The 19th Sunflower Fest is Sam Carr’s Houseparty

CLARKSDALE – When Sam Carr throws a houseparty at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, blues fans can expect something special.

For months, the legendary drummer and Jelly Roll King founder has appeared in advertisements inviting music fans to join Sam Carr and “friends” at Clarksdale’s 19th annual celebration August 11-13.

“Our Sunflower members voted unanimously to pay tribute to Sam and Doris Carr this summer, and to call the celebration Sam’s houseparty,” said John Sherman, festival co-chairman.

“He is a giant among us, has played world-wide, and has been invited by rockers Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin to sit in with them on tour, ” added co-chairman Melville Tillis.

Among Sam’s “friends” booked to pay tribute to the soft-spoken but distinctive drummer who’s been known to play brick walls backing his drum set are internationally-acclaimed musicians.

Headlining Friday night’s stage will be sauve, soul master, Latimore, who ignited 9,000 music fans into a frenzy two years ago with his signature hit, “Let’s Straighten It Out.”

On Saturday night, the spotlight will light up the houseparty host on center stage.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been a front man,” Carr replied to Tillis when told about the Sunflower tribute.

Afterward Super Chikan Johnson and the Fighting Cocks will ratchet up the tribute another notch.

With their hypnotic “hill country” blues rhythms, the Rising Star Drum and Fife Band led by Othar Turner’s granddaughter Shardee will lead a procession on stage prior to Saturday night’s headliners and Grammy nominees: The North Mississippi All-Stars.

Mentored by Othar Turner as well as their father, Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, and influenced by Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough, brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson plus bassist Chris Chew, have attracted a near cult following with their combination of blues, pop, soul and Southern rock music.

They have appeared often on national television, are favorites on college campuses, and are performing in May in Dublin, Ireland, and London.

“When they take the stage, you can almost count on celebrity musicians showing up to sit in with them,” commented Sunflower booking member John Mohead.

“When the word gets around, Clarksdale will be packed,” he said.

According to the co-chairmen, area hotels are already booked, and Sunflower members are busy raising funds to pay performers and production costs for the free festival that drew between 25,000 to 30,000 music fans in 2005.

Staged entirely by volunteers, the Sunflower is a non-profit 501 c 3 organization, and donations are tax deductible. Sherman and Tillis say donations should be mailed to the Sunflower River Blues Association, Box 1562, Clarksdale, Miss. 38614.