Check the Sunflower’s website:
www.sunflowerfest.org for Sam Cooke tribute event
schedules: the Heritage Trail Marker Dedication and
the “Remembering Sam Cooke” Educational
Main Stage-Delta Blues Museum
Stage- Downtown Clarksdale
Friday, August 7, 2009
5:00-5:45 - Bill Perry
6:00-6:45 - Razorblade
7:00-8:00 - Guitar Mikey with Nellie Tiger Travis
8:15-9:15 - Nathaniel Kimble
9:30-10:45 - O.B. Buchanan
Main Stage-Delta Blues Museum Stage- Downtown
Saturday, August 8, 2009
1:00-1:30 - Delta Blues Museum Band
1:45-2:15 - George Horn and South of Memphis Band
2:30-3:15 - Eddie Lee Coleman Band
3:30-4:15 - Wesley Jefferson Southern Soul Band
4:30-5:15 - James Jimbo Mathis
5:30-6:30 - Homemade Jamz
6:45-7:45 - Juke Joint Duo – Cedric Burnside &
8:00-9:00 - Super Chikan Johnson
9:15-10:30 - Bettye LaVette
The Othar Turner Acoustic Stage- Clarksdale Station
Inside the Former Depot Blues Club-Issaquena &
Saturday, August 8, 2009
9:00am - Foster “Tater” Wylie
9:35am - Robert Belfour
10:05am - Eddie Cusic
10:35am - Pat Thomas
11:05am - T-Model Ford
11:35am - Big Jack Johnson
12:05pm - Shardee Turner & the Rising Star Fife &
Sunflower Riverwalk Park Acoustic
Stage No. 2- Third & Sunflower
Saturday, August 8, 2009
1:15pm - Charles Fowler
2:00pm - Arthneice “Gas Man” Jones
2:45pm - Bill Abel & Cadillac John
3:30pm - Terry “Harmonica” Bean
4:15pm - Jimmy Duck Holmes
5:00pm - Kenny Brown
5:45pm - Johnny Lowbrow
Sunday, August 9, 2009 Gospel Stage-Civil Auditorium
-West 2nd & Leflore
(Lineup is incomplete; please
check the website for additional information)
5:00 pm - Christopher Coleman
5:45-6:30pm - Chapel Hill Male’s Chorus
6:45-7:45pm - The Myles Family
Main Stage & Educational Forum on Sam Cooke will
feature ‘First Lady of Soul’ Bettye LaVette
who sang Cooke’s anthem ‘Change is Gonna
Come’ at President Barack Obama’s inaugural
CLARKSDALE - The 22nd free Sunflower River Blues and
Gospel Festival on August 7-8-9, 2009 will honor Clarksdale
native Sam Cooke, who grew up is a children’s
gospel group here with his siblings, became lead singer
with the Soul Stirrers, and later crossed over to become
the world’s most famous soul vocalist, announce
co-chairmen John Sherman and Melville Tillis.
“The Sunflower is welcoming members of the Sam
Cooke family, the International Sam Cooke Fan Club,
celebrities and musicians whose careers have been influenced
by his music, local friends and fans who are participating
in the “Remembering Sam Cooke” Educational
Forum and officials of the Mississippi Heritage Trail
who will be unveiling the Sam Cooke marker during this
“The importance of his contributions in the world
of music and his influences on other artists will be
celebrated on stage during this festival and also during
a unique afternoon educational forum that is open to
music fans of all ages,” continues Tillis.
Igniting the tribute to fever pitch and headlining the
Saturday night main stage is “The Great Lady of
Soul” Bettye LaVette, who performed the Sam Cooke
anthem, “Change Is Gonna Come” during the
inaugural activities of President Barack Obama, and
also brought down the house at Kennedy Center Honors.
A veteran performer and recording artist for Atlantic
Records whose return to the music scene with the album
“I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise,” has
exploded with accolades.
Recipient of the Blues Music Comeback Award, Miss LaVette
will be participating in the “Remembering Sam
Cooke” Educational Forum.
LaVette cut her first record for Atlantic at the age
of 16, starred in a Broadway show with Cab Calloway
and has toured with Ben E. King, Otis Redding, and James
Juke Blues magazine describes her voice as “Tortuous
soul at its most raw and almost frightening in its intensity.”
The Sunflower’s Sam Cooke tribute has grown from
the City of Clarksdale’s “Walk of Fame”
plaque dedication in April 2008 that was so successful
that a decision was unanimous to continue the connection
and the celebration through the 2009 festival.
