Friday, May 30, 2008

June Blues Trail Marker Events

The Heritage Trails Program of the Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division has announced two upcoming Blues Trail Marker events in June.

Dunleith, Mississippi: Jimmy Reed Marker on June 19 at 4pm

Horn Lake, Mississippi: Big Walter Horton Marker on June 20 at 10:30am

Mississippi Grammy Celebration

In an event to benefit the Mississippi Blues Trail project, Mississippi and the recording Academy came together to honor Mississippi's Grammy winners and nominees.

"Mississippi is the Birthplace of America's Music" was the theme of a special celebration of entertainers in Jackson Thursday night. The celebration of the state's Grammy legacy was hosted by Governor Haley Barbour and First Lady Marsha Barbour. The homegrown talent of Grammy winners and nominees like singer and actress Brandy, Mavis Staples of the famed Staples Singers, the Williams Brothers, Eddie Cotton, and dancer Kathy Thibodeaux were recognized.

"We're the first state that the recording academy has ever allowed to have a Grammy-sanctioned event to honor our Grammy nominees and Grammy winners," said Governor Barbour. "In Mississippi we have more Grammy nominees and winners per capita than any other state in the country."

Read the full story here: State's Grammy Legacy Celebrated at Gala

Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Ron Brown interviews Staples and Barbour and reports about the event. Listen to it here: Mississippi's Grammy Legacy

The Clarion Ledger also reports:

"The governor ... he's one cool fellow," said Staples, who resides in Chicago. "He's not stiff and stern like most governors." Barbour chuckled when told of Staples' comment. "That's about as cool as it gets, for Mavis Staples to say that about you," he said. "But being the governor of the state that has produced more Grammy winners and nominees per capita than any state in America ... that makes you cool - even if you're not."

Overstreet, a two-time Grammy Award winner for co-writing the country hits Forever and Ever Amen and Love Can Build A Bridge, said Mississippi's secret is "our culture, the way we were raised. We just got that Southern thing going."

Next year's gala, the third in what Barbour plans to become an annual event, will be held in Tunica "where we can seat 1,200 instead of 400," Barbour said. "Then, hopefully, we'll have the Convention Center done and be back in Jackson in 2010."

A trio of Swedish divas also performed. Hannah Holgersson paid tribute to Mississippi opera legend Leontyne Price, who grew up in Laurel, by singing Caro Come, which Price has performed countless times. Anorah performed Here Without You, a hit song by the Mississippi Gulf Coast rock group 3 Doors Down. And Beatrice sang What's In It For Me, honoring country superstar Faith Hill of Star.

Kathy Thibodeaux, founder and artistic director of Ballet Magnificat! in Jackson, performed a dance interpretation of Holgersson's song.

Dazed and Confused and Chasing Amy actress Joey Lauren Adams served as emcee.

Read the full story here: State's Grammy winners honored

Blues and Barbershop

Scott Barretta writes about the new home o fht Highway 61 Blues Museum in the Clarion Ledger:

The Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland celebrates its move to a new home with live performances by local musicians T-Model Ford, Eddie Cusic, Eden Brent, Duff Durrough and Pat Thomas. Artist Cristen Barnard will be on hand to sign her poster for the ninth annual Highway 61 Blues Festival, which takes place on June 7 and will feature 92-year-old Honeyboy Edwards.

The museum, founded in 2002, celebrates the blues artists native to the mid-Delta region including Little Milton, Tyrone Davis, Jimmy Reed and dozens more. Its new location is the former Montgomery Hotel building at 307 North Broad St.

The new, larger space also allows for temporary exhibitions, and the first is a series of photographs of Delta artists by Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based Bill Steber. Since 1992, when he shot a session with Leland's James "Son" Thomas, Steber has returned more than 100 times to document the places and people of Mississippi blues.

Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi hosts the Barbershop Harmony Society this weekend.

