Classic 'soul' pioneer William Bell, Norwegian 'Blues Queen' to headline Sunflower Festival
Three-day event remains free, celebrates 28th anniversary August 7-9
CLARKSDALE — Singer/songwriter William Bell, a pioneer of the classic Stax/Volt "soul" sound along with Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs, Albert King, Rufus Thomas, and the Bar-Kays will be headlining the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival August 7-8-9.
Announcing plans for the 28th annual festival, John Sherman, VIP chairman, says Bell's concerts this spring in Tokyo and Krakow, Poland, have rated star reviews, and a high-energy show is forecast for Sunflower's Saturday night finale.
Bell's "Born Under a Bad Sign" became one of the world's most recorded blues songs, and other diverse celebrities ranging from Otis Redding and Eric Clapton to Billy Idol, Lou Rawls, and Rod Stewart have recorded Bell's compositions.
"Sunflower fans have always loved classic soul," continues Sherman. "It reflects Clarksdale legends: Sam Cooke, Ike Turner and John Lee Hooker plus favorite past headliners: Bobby Rush, Latimore, Denise LaSalle, Floyd Taylor and Shirley Brown."
Extolling Bell's multi-talents, Tim Sampson, Stax Museum communications director and former editor of The Memphis Flyer, praises Bell's significant role in the critically acclaimed movie, "Take Me to the River," a Martin Shore production, that debuted last fall in the UK.
Born in Memphis, Bell recorded his first side as a member of the Del Rios before his 1961 solo, "You Don't Miss Your Water," an early Stax hit and others including the Top 20 single, "Everybody loves a Winner."
Moving to Atlanta where he launched Wilbe Records and began producing Top 10 hits in the UK and America, he won Record Label of the Year honors and also continued performing internationally
He has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Olympic Games, the White House, and in Lincoln Center where recorded "Live in NYC" with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Recipient of the W.C. Handy Heritage Award, Bell is a member of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Norway's "Queen of the Blues", Rita Engedalen, will command a Grammy Award-winning presence on the Sunflower main stage with powerful vocals and original songs reflecting a mix of blues, roots, rock, gospel, and country music.
"My travels to Clarksdale and Mississippi leave a clear mark on my music as well as the Norwegian folk music that I love," says Engedalen.
The latest of her five album, "My Mother's Blues," includes vocalist Ruthie Foster as well as Myra Turner, soloist at Chapel Hill Baptist Church and a cousin of Ike Turner, and two members of Coahoma Community College's Concert Choir: Kiare Robinson and Shanekqua McAbee. The gospel track was recorded at Gary Vincent's Studio in Clarksdale.
Appearing in one segment on stage with Engedalen for their popular "on the road" music project titled "Women in Blues from Norway" will be acclaimed vocalist Margit Bakken.
In a semi-acoustic concert, they play a selection of their own materials and together perform well-known music from "strong blues-singing ladies" including Janis Joplin, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Memphis Minnie, Ida Cox, Big Mama Thornton, and Bessie Smith.
Their first album together, "Broken Soul Blues," was released to top reviews in March 2012.
The 28th Sunflower unofficially kicks off with its traditional Grits, Greens, and Barbecue supper for VIPs at 6 p.m. Thursday, August 6. Entertaining will be Richard "Daddy Rich" Crisman, Bill Abel with Cadillac John, and Anthony Sherrod.
On Friday, Aug. 7, the award-winning Delta Blues Museum Band, that earned standing ovations at the White House in 2014, will open the main stage at 4:30 p.m. followed by guitar phenom Kingfish. Next will be a dazzling lineup of blues greats headed by Nathaniel Kimble and a high-octane dance corps.
Blues masters Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, Leo "Bud" Welch and Shardee Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band perform their magic Saturday morning beneath the VIP acoustic tent from 10 a.m. til 12:45 p.m.
A second acoustic stage will feature Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, L. C. Ulmer, and Terry "Harmonica" Bean from 2 - 4 p.m.
The unpredictable/vibrant Lusicous Spiller fires up the main stage at 1 p.m. Saturday followed by a litany of veteran musicians: David Dunavent & the EVOL Love Band; Heather Crosse: Heavy Suga & the Sweet Tones; Kenny Brown; Terry "Big T" Williams and the Family Band; and James "Super Chikan" Johnson.
Following the awards ceremony, Rita Engedalen weaves a unique Norwegian welcome, and headliner William Bell closes down the house with his spectacular soul show.
Sunday's free gospel festival opens at 4 p.m. with Sarah Metcalf followed by The Singing Echoes, Divine Angels, and the Sons of Wonder before the presentation of the prestigious Julius Guy Award at 6:45 p.m.
At 7 p.m. the Myles Family takes the stage followed by The New Converted and the finale performance by Patrick Hollis & United of Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs.
For updates, complete lineups, VIP, levels of support, and vendor forms check the festival's website: www.sunflowerfest.org
The Sunflower River Blues Association is a registered non-profit 501 c 3 organization staffed entirely by volunteers. Donations are tax-deductible and are used directly to pay musicians and production costs.
Primary sponsors and partners include State Tourism, the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Coahoma Community College, the Delta Blues Museum, the Mississippi Arts Commission, Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, local banks, businesses and individual donors.
Donations and support may be mailed to the Sunflower River Blues Association, P.O. Box 1562, Clarksdale, MS.