Sunflower River Fest headliners ready to roll

Clarksdale’s 3-day free event celebrates its 29th season

       CLARKSDALE – “I’m ready to come home,” says bluesman Lonnie Shields commenting on his approaching trek from Pennsylvania to headline the Sunflower River Blues Festival’s  Saturday night stage here August 13.

      Although the multi-talented guitarist, singer, songwriter has been a favorite at several Sunflower festivals including the first one in 1988, his musical career for almost a decade has centered around the Philadelphia, Pa., area.

Lonnie Shields

    His last Sunflower appearance was in 2007.

    Speaking from his home near Philadelphia, Shields said his show in Clarksdale will  include a tribute to the late B.B. King, Johnny Taylor, and Tyrone Davis.

  “B.B. was my idol,” said Shields. “When he toured the East Coast, he always called me up on stage with him.”

  Born in West Helena, Ark., Shields credits Sam and Doris Carr for shepherding his early years and his musical career.  “Sam was my godfather,” he said.

In addition to making up for lost time with his family when he was busy building a career, Shields said he was working on two CDs: a tribute to B.B. King, and a collection of original compositions.

Friday night’s headliner James Super Chikan Johnson returned to Clarksdale Aug. 2 from a tour of Brazil and Uruguay.

“It was freezing, wintertime down there; even the hotels were cold,” says the ebullient musician on his way off to another out of town gig.

Super Chikan

In addition to Johnson’s high-energy performance with his band Friday night, he has accepted a request to star as the centerpiece of Saturday afternoon’s Educational Program at 2 p.m.

  While displaying an array of his folk art: handmade and bejeweled instruments – guitars, didley bows, and other music makers that work, Johnson will be spinning colorful “barnyard” stories and characters in dialect from his childhood growing up in the country.

The event is part of the acoustic stage lineup beneath the air-cooled VIP Tent near the festival main stage. It is free and open to the public.

    Arriving with super star credentials for her first Sunflower Festival, Toni Green is wedging her performance between European gigs and must fly back Saturday morning following her Friday night show here.

 Backed by a 9-piece band, Green, who is a native of Memphis but performs globally, promises  great variety ranging from blues and R&B to jazz and country.

“I grew up in a musical family, went to church every Sunday and I’m at home and influenced by gospel to R&B,” Green said.

Toni Green

Speaking from Europe in a telephone interview Green added, “My father loved jazz, and I love Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday.”

Green says she is not related to Al Green but loves his music. She’s also a big fan of Bobby Rush, and they both performed recently at a festival in Italy. She worked with Willie Mitchell at Royal Studios in Memphis before his death.

As a fifth grader, Green said she announced she planned to be a super star and travel around the world.

So far, she’s been busy performing in Italy, France, The Netherlands, Singapore, and Japan.

Full of energy and enthusiasm, she says she’s available and ready to go.

“You would not believe how much Europeans love and are impressed with the music of Mississippi’s small towns and Memphis,” she said.For lineup information, view the festival’s website: