Robert Plant to headline 25th Sunflower Festival

Press Release from the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival – 3/3/2012 – Panny Mayfield, publicist –

Multiple celebrities to perform include Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush

CLARKSDALE – When the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2012 with a tribute to its hometown music legends, multiple celebrities and one of the world’s most famous musicians – Robert Plant – will be headlining the celebration.

The Led Zeppelin vocalist, solo virtuoso, and winner of five 2007 Grammy Awards for “Raising Sand” with Alison Kraus and 2011 Americana Roots Album of the Year winner for Band of Joy with Grammy winner Patty Griffin will be in Clarksdale Aug. 10-11-12, 2012, with an entourage of 10 to perform at the Sunflower.

“This is spectacular news,” says Melville Tillis, longtime festival co-chairman. “We have been in dialogue with Robert Plant for several months, and are thrilled he will be here.”

Tillis says that for more than a year, festival organizers have been planning a special anniversary weekend.

The news was announced over the weekend at a media announcement party at Ground Zero Blues Club of Clarksdale.

Performing on stage with Plant will be Grammy winning vocalist Patty Griffin; globally renowned guitarist/composer Justin Adams and West African virtuoso musician Juldeh Camara, who have collaborated with Plant on special projects/tour; John Baggott, keyboard artist, Billy Fuller, guitarist and Dave Smith, drummer.

Other celebrities booked for the festival are multiple Grammy nominee Charlie Musselwhite, winner of more than 27 Blues Music Awards and Entertainer of the Year favorite Bobby Rush.

Both Musselwhite and Rush have headlined the festival several times during its 25-year history, and more than 40 bands will be performing during the three-day event.

Plant, a blues historian, who recorded the album “Walking Into Clarksdale” with Jimmy Page in 1999, has visited Clarksdale numerous times, and personally funded Mississippi Heritage Blues Trail Marker unveiled on Thanksgiving Eve 2009 honoring Tutwiler as the Birthplace of Blues.

He also presented the Delta Blues Museum with a custom-designed plaque composed of miniature Led Zeppelin album covers and an engraved tribute to Delta blues musicians who influenced the famous rock band.

“Two years ago the Sunflower was ranked by USA Weekend’s Travel Edition in America’s Top 10 Places to hear authentic music,” says John Sherman, Sunflower’s VIP chairman.

Not only were Clarksdale and Coahoma County the home of early blusemen W. C. Handy, Son House, Robert Johnson, and Charley Patton, it was the stomping grounds of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Ike and Tina Turner, Big Jack Johnson, and dozens more.

The first Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival was held in 1988 with three stages: on the banks of the Sunflower River beneath the Riverside Recreation Center; the open space between Delta and Sunflower Avenues; and inside the Thompson Center.

Headlining the first festival were Otis Rush and Son Thomas. Other performers included Boogaloo Ames, the Jelly Roll Kings (Frank Frost, Sam Carr, and Big Jack Johnson); Jessie Mae Hemphill, Jack Owens and Bud Spires. The event was filmed by Mississippi Education Television (ETV).

Staged entirely by volunteers, the festival has been free and open to the public since it was established. It has many patrons and partnerships including the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Rock River Foundation, the Delta Blues Museum, the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, Coahoma Community College, Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, 305 Spin Webmasters, and others.

The festival enjoys an official sister-city relationship with the International Notodden Festival in Norway that was established in 1996.

For updates, visit the festival website:

Robert Plant on the cover for Band of Joy, his latest album that won the 2011 Americana Root Music Award

Robert Plant and Grammy winner Patty Griffin perform together at the Americana Root Music Awards ceremony in Nashville

Justin Adams and African instrument virtuoso Juldeh Camara

Multiple Grammy nominee Charlie Musselwhite at the dedication of his Blues Trail Marker

Entertainer of the Year Award winner Bobby Rush will headline the Sunflower’s Friday night stage