Sunflower River Festival books extraordinary events
CLARKSDALE, MISS. – When the Sunflower River Blues Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary, more than 20,000 music fans jammed downtown Clarksdale to experience Led Zeppelin rock star Robert Plant's Saturday night finale, says John Sherman, current Sunflower chairman.
Big Jack Johnson legacy to be celebrated Aug. 8-9-10
Our 27th annual celebration honors
the legacy of Big Jack Johnson
2014 AUG. 8,9,10
Luther Dickinson, leader of the
North Mississippi AllStars, performs at
an earlier Sunflower Festival
"Our 27th annual celebration honors the legacy of Big Jack Johnson, the city's most extraordinary musician/songwriter since the legendary days of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Muddy Waters. It will be another dynamic evening to remember," he adds.
Sherman says the Sunflower continues its free general admission tradition as a salute to the area's cultural heritage as the birthplace of blues.
Since Thanksgiving 2013, Sunflower members have been coordinating the tribute with his wife, Angenette Johnson, Dale Wise, his longtime drummer and other members of the Big Jack Johnson core band from Harrisburg, Pa.
Bobby Rush performs at the
2012 Sunflower Festival
On Monday, March 24, Clarksdale's Board of Mayor and Commissioners voted unanimously to proclaim August 9, 2014, Big Jack Johnson Day in Clarksdale.
The August festival will feature an historic Saturday night finale featuring the Big Jack Johnson core band and numerous musicians who performed with him and were influenced through the years by his career.
Other award-winning celebrities headlining the 3-day event showcasing 40 musical groups include Latimore, Johnny Rawls, Home Made Jamz, Super Chikan Johnson, Jimbo Mathus, and Kenny Brown
Acoustic blues masters performing Saturday morning under the VIP tent include Robert Belfour, Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, Lusicous Spiller, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Leo "Bud" Welch, and Shardee Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band.
"While traveling the world, Big Jack Johnson remained true to his Mississippi heritage, his family, and God," says drummer Dale Wise who played with Johnson for more than 12 years.
"Night after night, day after day, Big Jack gave everything he had. Every performance was as if it was his last. He was never too tired to play another song or too busy to talk to anyone who wanted to meet him, "continued Wise.
"More times than not, the conversations would center on fishing, food, and Mississippi. Big Jack Johnson was a goodwill ambassador of the highest order, he added. "On stage he worked to bring Mississippi to the world. Off stage he worked to bring the world to Mississippi."
Remembering Big Jack Johnson, an educational program with conversations from community leaders, family, and friends will be held earlier Saturday afternoon.
Noted artist Cristen Craven Barnard has created the festival's 2014 design featuring a signature image of the well-known musician whose funeral service filled Coahoma Community College's Pinnacle three years ago.
For 50 years Big Jack Johnson traveled the globe performing before audiences from Japan to Scandinavia and introducing Clarksdale, the state of Mississippi, his family and friends as his inspirational center and home base.
Renowned for his virtuosity on guitar and mandolin, Big Jack was equally acclaimed for the power of his compositions. He won numerous awards from Living Blues magazine as an outstanding live performer, a Handy Award for best acoustic album, and appeared in prestigious documentaries: Deep Blues and the Smithsonian-sponsored video, River of Song.
His numerous recordings include Hey, Big Boss Man and My Back Scratcher with the Jelly Roll Kings in 1966, Rockin' the Juke Joint Down, The Oil Man, Daddy, When Is Mama Comin' Home, and Live in Chicago for the Earwig label in 1979, 1993, and 1997, and The Oil Man Got Drunk in 1997 for Rooster Blues, We Got to Stop This Killin', All the Way Back, Roots Stew, and the Memphis Barbecue Sessions for M. C. Records, and his final CDs: Juke Joint Saturday Night and Katrina recorded with his Pennsylvania-based band, the Cornlickers in 2008 and 2009.
Volunteers and donations to keep the festival free are needed and welcome. The Sunflower River Blues Association is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization, and donations are tax-deductible. All proceeds are used to pay production costs, performers, advertising and education programs.
Electric blues and gospel musicians will perform in downtown Clarksdale on the Melville C. Tillis Delta Blues stage, renamed by Clarksdale's City Board to honor the Sunflower Festival's longtime co-chairman, who died in 2013.
Acoustic blues musicians will perform beneath the VIP Tent Saturday morning followed by the Remembering Big Jack Johnson community program.
For additional information and complete lineups, visit the Sunflower website: www.sunflowerfest.org
Panny Mayfield, publicist
Performing at the White House this week are (from left)
Sam Moore, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, Charlie Musselwhite, and Ben Harper.