Dressed in matching red vests and bow ties, their voices carry on an American music tradition that emerged in the 19th century. The Jackson barbershop group Magnolia Chorus will perform, as well as two guest barbershop quartets - the Colorado group Redline and Tennessee's Lunch Break, whose members will compete during the Barbershop Harmony Society's International Convention in Nashville later in June.

Derrick said the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America was organized in the late 1930s, and by the 1960s, the organization claimed 48,000 Americans members. Derrick said Mississippi has chapters in Columbus and Biloxi, too. As one of the oldest American chapters, the Jackson group has around 35 members, and many will perform with the Magnolia Chorus at Belhaven.

"It's definitely a unique sound," he said. "It's traditional American music, and we'd like to get a lot of young folks involved."

Read the full story here: Barbershop group brings harmony to the stage

3 Doors Down - Another #1

Entertainment Weekly shares the good news about Mississippi's Gulf Coast rockers:

If you've gone to the movies much in the last year or two, you've heard a lot of 3 Doors Down, whose song "Citizen Soldier" was the soundtrack for an unavoidable pre-show Army recruitment ad. But how is the band's own fan enlistment effort going? The good news for the Mississippi-based rockers is that their newly released, self-titled fourth album is their second effort in a row to debut atop the Billboard/Soundscan chart. But, as is the case for most veteran acts, No. 1 ain't quite what it used to be, sales-wise. The new set sold 154,000 its first week, looking not quite as battle-ready as 3 Doors Down's previous disc, Seventeen Days, did when it debuted in 2005 with 231,000 units. Still, most bands these days would take up serious arms to achieve that kind of opening.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Honey Today, Hot Tamale

The Associated Press has this profile of interest: (Full story at the link) 'Honeyboy' Edwards outlasts them all
Edwards has a legacy that almost no living musician can match, and as the last Delta bluesman still standing he's found he's in demand. In the last year alone, he's released a new album, won Grammy and Handy Awards, appeared in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and done interviews for three documentaries due out in 2009 and 2010.

With all the activity, though, Edwards finds he's often tired these days. He was in Tunica on May 8 for the Blues Music Awards, in Jackson May 9 and in Crystal Springs May 10 to play a festival on a bill that included Pinetop Perkins, one of the few musicians who can claim to know Edwards when he was a young man.

Edwards, who turns 93 on June 28, was scheduled for a day of rest upon his return to Chicago, then it's off to Europe for 10 dates. He still plays about 70 gigs a year and the calls keep coming.

Edwards learned the guitar growing up in Shaw and first started playing professionally in Memphis as a teenager. By the 1950s he had played with almost every bluesman of note - Tommy Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson I, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters - across the decades.

He is believed to be among the last people to have seen Robert Johnson alive and was there the night the man legend says sold his soul to the devil died from poison. Of all the great blues musicians, Johnson's shadow has proven the longest, something Edwards admits he never would have imagined 70 years ago when his friend was killed, likely by a jealous husband who poisoned Johnson's whiskey. "Robert, he was really easy, I never heard him cussing with you," Edwards said. "He was a good musician. He liked whiskey and womens, that's all."

In news related to the Delta blues, the Chicago Reader has a piece on the history of the Delta tamale (full story at the link): On the Trail of the Delta Tamale - Southern food sleuths take on the murky origins of the mother-in-law sandwich

The SFA, which is based in Oxford, Mississippi, published its Tamale Trail documentary project (, a study of the Delta tamale that includes a map, a film, and a number of oral histories. One short segment on the “Chicago Connection” features an interview with a Mississippian who sold Delta tamales here in the 60s and 70s. He mentions a southern woman who sold mother-in-laws in the suburbs at the same time, which sparked the theory that the sandwich has southern origins.

Engler says that Mexicans, Greeks, Armenians, and Poles probably all had a role in the development of the mother-in-law. But he doesn’t discount the southern influence, pointing to a 1921 Tribune article about African-American tamaleros’ efforts to unionize. “Those probably were homemade Delta tamales,” he says.

The tamales at J’s are handmade in batches of three dozen by Yoland Cannon, a native of Leland, Mississippi, who runs a construction company and drives around town advertising them on the side of his truck. He grew up with hot tamales but only learned to make them about a year ago—from a “secret” source in the south. (Based on the way he tells the rest of the story, it sounds like that might be his mother.)

“Chicago ain’t nothing but a big old Mississippi,” says Cannon, whose intended market is southern emigres who buy tamales frozen back home and bring them up south—which is to say that, at least with respect to Delta tamales, the Great Migration continues.

According to Edge, who’ll be in town with Camp Chicago, it’s been flowing backward as well. “I’m seeing the exchange between Mississippi and Chicago working both ways,” he says. “I’m seeing ‘Windy City gyros’ and Chicago hot dogs in Mississippi. It’s people in their 20s and 30s—they’re moving back home.”

Unsung home of the blues

Richard Knight, author of "The Blues Highway: New Orleans to Chicago" wrote a piece for the UK's "The Independent" which focuses largely on Jackson's role in the development of Mississippi blues.

In 1963, Medgar Evers, the Field Secretary in Mississippi for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was shot in the back as he walked from his car to his Jackson home. He died less than an hour later. It was one of the more cowardly acts of the Civil Rights struggle. But there was more shame to come: Evers's killer, the white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, was twice acquitted by all-white juries. It took a further 31 years to convict him.

Medgar Evers's elderly brother Charles still lives and works in Jackson. He's the manager at WMPR 90.1 FM, a blues and gospel radio station. When I met him in his office, a desk-fan clattering like an old Dakota on take-off, he explained how he and the great bluesman BB King, from nearby Itta Bena, have staged an annual concert to remember Medgar every year since 1963.

The fact that Charles Evers, also a prominent NAACP activist, made a career in music – and chooses to commemorate his brother through music – underlines the link between the Civil Rights movement and the blues. The two go together, not least because the blues was, for years, one of the fastest routes a black kid could take out of poverty. That period and its soundtrack is, to me, as interesting as any in history. And in Jackson, the capital of the state which gave the blues to the world, the many reminders of that extraordinary time are intoxicating. You do not need to be a blues buff to get it, either: this is the Deep South, where sluggish speech, Spanish moss and slow-cooked BBQ will seduce you.

Farish Street, north of the city, is where the blues grew up in Jackson. For years the heart of the black community, Farish Street was as important to the development of the blues as was the far more celebrated, and gentrified, Beale Street in Memphis.

Through the glare of the Southern sun one can make out the words "Ross Furniture Co" on 225 Farish Street. This was the original site of HC Speir's music shop. You probably haven't heard of HC Speir, though you're likely to have heard of Sam Phillips. Phillips discovered, among others, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

It's time Speir was thought of in the same breath: he discovered Sam Phillips. These were the very founders of Delta blues, a genre which would underpin the subsequent development of popular music and without whom Phillips's Sun Records would have been very different. Speir, a white businessman, began selling guitars and wind-up Victrola phonographs (early record-players) on the black side of town in the 1920s. But he became what he described as a "talent broker", passing on to record companies the best of the artists he came across in and around Jackson. So-called "race labels" such as Vocalian and Gennett learnt to trust Speir's fine ear.

The blues historian Gayle Dean Wardlow befriended Speir, who died in 1972, and says the man did not understand the full significance of his work. But without Speir, Robert Johnson might not have been heard beyond the dusty Delta street corners where he played before finding his way to Jackson back in 1935.

Farish Street is in steep decline, though its heat-faded storefronts and defunct business premises, such as Ace Records and the Crystal Palace nightclub, are so redolent of another time that it's as exciting as many more organised presentations of American history. Farish Street today would be immediately recognisable to the likes of Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson II – both of whom recorded for Trumpet Records on Farish Street early in their careers.

And it's not all history: the local blues singer Dorothy Moore, famous for her world-wide hit "Misty Blue" in the Seventies, started her own label, Farish Street Records, in 2002; and Malaco Records, a much bigger concern, is still going strong after 40 years.

Another survivor is Peaches, an African-American diner located next to the Alamo theatre. The Alamo once hosted celebrated talent contests, plucking the likes of Otis Spann, who would become Muddy Waters' pianist, from obscurity.

Peaches has been a Farish Street favourite since the early Sixties and little has changed either to the decor or the menu. There's a giant jukebox stacked with blues, soul and gospel records. Photos of local heroes line the walls. The menu is pure Southern soul-food: fried beans, smothered chicken, okra and huge slices of cobbler. It's good, down-home, artery-clogging stuff and if there was a branch of Peaches in Britain I would be a fat man now. Possibly dead.

While Peaches and Malaco Records have kept the spirit of the blues alive in Jackson, the more important cradles of the music – juke joints – have not fared so well.

When I first visited Jackson in 2000, I spent a memorable night at the Subway Lounge, one of the coolest and most authentic juke joints left in Mississippi. It was a one-room basement club in a residential district which was hard to find and even harder to leave. The ceiling was decorated with fairy lights, the house band were mind-blowing and alcohol was bought from a hatch in the side of the house next door. The Subway Lounge was the real thing.

So I was sad to discover in 2004 that it had closed for good, after four decades in business. The building had become unsafe and no one could find the money to put it right. But there are other juke joints still open. The Queen of Hearts is another improvised music club, hosting live bands from time to time, and every bit as rough and raucous as the Subway had been.

There is still time to visit the cradle of that great creative outpouring and to see something of the culture which fostered it. But you don't have long. It's evaporating in the Mississippi heat.

Read the full story here: Mississippi: Unsung home of the blues

Soulja Boy on Mississippi ties

17-year-old rapper Soulja Boy (real name: DeAndre Way) has been nominated for a Grammy, hit with a number 1 single, and got his start on youtube. He recently spoke to the Clarion Ledger about his Mississippi ties:

Q: I understand you went to high school in Batesville. What can you tell me about your Mississippi ties?

A: Well, man, I was in middle school in Atlanta, Ga., right? I had got in a little trouble or whatever down there, so my mama, she let me move in with my daddy in Mississippi. When I got to Mississippi, I went to Batesville, and I went to South Panola High School my ninth-grade and 10th-grade years. After my 10th-grade year that summer I had got signed to Interscope Records and started traveling the world.

Q: So are you a South Panola football fan, then?

A: I played football for South Panola when I went to school there.

Q: You did? What position did you play?

A: I played wide receiver.

Q: Did you have some wheels?

A: Well, you know, that's why I'm rapping now, man (laughs).

Q: You're coming to perform at this big concert in Jackson and you're in Tupelo now - so how does Mississippi fit into your success?

A: Basically, this is where I got picked up at. I was living in Atlanta, Ga., but I couldn't get no record deal for nothing, you feel me? Then I moved to Mississippi, and there was nothing popping, there wasn't no clubs or nothing really popping, and that's where I got my record deal at. If I hadn't ever came to Mississippi, I probably wouldn't have ever got my deal.

Q: So Mississippi will always have a little spot in your heart?

A: Exactly. It's where my family's at.

You can read the whole interview here: Soulja Boy: 'Crank Dat' just a start

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blues Trail: Alamo and Dorothy Moore

The next marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail will be unveiled at 3pm on Thursday, May 22 at 333 North Farish Street in Jackson and will honor the Alamo Theater and Jackson's First Lady of Blues, Dorothy Moore.

