Dorothy Moore Earns Festival Favorite
CLARKSDALE – Although relief from triple-digit heat
is a contender for crowd favorite at the Sunflower’s
24th season, the festival crown belongs to headliner
Connecting emotionally with thousands, the rich voice
of multiple Grammy nominee projected the distillation
of vintage wine, occasionally laced with humor and culminated
with the wrenching lyrics of Misty Blue.
“A couple from Little Rock stopped me on the street
this morning to praise the awesome show of Dorothy Moore,”
commented John Sherman, festival VIP chairman.
“Many also were impressed with the cool performance
of Johnny Rawls,” continued Sherman.
Melville Tillis, festival co-chairman, repeated remarks
from dozens who called the festival, “out of sight,
better than last year, and getting better.”
Although the weekend crowd is estimated in the 20,000-range,
Sherman believes the Saturday night crowd was bigger
because of cooler weather, while Tillis likes the sweltering
“soul-oriented” Friday night bunch attracted by David
Brinston and Nathaniel Kimble.
Tillis says “Fantastic, downhome music” were accolades
attached to performances by Earnest “Guitar” Roy and
the TCB Blues Band headed by Otis Taylor.
Poignant programs honoring six late members of the
Sunflower Festival family were transformed into into
vibrant celebrations featuring family members and friends
sharing memories at Ground Zero Blues Club Friday afternoon,
and on the Saturday night main stage.
Participating were Anjeanette Johnson, widow of Big
Jack Johnson, his son, Jack Junior; Lisa Jefferson,
daughter of Wesley Jefferson; Joe Wiley and Joshua Wiley,
brothers of Foster “Tater” Wiley; Angela and Calvin
Moore, daughter and son of Sarah Moore; Mae James, widow
of Michael James and her sister, Lee; John Ruskey, friend
of several; and poet Dick Lourie of Boston, who played
sax with Big Jack Johnson who read a poem about Big
Jack. Sunflower musician and vendor chairman James Alford
was remembered by friends.
An English visitor suggests that acoustic blues purists
quickly adjusted to the transition from the interior
depot stage to the Main Stage with the aid of beverages
from the VIP tent.
Memorable performances were kicked off by Arthneice
“Gas Man” Jones playing with Terry Williams, Eddie Cusic,
Pat Thomas, and T-Model Ford who appeared despite two
hospitalizations earlier in the week.
Master bluesman “Mr. Johnnie” Billington talked about
teaching more than music to kids, and Shardee Turner
and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band closed the morning
On the Sunflower River stage other musician taking
up the beat were Robert Belfour, the Mellow Blues Duo
from France, Lucious Spiller, Bill Abel and Cadillac
John, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Kenny Brown, Terry “Harmonica”
Bean, and Johnny Lowe Bowe.
Two members of the Sunflower River Blues Association
were surprised on the Saturday night stage with the
association’s top awards.
Claudett Williams was honored with the Julius Guy Gospel
Heritage Award for her contributions to gospel music,
and Shelley Ritter, director of the Delta Blues Museum,
was honored with the Early Wright Blues Heritage Award
for her contributions to blues.
Friday morning’s Blues Trail Heritage Marker honoring
Clarksdale’s New World District was unveiled outside
Messenger’s on Martin Luther King Blvd.
The 10 a.m. ceremony featured talks by George Messenger
who described his family’s 100-year-history in business;
Kappi Allen, Coahoma County Tourism director; Alex Thomas,
director of Mississippi’s Blues Trail program; Al Jones,
a member of the Coahoma County Tourism Commission Commission;
At 2 p.m., Friday a bronze Walk of Fame plaque honoring
Big Jack Johnson was unveiled outside Red’s Blues Club
on Sunflower before a large crowd of family and friends.
Presiding was Tana Vassel of the Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking were Red Paden, Anjeanette Johnson, Jack Johnson
Jr., and others.
The Sunflower River Gospel Festival started at 4 p.m.
Sunday in the Civic Auditorium.