In September 2020, Village residents Bryan Reichhardt and Suzanne B. Tolford released their 5-year labor “Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters,” which celebrates a music scene unique to Washington, D.C. championed by the late Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan. Just over one year later, the film will make its debut on Maryland Public Television (MPT). Enjoy the musical and cinematic work of your fellow residents at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2.
"MPT is thrilled to be bringing the 'Anacostia Delta sound' experience to our viewers with this incredible film,” says Kate Pearson, Managing Director of programming & acquisitions.
One September evening at the Birchmere Music Hall in 2015, 30 world-class musicians from DC gathered to celebrate their heroes and display the virtuosic, genre-blending music they proudly call their own. As the undisputed master of this music, Gatton would blend jazz, blues, country, swing, rock, and bluegrass—sometimes in the same solo. He grew up in Anacostia, and referred to this musical culture unique to DC as coming from the Anacostia Delta.
The Birchmere tribute concert is the centerpiece of the film. Musical director John Previti enlisted musicians who created a songlist that traces the development of this unique style from the post WWII era through the decades to the present day. Not only are the grand masters Gatton and Roy Buchanan celebrated but also unsung heroes, including Chick Hall, Sr., the influential owner of Bladensburg, Maryland’s Surf Club. The concert features stalwarts and leading lights of DC’s music scene: Dave Chappell, Anthony Pirog, Billy Hancock, Steve Wolf, and Tom Principato, among many others. “Every kind of music found a home here,” says Previti, who was born and raised in the area and was Gatton’s bassist for 19 years.
Husband and wife filmmaking team Reichhardt (director) and Tolford (producer), and director of photography Mathieu Mazza interviewed the musicians and filmed their rehearsals leading up to the concert. The documentary takes us back in time with archival footage and interviews with family, friends, bandmates, and celebrities who understand DC’s influential yet not-widely-known musicians. Nashville superstar Vince Gill states it simply: "I think a lot of people would perceive this to not be a hotbed of a music community like Nashville or Austin or L.A. or New York, but it was. It was every bit as good as anywhere else in the country you could ever go. Tons of great musicians from around here and all the musicians knew it—maybe the rest of the world didn’t but we all did."
In addition to Gill, the film also features interviews with internationally recognized guitarists and fans of Gatton and Buchanan, including Nils Lofgren, Albert Lee and Mike Stern. Lofgren grew up in suburban DC and was mentored by Buchanan. The longtime lead guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band said, "Looking back, and having traveled extensively, I still feel like Washington had one of the better music scenes in the country and I think still does."
“Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters” also celebrates the musicians who carry the tradition forward. Before the pandemic shut down live music, DC area venues featured performers like Chappell and Previti almost every night. “We’re celebrating a music scene that doesn’t get much attention in the world,” says Reichhardt. “I hope this film brings the recognition it deserves.”
Pearson added, “Hearing and seeing these brilliant guitarists will surprise and delight those music lovers who watch the documentary, and who might remember Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan and their mesmerizing guitar talents."
Tune in to see “Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters” on MPT, Saturday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. and again, at 1 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3. The film is also available on DVD and as a digital download from the website www.anacostiadelta.com.
Another of Reichhardt’s films, “Pictures From a Hiroshima Schoolyard" was featured on MPT last month and is still available for streaming on www.pbs.org. Tolford is currently completing her third CD of original songs which are available online at www.suzannebrindamour.com.