2014 Performing Artists

Billy Cox

Billy Cox Billy Cox met Jimi Hendrix when they were serving in the Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1961. Ducking into Service Club #1 to get out of a sudden rainstorm, he heard guitar playing inside. Impressed with what he heard, he introduced himself, told Jimi he played bass, and they were jamming soon after.

They became, and remained, fast friends. They left the military around the same time and they played clubs around the area, finally settling in Nashville. They formed a group now known to history as the King Kasuals. They played at Nashville clubs and traveled all over the southeast and as far north as Indianapolis playing what was called the "Chitlin' Circuit".

Jimi eventually left Nashville and continued to struggle all over the country until he was discovered by Chas Chandler in New York. Chas took Jimi to England, (and the rest is history) but before Jimi left, he called Billy and asked him to join him. Billy (in his own words) "Only had three strings on my bass" and no money to travel to New York, so he thanked Jimi and wished him well.

Destiny had other plans for Billy. He continued to play, backing some of the greats in R&B until the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in mid 1969. Jimi then called his old friend Billy who joined him in the recording studio; Billy went on to play at Woodstock and played a series of shows with Jimi and Buddy Miles as the Band of Gypsys.

After Jimi's death, Billy played for a time with the Charlie Daniels Band. Following that he continued to perform sessions and club dates. He later reunited with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, and guitarist Gary Serkin and did a series of shows under the name Gypsy Sun Experience.

As of November 2008, Billy is the only surviving member of both The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. He recently was inducted into the Musician's Hall of Fame and continues to honor is friend, performing dates with the Experience Hendrix Tour.

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Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy Any discussion of Buddy Guy invariably involves a recitation of his colossal musical resume and hard-earned accolades. He's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a chief guitar influence to rock titans like Hendrix, Clapton, Beck and Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago's fabled West Side sound, and a living link to that city's halcyon days of electric blues.

Guy’s legend has only grown throughout the Nineties and the early 21st century. Subsequent releases like the eminently satisfying Live: The Real Deal (1996), the daring Heavy Love (1998) and 2001′s Sweet Tea have demonstrated that Guy, while firmly ensconced in his blues roots, has always tried to keep his music looking forward—even at the risk of alienating lovers of traditional blues sounds. And now, the story continues with Bring ‘Em In, which finds the 71-year-old Guy trading licks with the likes of Carlos Santana (“I Put a Spell On You”) and John Mayer (on the Otis Redding-penned “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”) and his first ever box set “Can’t Quit the Blues” which has an incredible collection of material, some of it never before released, spanning 50 years of Guy’s career over three CDs and one DVD.

Internationally acclaimed, a Grammy winner and now an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Guy has firmly cemented a blues legacy that places him squarely in the company of his heroes who came before. “This all reminds me of something my mother used to tell me,” Guy says of his current-day status as a music icon. “She said, ‘If you got the flowers for me, son, give ‘em to me now so I can smell ‘em, ‘cause I’m not gonna smell ‘em when you put ‘em on the casket.’

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Zakk Wylde

Zakk Wylde Zakk Wylde has been no stranger to success over the years. At only 19 years old, he was tapped to join Ozzy Osbourne’s band as lead guitarist and co-writer. He performed with Osbourne for nearly twenty years.

Wylde formed Black Label Society in 1998 as a vehicle for his own artistic vision: uncompromising, unfiltered, no bullshit rock’n’roll.

Black Label Society quickly became a touring juggernaut and has gone on to release seven successful studio albums which have sold well over a million and a half albums total. But record sales only tell part of the story-it’s the legions of fans that turn out to see Wylde perform his masterful talents on the guitar and piano that are the true testament to his success.

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Jonny Lang

Jonny Lang Jonny Lang started playing the guitar at the age of twelve, after his father took him to see the Bad Medicine Blues Band, one of the few blues bands in Fargo, North Dakota. Lang soon started taking guitar lessons from Ted Larsen, the Bad Medicine Blues Band's guitar player. Several months after Lang began, he joined the Bad Medicine Blues Band, which was then renamed Kid Jonny Lang & The Big Bang.

The band moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and independently released the album Smokin' when Lang was fourteen. Lang was signed to A&M Records in 1996. He released the critically acclaimed multi-platinum Lie to Me on January 28, 1997. The next album, Wander this World was released on October 20, 1998 and earned a Grammy nomination. This was followed by the more soulful Long Time Coming on October 14, 2003. Lang also made a cover of Edgar Winter's "Dying to Live". Lang's album, the gospel influenced Turn Around, released in 2006 won him his first Grammy Award.

