CLARKSDALE – The hometown
of gospel/soul celebrity Sam Cooke is gearing up to host
musicians of similar international ranking when the Blind
Boys of Alabama and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform
Friday, April 24, here at Coahoma Community College.
However, admission to the Pinnacle
unlike venues that usually host the multiple Grammy winners
including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, is free thanks
to CCC’s Lyceum series, Mississippi Festival, and
the Rock River Foundation.
“Providing community-wide cultural enrichment activities
is part of Coahoma’s mission statement,” says
Lyceum chairman Yvonne Stanford. “We recommend, however,
that music fans arrive early before the 7 p.m. opening.
with harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite (center),
at the Gertrude Ford Center at the University of Mississippi
several years ago, the Blind Boys of Alabama will
be featured in concert at Coahoma Community College
in Clarksdale in a free concert at 7 p.m. Friday,
Not only have the Blind Boys been
legendary artists performing gospel music “that reaches
the heart” for 60 years, they also take on songs by
Eric Clapton, and have hooked up with Tom Waits, Charlie
Musselwhite, Mavis Staples, and George Clinton.
One reviewer says what makes the Blind
Boys different from most gospel groups is its ability to
cross over into the mainstream audiences.
At the Gertrude Ford Center in Oxford several years ago,
the audience gasped and then applauded when Charlie Musselwhite
was introduced on stage by the Blind Boys with the statement:
“ Charlie is an old friend; he is facing emergency
eye surgery in Memphis tomorrow, and we’ve assured
him he can join us if things don’t work out.”
Musselwhite’s surgery was a success, and he’s
performed with them many other times including this “Down
by the Riverside” tour.
On April 24 Musselwhite, who lives in California, will be
in the Clarksdale area, but he is being honored with the
dedication of a Blues Trail Marker in Kosciusko, his birthplace.
The collaborative “Down by the Riverside” tour
of the Blind Boys and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicked
off Sept. 16, 2008, to bring attention to the rich musical
heritage of New Orleans and the city’s revitalization
efforts to continue rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina.
Rave reviews from Rolling Stone and the Washington Post
have praised their album, “ Down in New Orleans,”
released Jan. 29, 2008, with guest performances by Allen
Toussaint and the Preservation Jazz Band.
Founded in 1939 by Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, and
George Scott who met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro
Blind, the group has won four consecutive Grammy Awards.
Interviewed several years ago, Fountain said he believed
their inability to see improved them musically.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
“ When God takes one thing from you, he gives you
something better,” he said. “Look at Ray Charles,
who was one of the greatest ever. You can see more into
it than the average sighted guy.”
Fountain said the group never got into the music profession
to make money but “to sing and spread the message
of the Lord.”
The Blind Boys have been featured on “60 Minutes,”
“Regis and Kelly,” “The Tonight Show,”
“The Late Show with David Letterman,” appeared
on the 2005 Grammy Awards telecast, and the 2003 movie “The
Fighting Temptations” with Beyonce and Cuba Gooding
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band that began touring in 1963
derives its name from Preservation Hall, the historic music
venue in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Many of the band’s charter members performed with
the pioneers who invented jazz in the early 20th century
including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morten, Louis Armstrong,
and Bunk Johnson.
In April the Blind Boys and Preservation Hall performed
together along with special guests Dr. John, Susan Tedeschi,
and others at a sold-out concert at Tipitanas in New Oreleans.
The show was recorded for a DVD due soon to be released.
Also featured in concert with the Blind Boys of Alabama
at Coahoma Community College April 24 will be the Preservation
Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans.