Sunflower Fest features extraordinary bonus events


CLARKSDALE –Matching the hype of Robert Plant, Charlie Musselwhite, and Bobby Rush headlining the 25th Sunflower River Blues Festival celebration Aug. 10-12, are two days of extraordinary bonus events, says festival co-chairman Melville Tillis.

Included are the screening of an original movie, “True Delta,”  two historic and lively panel discussions, a photography exhibit, Delta Blues Museum reception, the annual “Grits, Greens, and Barbecue” VIP supper, and  a  Mississippi Heritage Blues Trail Marker unveiling.

Erickson Blakney

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, Lucky Find Productions, will screen its documentary, “True Delta” featuring interviews with Mississippi Delta residents and musicians plus footage filmed at the 2009 Sunflower Festival.

Based on an original concept by Erickson Blakney, “True Delta” is described as a “cinematic snapshot of the blues tradition that remains vibrant in and around Clarksdale, Mississippi – the renowned birthplace of the blues.”

It was written by Lee Quinby with Daniel Cowen, director of photography; Michael Scanlan, still photographer; Daniel Cowen and Nick Lerman, editors; with Blakney and Quinby, producers; Quinby and Cowan, directors.

Earning positive reviews at an advance screening in Telluride, “True Delta” will open at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at the Delta Cinema, 11 Third Street, followed by a “State of the Blues” panel discussion moderated by Jim O’Neal, co-founder of Living Blues magazine.

Daniel Cowen

Panelists include filmmaker Lee Quinby and award-winning bluesman James “Super Chikan” Johnson.

Following the screening and panel discussion, the public is invited to a reception and the opening of a photography exhibit of Michael Scanlan at the Delta Blues Museum from 7 – 9 p.m., 1 Blues Alley.

Taking center stage at 1 p.m. Thursday, August 9, at the Delta Blues Museum will be “From the Archive: Celebrating 25 years of the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival “ – a panel discussion of the festival from its origin 25 years ago to current day.”

Sponsored by the Delta Blues Museum, the panel will be moderated by Jim O’Neal, co-founder of the Sunflower Festival and Living Blues magazine.

Lee Quinby

Opening at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, the traditional VIP  “Grits, Greens, and Barbecue” supper will feature a menu starring Chef Louise Campbell’s celebrated turnip  and mustard greens with cornbread muffins,  baked cheese grits laced with garlic and green chilies from celebrity Charlie Musselwhite’s favorite recipe, and Abe’s famous hometown barbecue.

The supper originated years ago to introduce Norwegian cousins from the Sunflower Festival’s  sister city of Notodden, Norway, to Southern soul food. The 2012 party  has outgrown its historic district front porch and has been  moved downtown this year to the VIP tent near the main stage.

Jim O’Neal

Chef Louise Campbell

Entertaining will be acoustic musicians: Bill Abel and Cadillac John; Richard “Big Daddy” Rich Crisman;  Terry “Harmonica” Bean;  Lightning’ Malcolm;  and Lucious Spiller.

Kicking off bonus events Friday, Aug. 10, will be the 10 a.m.  unveiling of a Mississippi Heritage Blues Trail marker honoring the Sunflower River Blues Festival on its 25th anniversary by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) – Tourism Division.

The marker will be located near the foot of John Lee Hooker Lane near the festival main stage where the festival has been held for more than 20 years. Produced entirely by volunteers, the free festival is supported by grants, corporate and individual donations.

James ‘Super Chickan’ Johnson

In 2008 it was ranked among the Top 10 Places in America to hear authentic music by USA Weekend.

The festival officially opens at 4:15 p.m. Friday with the Delta Blues Museum Band. For lineups and more details, view the festival website:

Michael Scanlan