07/27/16: Sunflower Fest to join John Lee Hooker Month observance
CLARKSDALE - The Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival that celebrated its 12th anniversary August 13-15, 1999, with a hometown tribute to blues superstar John Lee Hooker, will be partnering this summer with the Delta Blues Museum in its observance of August as John Lee Hooker Month.
The Grammy winner inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll and Blues Halls of Fame and voted multiple years as Traditional Blues Artist of the Year was honored here 17 years ago. Performing on stage during a show billed as the John Lee Hooker Family Reunion were his son, John Lee Hooker Jr., his daughter, Zakiya, his nephew Archie Lee Hooker, and best friend Charlie Musselwhite.
With its 29th anniversary scheduled August 12-13-14, the Sunflower will be joining DBM in its special tribute to John Lee Hooker, according to John Sherman and Melvita Tillis Presley, festival co-chairs.
Shelley Ritter, DBM director, said the August observance will be an annual event on the museum’s calendar and will be as well publicized as Muddy Waters Month in April.
“We are collaborating with the University of Mississippi Blues Archive and the John Lee Hooker Estate and will be featuring special exhibits,” said Ritter
In 1990 John Lee Hooker was honored in a star-studded fund-raiser for the Delta Blues Museum in New York’s Madison Square Gardens. Performing were Gregg Allman, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, Charlie Musselwhite, Albert Collins, James Cotton, Johnny Winter, and John Hammond.
Attending from Clarksdale were many DBM staffers when the museum was located on the second floor of Carnegie Public Library.
Recognized not only as a blues pioneer but a multi-versatile musician, Hooker played with the Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, and Carlos Santana.
“Whenever they say true blues, pure blues, John Lee Hooker is as close as anyone I’ve heard,” B.B. King once commented. Hooker was described also as a “shaman,” “a witch doctor,” and “the funkiest man alive.”
Other musicians performing at the 1999 Sunflower Festival were Otis Clay, Super Chikan Johnson and the Fighting Cocks, Billy Gipson and the Junk Yard Boys, Robert Bilbo Walker, Little Jeno, Dr. Mike and the Interns, and Mr. Johnnie Billington and the Midnighters.
Photo: Sunflower program 1999