Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival
08/03/15: Sunflower Festival Promises ‘Most Authentic’ Music

Sunflower Festival Promises ‘Most Authentic’ Music

Three-day free celebration kicks off Friday in downtown Clarksdale

CLARKSDALE –The 28th edition of one of America’s Most Authentic blues events – the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival - gets under way here this week in the hometown of musical giants Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, and John Lee Hooker.

“Since our ranking among America’s Top 10 places to hear authentic music by USA Weekend, we’re looking forward to international crowds as well as local music fans,” said festival chairman John Sherman.

“Sixteen photographers from Italy alone have been issued media credentials to cover our three-day festival,” he continued.

“We’re one of the world’s few free celebrations and our ‘laid-back’ signature is well-known and welcoming,” he said. Class reunions, annual family gatherings, and even a wedding are among the celebrations scheduled to take place during Sunflower weekends, according to Sherman.

Headlining the Saturday night stage will be soul legend William Bell, one of the pioneers of Stax and the unique Memphis sound recently heralded in the award-winning documentary “Take Me to the River.”

The Blues Queen of Norway and a Grammy winner Rita Engedalen reigns at 7:15 p.m. Saturday following a lineup of veteran entertainers including Super Chikan Johnson, Terry “Big T” Williams, Kenny Brown, Heather Crosse, the phenom guitarist “Kingfish” Ingram, and Lusicous Spiller.

Nathaniel Kimble headlines the Friday night stage preceded by Sweet Angel, Josh “Razorblade” Steward, and David Dunavant.

Following their extraordinary reception at the White House last fall as one of the country’s top After-School programs, the Delta Blues Museum Band will open the festival at 5 p.m. Friday.

Saturday morning’s acoustic stage beneath the VIP Tent will showcase Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, Bill Abel & Cadillac John, and a unique educational program –“Women in Blues” presented by Norwegian vocalists Rita Engedalen and Margit Bakken – before Sharde Turner and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band close this acoustic stage.

A second acoustic stage will feature Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, LC Ulmer, and Terry “Harmonica” Bean in Kremser Plaza on Sunflower Ave. and Third.

Sunday’s Gospel Festival, held inside the air-conditioned Civic Auditorium, begins at 4 p.m. with Sarah Metcalf and includes The Singing Echoes, Divine Angels, The Sons of Wonder, The Myles Family, The New Converted Voices, and headliners Patrick Hollis & United.

Patrons, corporate supporters, and VIPs will be treated to the festival’s famous “Grits, Greens, and Barbecue” supper at 6 p.m. Thursday night. Chefs behind the soul food cuisine are Mrs. Louise Campbell, turnip greens; Abe’s Barbecue; and Charlie Musselwhite’s favorite cheese grits recipe.

Entertaining will be “Daddy” Rich Crisman, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, and Leo “Bud” Welch.

Sherman says VIP wristbands are available offering special seating at linen-covered tables, beneath an air-cooled tent with unlimited beverages during the weekend.

For additional information, visit

Photo of Rita Engedalen and Margiti Bakken

Rita Engedalen and Margiti Bakken....Norwegian vocalists presenting "Women in Blues" program at Sunflower

Photo of William Bell

William Bell, Saturday night headliner

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