Sunflower Fest finale with Musselwhite, Jim O’Neal Sunday, Aug. 13

Expect a ‘living history’ Sunflower Fest finale

with Musselwhite, Jim O’Neal Sunday, Aug. 13

Bicentennial grant supports free ‘Conversations with Charlie Musselwhite’

CLARKSDALE – Although its extraordinary lineup alone earns drum rolls and fanfares, the 30th Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival celebration will showcase living history in a unique Mississippi Bicentennial program titled, “Conversations with Charlie Musselwhite,” says Melvita Tillis Presley, festival chair.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, August 13, blues guru Jim O’Neal, co-founder of Living Blues magazine, the Sunflower River Blues Festival, and research director of Mississippi’s Blues Heritage Trail, will be interviewing Musselwhite and swapping stories from decades of musicians that have made the Magnolia state famous.

Taking place in the Muddy Waters Wing of the Delta Blues Museum, the free program is made possible by a bicentennial grant to the Sunflower River Blues Association from the Mississippi Humanities Council and State Tourism.

Musselwhite’s performance as Saturday night headliner on the main stage at 10:15 to 11:45 p.m. is being supported in part by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

A veteran of 50 years of performing, touring, and recording, Musselwhite, was born in Mississippi, grew up in Memphis, came of age in Chicago blues clubs with Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams and others, and became a friend of John Lee Hooker, his best man when he and Henrietta married in a San Francisco, California club with Hell’s Angels in attendance.

In the past half century, Musselwhite has earned status as a harmonica virtuoso blending music from diverse genres in global performances from Brazil and Scandinavia to China and the White House. He is a Grammy winner, has earned five Living Blues Awards, 33 Blues Music Awards, honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and a Blues Heritage marker in Kosciusko, his hometown.

He and O’Neal are expected to explore Mississippi’s rich historical roots including Clarksdale and the Mississippi Delta pioneers: W. C.  Handy, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, and Son House followed by Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner, Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost, and Sam Carr.

Through the years the Sunflower has paid tribute to many of these giants and their families including Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, and Ike Turner. Presley says their successors have gained status and publicity performing at the Sunflower.  

Included are Hill country artists: Jessie Mae Hemphill, R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Othar Turner, Robert Belfour, and Kenny Brown; the Bentonia crowd: Jack Owens, Bud Spires, and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes; Jackson’s Bobby Rush, Eddie Cotton, Dorothy Moore, and Clarksdale’s Wade Walton, The Wesley Jefferson Band, Arthneice Jones and the Stone Gas Band, Josh “Razorblade” Stewart, Super Chikan Johnson, O.B. Buchana and others.

New generations following them on the Sunflower stage include Sharde Turner, Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, Jimbo Mathus, Dewayne Burnside, Cedric Burnside, Lightnin’ Malcolm, David Dunavant, Heather Crosse, Lee Wiliams, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Luscious Spiller, and Christine “Kingfish” Ingram.

Sure to come up in the conversation are the Sunflower’s distinctive individuality and laid-back hospitality that have become its international signature and have hooked visitors into returning again and again and even buying property and moving here, says Presley.