Musselwhite talks Southern roots, blues history in Clarksdale

CLARKSDALE – An account of Charlie Musselwhite’s entry into the Chicago blues scene while driving an exterminator truck is just one of the stories this international superstar will be spinning during the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival’s special educational program Sunday, Aug. 14.

Although crowds will be packing Blues Alley for the harmonica master and his band as Saturday night’s festival finale Aug. 13, he’ll be featured also in an informal round table, interview, discussion, and question and answer session at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the Delta Blues Museum.

“This is a huge bonus for our 18th free festival, and a chance for fans to say hello, up close and personal,” comments John Sherman, co-chairman.

“Charlie will be talking about his Southern roots that have grown beyond boundaries to a global audience and recordings with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Cuban and Norwegian musicians” he continues.

Sherman says he’ll be talking about his close friendships with Clarksdale natives Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, best man when he and Henrietta were married in an Irish pub in San Francisco.

“It’s a safe bet Southern soul food will be mentioned too,” says Sherman adding that Henrietta Musselwhite and Charlie’s manager Charles Driebe also will participate in the round table discussion.

The interview is free and open to the public thanks to grants to the Sunflower by the Southern Arts Federation and National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to the Blues Museum.

“We are honored that Charlie will be sharing his blues history with us. He is a great friend and supporter of the Delta Blues Museum,” said Shelley Ritter, director.

The museum also is sponsoring one of the Sunflower’s divas in a special workshop: Geneva Red’s Hohner’s Harmonica Workshop at 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11.

“Double Date: Divas and Musselwhite” is theme for Clarksdale’s festival Aug. 12-13.

Quintessential bluesmen David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Jelly Roll King drummer Sam Carr followed by charismatic James “Super Chikan” Johnson will rule the Saturday night stage following Farmer John and Kenny Brown.

Acoustic blues will resonate Saturday morning on the Othar Turner Acoustic Stage inside Clarksdale Station, the historic passenger depot, with Pat Thomas, Arthneice Jones, Robert Belfor, and others.

Fife princess Shardee Turner, who learned her craft from her granddaddy Othar, will lead the Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps’ procession into the station and later to the electric Blues Alley main stage, and another acoustic stage on Delta Ave.

Gospel greats will raise the roof of the air-conditioned City Auditorium from 12:30 p.m. til 6 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

When the lights dim on the Blues Alley stage, live late night music continues in Clarksdale’s blues clubs and juke joints including the Blue Room, Sarah’s Kitchen, and Red’s on Sunflower; C.W.’s on Tallahatchie; Ground Zero and the Millennium on Delta Ave; Club 2000 on Yazoo, and others.