High-octane energy sizzles through the phone when O.B. Buchana talks about his dynamic musical career as a Southern soul singer/songwriter.
Most definitely, the 46-year-old who debuted as a teenage lead singer for the gospel group “Mighty Suns of God” is on top of the world with cross-country bookings and 17 recorded albums including smash hit singles: “Back Up Lover,” and “Two Steps Behind.”
At 6-ft-2 inches Buchana qualifies easily as a “hunk” and has attracted record dancing crowds from multiple states at earlier Sunflowers, according to Maie Smith, festival booking chairman.
Speaking from his home in Southaven, Buchana says he couldn’t be happier about performing the Saturday night finale show at Clarksdale’s Sunflower River Blues Festival August 11.
“I’ve performed from Seattle and Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, to Buffalo, N. Y., but it’s nothing like coming home, to see everyone eye to eye. It’s my favorite place to play,” says Buchana.
Asked about his influences, Buchana instantly names Tyrone Davis, Bobby Blue Bland, Marvin Sease, Johnny Taylor, Little Milton, and Bobby Womack who were frequently booked years ago into Clarksdale’s Civic Auditorium by Eddie Rolling, longtime manager.
“I was 23 years old when I heard Marvin Sease perform and I said immediately: ‘I want to do that.'”
Buchana said all these guys were helpful to him when they were on the road, and he sometimes filled in for one of them.
The city of Clarksdale and blues historian Melville Tillis who owned the Rivermont Lounge on Sunflower Avenue have played major roles in his early musical development, he says.
The multi-level club with its large dance floor built on the banks of the Sunflower River, was a favorite hangout of celebrity musicians Little Milton, Bobby Rush, Ike Turner, Clayton Love, and C.V. Veal when they were in town.
“Mr. Tillis reserved Tuesday nights at The Rivermont for all of us growing up after we reached the age of 18, and we had a ball,” says Buchana. “If we got out of line, Mr. Tillis was on us.” Tillis was also a coach and a member of the Alcorn State University Football Hall of Fame.
Early in his fledgling career when Aaron Weddington was his manager and co-songwriter, Buchana began recording on the Rivermont’s lower level, he continued.
He composes and records now in a quiet room at home or his Memphis studio when inspiration hits him, and he and his band (two keyboard artists, guitar, bass, drummer and three background singers) have been together now for 25 years.
“We’re like a big family with no time off,” adds Buchana who critiques each performance.
“Although I am a vocalist, I hear all the instruments, and we talk about anything that might have gone wrong” he said.
Buchana performs on the downtown Melville Tillis Delta Blues Stage from 10:15 – 11:30 p.m. Saturday, August 11. For complete lineups and additional information, visit the Sunflower website: Welcome to the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival
The 31st Annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, August 10 and continues through the Sunday Gospel Festival August 12 with 180 musicians performing on 8 stages: one main stage adjacent to the Delta Blues Museum, 6 acoustic stages in downtown clubs and resturants and the gospel stage in Clarksdale’ Civic Auditorium. The festival is free and open to the public.