’d better hurry in, the awards were about to start. Posing for a picture by a balloon column, she quipped, It’s very nice to be honored.

Deservedly so; the Sony Pictures Entertainment Teacher of the Year has a list of credits, credentials and inspirations that is a template for how the Culver City Education Foundation supports education.

Currently the chair of the English Language Development Department, Kari has received CCEF Teacher Grants to study ways to bring the arts in as part of the lesson plan. As the Arts Integration Coordinator with the Music Center, Kari schedules performances for the students. She also receives training through the Music Center Summer Institute, and was presented with the Bravo Award by the Music Center for her excellence in integrating the arts (music, acting, drawing) into her curriculum. For some of her students, it is their first exposure to the arts. Kari is also deeply involved with expertise about blues music and African-American history, and she is the author of the biography Sweetback Blues; the Twelve Bar Tale of South Side Slim. Students rave, colleagues exclaim, and star status is conferred.

Read the complete article at Culver City Crossroads!



Kari Gives Interview for KJAZZ 88.1 FM

Kari at K-Jazz hspace=

KKJZ is the best! When I heard Wagman announce at the start of the Nothin' but the Blues pledge drive that I'd get two free tickets to hear Bobby Warren and Millie Jackson at Hollywood Park for an entire year's membership of only forty dollars, I snapped up the last one and knew I was a winner.

But I had NO idea what was yet in store. I won the Nothin' but the Blues sweepstakes: a trip to Vegas! From the moment my name was drawn, I was treated like a celebrity; every detail was arranged and communicated beautifully by KKJZ. When my friend and I pulled up to The Orleans, we were given a beautiful deluxe room. The folks at the Prime Rib Loft had the reservations and gave us the best seat in the house. Not wanting to waste a cent of our $100 dinner, I calculated every delicious sip and bite, and paid nothing (except a generous tip, of course) on the $95.00 tab!

However, this amazing evening wasn't finished; we then walked across the casino to nearly front row seats at the packed Kenny Wayne Shepherd concert. But before the music started, we were escorted to a little private space for yet another part of my prize: a Meet and Greet with the guitar god himself and his amazing singer, Noah Hunt. They were both incredibly gracious to the handful of fans who were there. When Kenny's agent mentioned to him that I was the KKJZ winner, it was obvious that he knew we were coming. The photo attests to my pleasure at winning the KKJZ blues prize. About ten years ago, I deliberately dedicated myself to the blues of South Los Angeles, including writing a book, Sweetback Blues: The Twelve Bar Tale of South Side Slim, and so you can understand why I feel pretty special that this opportunity came to me. Now I know everybody probably loves the blues, but I am obsessed. For proof, check out my web site,

Thank you KKJZ for being there for all of us, your grateful listening family. And thank you, Gary Wagner, for spinning 'em like you feel 'em!

Kari Fretham

See the article on KJAZZ's website by clicking here!