During the “Remembering Sam Cooke” forum,
local residents and Cooke family members will be sharing
their personal experiences about the celebrity, and
the Chapel Hill Men’s Chorus will be singing Soul
“We anticipate lively dialogue, discussion and
interactions between the audience and speakers,”
says Tillis who participated in the 2008 panel.
To plan events and fund-raising drives to keep the festival
free, Sherman says members have been meeting bi-monthly.
The unveiling of the 2009 festival poster design created
by Cristen Barnard is planned for July 3 at Ground Zero
“The mission of our non-profit organization for
the past 22 years has been to preserve, promote, and
perpetuate our area’s musical heritage in a free
community celebration,” says Sherman.
He says all donations are tax-deductible and directly
pay performers and production costs of the festival.
In 2008 the Sunflower was ranked among America’s
Top 10 places to hear authentic music by USA Weekend’s
Travel Section along with Seattle and Miami.
For the past several years, the festival has also been
featured as the cover story of the Clarion-Ledger’s
Weekend Entertainment section.
Blues Association members range from professionals in
medicine, law, and education to secretaries, cooks,
and prison guards. All pay $15 membership dues; many
make significant financial donations as well as invaluable
contributions of services and countless hours of work.
The festival sponsors four stages: two acoustic stages,
a gospel stage, and the main electric stage.
Festival activities begin with electric performances
Friday afternoon on the Blues Alley stage generally
opening with students from the Delta Blues Museum and
continuing through 11 p.m. headliners; an acoustic stage
inside Clarksdale Station, the historic passenger depot
that begins Saturday morning and ends with a traditional
procession led by the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band
founded by the late Othar Turner, to the main Blues
Alley Stage and on to a second acoustic stage on Sunflower
Electric blues continues on the main stage through headliners
Saturday night at 11 p.m. The gospel festival is held
late Sunday afternoon in the air-conditioned City Auditorium.
Tillis says the association has encouraged and assisted
local clubs to book many festival musicians to play
after hours, and bookings are announced daily from the
The festival’s three-day lineup includes top performers
who are aware of Clarksdale’s legacy as home to
W.C. Handy, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House,
Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and John Lee Hooker.
Past performers have included many celebrities including
Charlie Musselwhite, Little Milton, Ike Turner, Pinetop
Perkins, Koko Taylor, Bob Margolin, Hubert Sumlin, Carey
Bell, Honeyboy Edwards, Bobby Rush, Bobby Blue Bland,
Denise LaSalle, Sam Carr, Latimore, Big Bill Morganfield,
Big Jack Johnson, Super Chikan Johnson, Shemekia Copeland,
Shirley Brown, the Jackson Southernaires, and the Myles
Among the visitors signing the hospitality roster are
residents of Europe, Asia, Scandinavia, South American.
In 2008 visitors for the first time arrived from Egypt,
Mexico, and Portugal.
Sherman says visitors are attracted not only by the
wonderful music – the Sunflower has been called
“America’s purest blues festival”
- but also its laid-back atmosphere, the accessibility
of artists, and the Southern hospitality of hometown
He says the festival especially appreciates its many
local collaborators including the Delta Blues Museum
that donates the main stage, green room, Greyhound Bus
Station and assists with many services.
John and Lori Moore and their staff at 305 Spin, who
donate free webmaster services; the Chamber of Commerce
and Tourism Commission who provide funding for national
advertising; association members who donate all graphic
design for national advertising, billboards, and the
program, church groups that donate and serve food for
the gospel performers.
Others prepare grilled chicken, burgers; restaurants
donate trays of appetizers. Members volunteer to serve
at the VIP preview supper featuring “Grits, Greens,
Tax-deductible donations are encouraged and may be mailed
to the Sunflower River Blues Association, Box 1562,
Clarksdale, MS 38614, according to Sherman.
VIP memberships are also being accepted; passes/wristbands
may be picked up at the VIP tent during the festival.
Donations of $300 to the SRBA provide hospitality, tables
and seating, beverages for four guests beneath the large
air-cooled VIP tent on Friday and Saturday during the
festival. The tent is located near the Main Stage.
Festival news is updated continually on the website:
Clarksdale native Sam Cooke was inducted in the first
Rock n Roll Hall of Fame following an acclaimed career
in gospel and soul music that continues to influence
musicians around the globe.
‘The First Lady of Soul’ Bettye LaVette
will headline the Sunflower’s Saturday night stage
and participate in the “Remembering Sam Cooke”