In more than ten years on the road, Lang has toured with the Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck and Sting. In 1999, he was invited to play for a White House audience including President and Mrs. Clinton. Lang also makes a cameo appearance in the film Blues Brothers 2000 as a janitor. In 2004, Eric Clapton asked Lang to play a the Crossroads Guitar Festival to raise money for the Crossroads Centre Antigua.

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Utter the phrase "young blues guitarist" within earshot of anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the modern musical vanguard and the first name they are most likely to respond with will be Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Still barely in his 30s, the Louisiana born axeman and songsmith has been selling millions of albums, throwing singles into the Top 10, shining a light on the rich blues of the past and forging ahead with his own modern twist on a classic sound he has embodied since his teens. He met Stevie Ray Vaughan at 7, shared the stage with New Orleans legend Bryan Lee at13. As an adult, he continues to create genre-defining blues-infused rock n' roll.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd's newest album, How I Go not only serves as a strong reminder of the chops that caused Guitar World to place him right behind B.B. King and Eric Clapton on their list of blues guitarists, but it's the strongest indication yet of his gifted songwriting talent. The album pairs Kenny's deeply soulful and impassioned takes on classic material like Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues," Albert King's "Oh, Pretty Woman" and The Beatles "Yer Blues" alongside the strongest writing and co-writing of his career thus far.

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Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson Eric Johnson’s stature as one of the premier guitar players in contemporary music is his artistic trump card, backed by a Grammy Award and five nominations, platinum album, Top 10 hits like “Cliffs Of Dover,” praise from critics and the esteem of his peers. But the full hand of his talents marks him as well as a gifted songwriter, dynamic live performer, singer, pianist, song interpreter, and creator of a rich and diverse musical legacy.

His myriad and distinctive musical gifts are vividly evident on Johnson’s aptly titled new album, Up Close, released on his own Vortexan Music label via EMI Distribution. The new 15-track disc finds the noted master craftsman cutting loose, roaming through variations on the rock, blues, pop, country and jazz all found at the core of his sound, pushing the dynamic range of his artistry, and mixing it up with such friends and peers as guitarists Jimmie Vaughan and Sonny Landreth and guest singers Steve Miller, Johnny Lang and Malford Milligan.

Johnson leapt to the forefront of contemporary music some 20 years ago as “an extraordinary guitar player accessible to ordinary music fans,” as the Memphis Commercial Appeal hails him, with his landmark million selling 1990 album Ah Via Musicom. Lauded as a “recording [that] has reached near-classic proportions within the guitar community” by All Music Guide, it was preceded by dedicated groundwork as a live performer that marked him as a talent bound for great things. And it’s been followed by a diverse and fascinating musical journey that inspired The New Age Music Guide to rave that “Eric Johnson plays guitar the way Michelangelo painted ceilings: with a colorful vibrancy that’s more real than life.”

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Rich Robinson

of The Black Crowes

Rich Robinson On the eve of the release of his third solo album, Rich Robinson, best known as the guitarist, songwriter, and founder of The Black Crowes, stands ready to complete the solo artist evolution that he began ten years earlier. The Ceaseless Sight, due out in June 2014, is an album that represents the full maturation of Rich as a songwriter, a vocalist, and a solo artist.

Robinson was born in 1969 and formed the The Black Crowes with his older brother Chris in Atlanta in the 1980’s. At the age of 17, Robinson began writing the music for the songs that would land on the band’s 1990 debut album, Shake Your Money Maker, which sold 7 million copies. Over the next 10 years, Rich’s songwriting evolved into the musical engine that powered the band to sales of more than 25 million albums. Before taking a hiatus in 2001, the Crowes catalog included classics like The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, Amorica, By Your Side, and Live at the Greek: Excess All Areas, a double album that captured the teaming of Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes for performances of Led Zeppelin, Crowes and blues and rock standards.

The Crowes went on hiatus in 2001 and in 2004 Rich began his solo journey with the release of his first album, Paper. The record was largely an extension of Rich’s musicianship as a Black Crowe showcasing his stellar and under-rated guitar playing and, for the first time, Rich took on the role of lyricist and lead vocalist. Paste Magazine: “Rich Robinson brings back not only roots-rock accessibility, but the complexity and originality that transformed the Black Crowes into a band that mattered. Paper is filled with beautiful melodies and harmonies, creative guitar work, fitting instrumentation and, most of all, excellent songwriting.”

