CLARKSDALE – It’s
‘Harmonica” Bean performs at
3:30 p.m. on the Sunflower Riverwalk acoustic stage.
Jack Johnson, Clarkdale celebrity bluesman and Handy
Award winner, is performing at 11:34 a.m. Saturday
morning on Clarksdale Station the acoustic stage.
August 7-9, 2009 has been declared SAM COOKE WEEKEND during
the 22nd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival
by the Clarksdale Board of Mayor and City Commissioners
at Monday’s board meeting.
Requesting the official proclamation, a contingent of Sunflower
members headed by Melville Tillis, festival co-chairman,
outlined activities honoring the legendary gospel and soul
vocalist during the 3-day festival.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting is filming the festival
for its popular television program Mississippi Roads, according
to producer Andy Williamson. Thousands are expected to fill
all area hotels and motels for the free celebration.
Born in Clarksdale , Cooke grew up singing with his siblings
in a children’s gospel choir before becoming lead
singer for the acclaimed Soul Stirrers. Later he crossed
over to secular music with his number one recording of “You
Send Me” and became the world’s most celebrated
In 2008 Sunflower Tillis said members voted to dedicate
the 2009 festival to Cooke and expand successful links between
Cooke family members, the International Cooke Fan Club,
and Clarksdale developed during the Walk of Fame tribute
in April 2008.
“The interactions and conversations springing from
that event were so exciting and spontaneous, we decided
to continue it during our festival,” said Tillis,
a member of the “Remembering Sam Cooke” panel.
The dedication of a Mississippi Heritage
Heritage Blues Trail marker honoring Cooke will be unveiled
at 2 p.m. Friday, August 7, on Issaquena Avenue in the New
At 2 p.m. Saturday, “Remembering Sam Cooke”
panelists will share experiences about the Rock n Roll Hall
of Famer at Ground Zero Blues Club.
Participating will be L. C. Cooke, brother of the vocalist;
Erik Green, Cooke’s nephew and biographer; his wife,
and family; Don Piper, secretary of the International Sam
Cooke Fan Club; local residents; festival headliner Bettye
LaVette; and the Chapel Hill Baptist Church men’s
At 8 p.m. on the festival’s main stage, dignitaries
will be recognized, and the tribute continues through Sunday
night’s gospel festival in the Civic Auditorium.
Headlining Saturday night on the Delta Blues Museum stage
will be Bettye LaVette, the “First Lady of Soul,”
who wowed audiences in Washington D.C. during her performance
of Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” during
inaugural activities for President Barack Obama and earlier
at Kennedy Center Honors featuring a tribute to actor Morgan
Expected to draw an overflow audience as Friday night’s
headliner is soul vocalist O.B. Buchana, a Clarksdale native
who will be making his first appearance in several years
on the Sunflower stage.
Performing earlier Friday night are well-known soul-style
performers Nathaniel Kimble and Guitar Mikey with steamy
diva Nellie Tiger Travis, a Mound Bayou native now living
in Chicago , who drew standing ovations in 2008.
Saturday night’s lineup is studded with crowd favorites
including James Super Chikan Johnson who is appearing in
Norway this week at the Sunflower’s sister festival,
the International Notodden Festival.
Blues Music Award winners Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’
Malcolm, Jimbo Mathus, and Homemade Jamz of Tupelo, the
country’s youngest blues band ever nominated for a
BMA hit the stage Saturday night also.
Among the acoustic stage masters performing Saturday morning
are Robert Belfour, Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, T-Model Ford,
Big Jack Johnson, and Shardee Turner and the Rising Star
Fife and Drum Band.
Saturday afternoon acoustic favorites include Charles Fowler,
Arthneice “Gas Man” Jones, Bill Abel & Cadillac
John, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Jimmy Duck Holmes,
Kenny Brown, and Johnny Lowbrow.
Sunday’s gospel festival opens at 4 p.m. in the Civic
Auditorium with Christopher Coleman and features nine groups
including the Myles Family, Billy Rivers and the Angelic
Voices of Faith, and the country’s top new contemporary
gospel singers Maurice Griffin and Jessica Reedy.
Named one of America ’s Top 10 places to hear authentic
music in 2008 by USA Weekend, the Sunflower Festival is
free, open to the public, and is staged entirely by volunteers
who raise tax-deductible contributions to pay performers
and production costs.
VIP donors (those donating $300 and more) have access to
the VIP tent near the main stage for four guests with free
beverages Friday and Saturday nights, and invitations to
the Thursday night “Grits, Greens, and Barbecue”
preview porch party supper in the historic district.
Donations may be sent to the Sunflower Festival, P.O. Box
1562 , Clarksdale , Miss. 38614