Brian O’Connor, President of Sunny Southern Productions
In 1981, Brian O’Connor met Bob Preddy, who was NASCAR racing great Richard Petty’s manager. Bob became Brian’s mentor and business partner over a span of 25 years. They collaborated on a variety of projects until Bob’s passing. Brian worked for Petty Enterprises and also Richard Petty Oil Company, and on the weekends helped with Petty’s pit crew.
During this time frame Brian became a connoisseur of the acoustic blues and followed the career of Eugene Powell. It just so happened that Brian spent his childhood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi—the hometown of Eugene’s wife Mississippi Matilda—and felt a deep connection with the Powell family. He eventually served as Eugene’s manager until Eugene’s passing.
Brian became close to Eugene’s many children and interacts with his surviving daughter to this very day. He promised to share Eugene Powell’s story precisely as the family wanted—a narrative of faith, family, travels, sharecropping, and musical genius in a deeply segregated south.
His mission over the last two decades has been to make good on his promise to the Powell family and publish the biography of Eugene Powell, a.k.a Sonny Boy Nelson. While collaborating with his co-author Melanie Saxton, the opportunity to develop the Riverside Blues Series came about and Matilda Witherspoon Powell, a.k.a Mississippi Matilda’s biography was compiled. Both Eugene Powell’s biography and Mississippi Matilda’s biography are the first of their kind and never before written — a cultural and musical milestone in blues history.
Next up is a third installment in the Riverside Blues Series, a book that details the Powell couple’s many friendships and playing partners. The manuscript should be ready for publication fall 2019.
Brian O’Connor — Companies
In 2009, Brian O’Connor established The Blues Heritage Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit. The mission, first and foremost, is preserve the legacy of American blues music in recordings, publications and other media.
Secondarily, it plans education programming about American blues music and its cultural context of the African-American experience.
In 2009, Brian O’Connor established Sunny Southern Productions to fill a void in the early blues marketplace by publishing never-before-written biographies that are musically, culturally, historically remarkable.
Co-Author Melanie Saxton
Melanie is an author, book editor, ghostwriter, award-winning journalist, magazine editor and copyeditor who has worked in the world of words for more than thirty years. She serves a diverse portfolio of clients worldwide. Her article “Pink Divas” received the Excellence in Cancer Journalism Award from the American Cancer Society in 2009.
Melanie became a connoisseur of the blues after collaborating with Brian O’Connor on the Eugene Powell project, and is co-author of three books in the Riverside Blues Series.
She serves as communications director for Sunny Southern Productions and assists in a marketing, publicity, content development, editorial, and curation capacity.
Melanie is currently working on a screenplay and considering additional blues-themed book titles. She is a member of the Sundance Institute. She is also pursuing a much later-in-life master’s degree in digital media because so many of her clients are self-publishing.