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Doyle Bramhall II

Doyle Bramhall Doyle Bramhall II was raised in a home filled with the blues and rock and roll sounds that are indigenous to his birthplace - Austin, Texas. His father, Doyle Bramhall Senior, was the drummer for blues legend Lightning Hopkins and a regular collaborator with Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When Doyle was 16 years old, he toured as second guitarist with Jimmy Vaughan's band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Shortly thereafter he and fellow Texan, Charlie Sexton, co-founded the rock band Arc Angels. Doyle and Charlie enlisted the rhythm section from Stevie Ray Vaughan's backing band, Double Trouble, to complete the lineup. The group enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success.

Following the release of "Jellycream," Doyle's 1999 RCA debut recording, he received phone calls from both Roger Waters and Eric Clapton. Doyle ended up joining Roger Waters for a summer tour while Clapton, along with fellow blues great B.B. King, chose two of Doyle's songs - "Marry You" and "I Wanna Be" - for their collaborative recording entitled "Riding With The King." Upon completion of the "Riding..." project, Doyle, his wife - Susannah Melvoin, and Clapton co-wrote and performed "Superman Inside" for Clapton's album, "Reptile." Doyle's playing is also heavily featured on the album.

The latest offering from Doyle Bramhall II, entitled - "Welcome" - is the purest sampling of Doyle's talents to date. Doyle entered the studio with Smokestack, the band he put together a couple of years ago, and co-producers Benmont Tench and Jim Scott to record the 12 - song set. Joining Doyle in Smokestack is J.J. Johnson on drums and bassist Chris Bruce. Susannah Melvoin contributed background vocals, Benmont Tench pulled keyboard duty and Craig Ross played second guitar.

The album, "Welcome" showcases the diversity of Bramhall's talent; from his songwriting to his intense, soulful vocals and virtuoso guitar playing. Doyle's gravity explosion can be readily heard on such tracks as the driving "Green Light Girl" and the uptempo "Soul Shaker." His dedication to the blues can be felt on tracks like "Life," "So You Want It To Rain" and "Send Some Love."

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Chris Layton

of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Chris Layton of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble Chris "Whipper" Layton was the drummer for the electric blues band Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Born in 1955 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Chris moved to Austin, Texas in 1975. Chris has played with various artists since the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1990, includingL the Arc Angels, with Charlie Sexton, Doyle Bramhall II and fellow Double Trouble alum Tommy Shannon; Storyville, also with Shannon, vocalist Malford Milligan and guitarists David Grissom and David Holt; the Laura Love Band; Kenny Wayne Shepherd; and most recently a Double Trouble recording with various guest stars.

In 2004, Whip joined old friends Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar) and "Big" Ben Richardson to form Grady in Austin TX. The band released Y.U. So Shady in 2005 and toured to support the album through 2006. In early 2006, Chris left the band to pursue multiple music projects, and was replaced by Billy Maddox in Grady. He and Tommy Shannon played on Jimmy D. Lane's It's Time. In 2007 he drums for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd band on the Ten Days Out Legends Tour.

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Eric Gales

Eric Gales Eric Gales picked up the guitar at age four. His older siblings, Eugene and Manuel (Little Jimmy King), took to teaching him many songs and licks at a young age, in the style of Jimi Hendrix, Albert King, B. B. King and others. In 1985, the young Gales began to play at blues competitions with his brother Eugene backing him on bass. Although Gales plays a right-handed guitar "upside-down" (with the E-bass string on the bottom), he is not naturally left-handed; he was taught by his brother who is left-handed and never second-guessed the untraditional technique.

In 2004, he contributed a cover of "May This Be Love" to the album Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. In 2008, he, along with other guitarists, participated in the touring tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Experience Hendrix. the touring group of musicians included Billy Cox, Eric Johnson, Chris Layton, Doyle Bramhall II, Brad Whitford, and was the last tour that Mitch Mitchell played on.

In the winter of 2010, Gales returned to the touring circuit in Europe with TM Stevens on bass guitar and Keith LeBlanc on drums. The tour was billed as VooDoo Chile and featured works of Jimi Hendrix as well as original material from both Gales and Stevens.

In February 2013, Magna Carta released the Mike Varney produced Pinnick Gales Pridgen, featuring Gales on guitar and vocals, dUg Pinnick on bass and vocals, and Thomas Pridgen on drums. The 13 track album featured one cover song, "Sunshine of Your Love", originally by Cream, one short instrumental based on Ludwig van Beethoven's "Für Elise", and the remaining songs written by some combination of Pinnick, Gales, Pridgen and Varney.

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Mato Nanji

of Indigenous

Mato Nanji Indigenous front man, Mato Nanji, was born and raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Mato’s father, the late Greg Zephier, Sr., was a well-known and highly respected spiritual advisor and spokesperson for the International Indian Treaty Council. In addition to this leadership role, he was an accomplished musician and a member of the musical group, The Vanishing Americans. Formed by Greg and his brothers in the ‘60’s, The Vanishing Americans toured nationally and shared bills with such legends as Bonnie Raitt. Besides being heavily influenced by the music his father and uncles were making, Mato was exposed to Greg’s vast collection of blues records by legendary artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King. Consequently, Mato embraced and began utilizing his own musical talent at a young age. With the experience, love and wisdom of their father to guide them, Mato, his brother, sister and cousin formed the band Indigenous while in their late teens.

In addition to his Indigenous ‘day job’, Mato Nanji has been a member of the annual Experience Hendrix Tour Band since 2002. Playing alongside original Jimi Hendrix band members Billy Cox and the late Mitch Mitchell, the tour roster includes some of today’s blues greats including Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon (Double Trouble), Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, and Robert Randolph.

Following their 2012 Experience Hendrix Tour, Nanji collaborated with two of his fellow EHT band mates, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), delivering the hard-driving, blues-infused 3 Skulls and the Truth.

With each new tour, national and international, Mato and the boys continue to attract new audiences and expand the fan base. They look forward to each opportunity to bring the music to long time fans as well as those hearing them for the first time.

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Henri Brown

Henri Brown Henri Brown (HB) has a long and expansive background in the music and film industry. He was reared in a family of performing artists, notably, the first cousin to 1960’s rock guitarist, Jimi Hendrix; the son of Pearl Brown, a jazz singer known as ”Black Cultured Pearl”; a nephew to 1950’s and 60’s television singer and personality, Eleanor Collins who is now a member of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame. Undoubtedly, HB’s destiny was the entertainment industry.

Early in his performance career as a singer/composer/band leader, HB groomed and developed HB Concept. The band won the reputable T.V. network (CBC)’s Fame Game competition, which resulted in a half hour television show. Soon after, the band was named most promising act of the West Coast Music Awards. HB Concept has met with international acclaim throughout their European and Asian tours. Other highlights include producing a live jazz concert featuring vocalist “Black Cultured Pearl” and Trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis. Brown played Det. Henri Brown in the UPN TV series The Sentinel. Always and ever diverse, HB Wild was born and has been enjoying a great deal of success as well in South East Asia. 2007 HB Wild was asked to open the brand new MGM Grand in Macau, China. May 2009, HB Wild was invited back to that cool place Macau to perform this time at the biggest casino in the world, The Venetian Hotel & Casino.

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Ana Popovic

Ana Popovic The award-winning, hard-touring, guitar slinger blends smoking electric funk and slide guitar, jazzy instrumentals and a tight blues groove with soulful, feminine vocals. Add to the mix her incredible stage presence, all of which makes her an irresistible force in the world of contemporary blues music.

During 2013 Ana Popvic has appeared on the cover of Vintage Guitar, Guitar Player's Gear Guide and American Blues Scene. Her album 'Can You Stand The Heat' was a "Pick Of The Week" by USA Today and featured on NPR Music. Nearly all of Ana's albums made it the Top 5 of the Billboard Blues Charts and are being played regularly on US radio.

Ana Popovic was born in Belgrade (formerly Yugoslavia) and grew up in a warm and loving family where music was very important. All throughout her youth, her father would invite friends over for nightly jam sessions. In this atmosphere, she quickly learned her father’s impressive blues and soul record collection, grabbed his guitar and started playing at the age of fifteen. Since then, Ana has developed into an phenomenal guitarist/vocalist with a growing legion of fans throughout the world.

Ana and her phenomenal four-piece band as well as her Mo' Better Love Big Band are tirelessly touring, playing major blues, jazz and rock festivals around the world. She is endorsed by Fender, Mesa Boogie, Ovation and DR strings. Ana has shared headlining stages with B.B. King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph, Jonny Lang and many others. When not on tour, she resides in Memphis, TN.

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Noah Hunt

of Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

Noah Hunt Noah Hunt is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the multi-platinum Warner Brothers recording artist Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Noah and Kenny have been recording and touring the world since 1997. Noah's side projects include the Americana rock band Noah Hunt and The 420 Allstars, and the folk\acoustic duo Noah Hunt and Jason Dennie.

Noah has been singing and playing music since he was very young. He was taught to play piano at the age of four. When he was 15, he taught himself to play guitar and started his first band. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the early nineties he formed the popular local band Uncle Six. The band attracted national attention, and Noah signed with RCA records in 1995. In early 1997, Noah decided to join up with guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd as the lead vocalist of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Their first record together, "Trouble Is..", yielded three number 1 singles, including the classic Blue on Black, and sold over a million copies worldwide. Their next record, "Live On", gave them another number one song, and also went platinum. They have been nominated for four Grammy Awards, and have received three Billboard Music Awards. Kenny and Noah have shared the stage with such legends as BB King, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, and many more. The blues documentary "Ten Days Out: Blues from the Backroads", released in 2007, was the number one blues album on the Billboard charts, and received two Grammy nominations. Noah and Kenny are like brothers, and continue to record and tour the world together.

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Tony Franklin

of Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

Tony Franklin The names of few bassists over the past two decades have become more synonymous with the fretless bass guitar than that of Tony Franklin—the Fretless Monster!

In January 2006, Fender proudly introduced the Tony Franklin Signature Model Fretless Precision Bass® guitar, the design of which the renowned bassist played a prominent and hands-on role in (Franklin juggled his professional music career with his numerous artist relations duties for Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and his role as a clinician for Fender and SWR through mid-2011). It’s quite a distinctive instrument; Franklin used the original in his work with Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, Whitesnake, Blue Murder, numerous sessions and his own successful solo career. Fender released the Tony Franklin Fretted Precision Bass in 2008, a replica of the instrument Franklin has used throughout his career.

A born performer who first took the stage at age 5, Franklin got his big break in 1984 as bassist in stellar supergroup the Firm, with guitar legend Page, vocalist Rodgers and drummer Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band). Franklin’s signature fretless growl was a distinctive and instantly recognizable element of the band’s first hit, “Radioactive.”

After two hit albums with the Firm, Franklin subsequently performed with Blue Murder (John Sykes, Carmine Appice), David Gilmour, Kate Bush, Whitesnake, Donna Lewis, Pat Travers and many others. An in-demand session bass ace, he has appeared on more than 150 albums. Franklin has released two solo albums, Brave New Tomorrow and Wonderland, and a bass instructional DVD.

Further, Franklin’s exemplary chops have also been called on for dozens of television credits, including Late Show With David Letterman, Beverly Hills 90210, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Good Morning America, Top of the Pops (U.K.), VH-1, MTV, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush (Finland), dozens of Japanese programs and more. Sony released Tony Franklin: Not Just Another Pretty Bass, Franklin’s first sample loop library, in 2006.

Franklin returned to music performance full-time in mid-2011, when he joined Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s band for the tour supporting the guitarist’s 2011 album, How I Go.

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Tim Austin

of Buddy Guy's Damn Right I've Got The Blues band

Tin Austin Timing is everything. The old paint factory behind the Austin's home supplied the drums and small broken limbs from the trees in the yard supplied the sticks for what was to become the first percussion instruments for a young boy in Chicago.

After seeing James Bornw and Jackie Wilson perform in Chicago at the Royal Theatre (known for showcasing the Motown Review), Tim had his first real set of drums in 1964. When he was 20 years old he was discovered by Pop Staples of the world famoumt Staple Singles and played for them for over 25 years, eventually becoming their band leader.

The list of performers that Tim has played for is like a who's who in the world of blues. Buddy Guy, The Staples Singles, Mavis Staples, Otis Rush, Eddke "The Chief" Clearwater, Luther Allison, James Cotton, Junion Wells, Big J. McNealy, Johny Mayer, Warren Haynes, Santana, Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Billy Branch, Sugar Blue, Artie "Blues Boy" White, Phil Guy, John Mayo, Matthew Skoller, Joanna Connor and the list goes on and on. Tim's handy work can be heard on many recordings of the world's best blues performers ... past and present. Tim is presently touring with blues great and Hall of Famer, Buddy Guy as a member of his Damn Right I've Got The Blues band.

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