(In related news, Dorothy Moore performed at a Habitat for Humanity benefit concert in Jackson on Friday.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

News Roundup

Legendary Mississippi Sheiks to get their due

On a recent holiday, Steve Dawson—guitar maestro and founder of local label Black Hen Music—had the bright idea of putting together a tribute album to one of his favourite bands, the Mississippi Sheiks. Other than the blues classic “Sitting on Top of the World”, the Sheiks’ songs are largely unknown to today’s music fans, despite having been revered by Americana-influenced musicians since the ’30s. In those days, the trio was one of the hottest—and sauciest—acts around, and it influenced such legends as Memphis Minnie, Robert Johnson, and Big Bill Broonzy. “Much of their stuff remains obscure,” Dawson told the Straight. “They disbanded in 1935, but were one of the first bands to generate crossover interest from both black and white communities. What’s going to make this different from the regular tribute album is that, for the most part, there’s going to be a house band and the musicians are coming here to record over a three-day period.” The artists appearing on the album—which is scheduled to be out in March 2009—include Madeleine Peyroux, Bill Frisell, Bruce Cockburn, John Hammond, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Bob Brozman, Kelly Joe Phelps, Geoff Muldaur, Van Dyke Parks, and Dawson’s recording buddies Jim Byrnes and the Sojourners. “Ry Cooder has also agreed to do it, much to the chagrin of his lawyer. We don’t know how it’s going to shake down, but he would be recording in L.A.,” Dawson said.

Eden Brent: The sultry voice of the Mississippi Delta Blues

With a sultry voice like thick molasses, splashed with a shot of Jack Daniels, Eden Brent approaches the piano with the eagerness of a long-lost lover, determined to make up for lost time. An engaging aptitude with the keyboard, earthy and one-of-a-kind vocals, and a palpable, gutsy energy are just a few things that have helped Brent find success in the music world. Most folks around these parts already had a head's up on Brent's talent, and now, with the release of her latest CD, “Mississippi Number One,” the rest of the world is going to be let in on the secret. A Greenville girl born and reared, Brent says she can't remember a time when she didn't want to be a singer. But it was not until her introduction to Greenville bluesman Boogaloo Ames that Brent says she began to discover who she was as an artist. When she was 19, Brent says she finally plucked up enough courage to ask Ames, who by that time was a legend in the Port City, for lessons. And it was that one request that changed the rest of her life, says Brent, who spent the next 16 years learning from and working with Ames. Since launching her solo career, she was named a 2004 inductee into the Greenville Blues Walk, the 2006 winner of the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge, and has headlined venues across the world, including the Kennedy Center, the British Embassy, and tours in South Africa and Norway.

Elvis tribute artiste has Delhi rocking

Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll, set India's capital on fire. The hip-shaking, gyrating rock sensation of the 60s and the 70s was in full regalia - his trademark long sideburns, high-collared sequinned jacket - as he belted out favourites like 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'All Shook Up' in his deep resonant baritone. Only it was not the King in person. Award-winning Canada-based Elvis tribute artiste Stephen Kabakos took the audience back in time to the swinging 60s and the 70s in the country's first ever Elvis Presley tribute concert at the Hotel Radisson on Wednesday night. The performer, who was crowned the Grand Champion at the 2001 "Images of the King World Competition" in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the top three Elvis tribute artistes in the world.

95 years of blues: 'Pinetop' Perkins comes to Marin

With a Nicasio show coming up and a new album, famed piano man Willie 'Pinetop' Perkins isn t letting age slow him down. I thought for sure that the last time I saw blues great Willie "Pinetop" Perkins would be the last time I'd ever see Willie "Pinetop" Perkins. Let me explain: Revered as the piano player in the legendary Muddy Waters Band, Perkins is a blues hall of famer whose barrelhouse style has influenced generations of rock and blues musicians. I had the pleasure of meeting him five years ago when he played West Marin's Rancho Nicasio with his pal Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. That night, he recorded tracks for a live album, the Grammy-nominated "Ladies Man," with Marin's Elvin Bishop and Angela Strehli sitting in. At the time, he was one of the last of the old-time Mississippi bluesmen still performing. I figured the old cat had used up his nine lives with that little confrontation with a train and, given his advancing years, thought it would be a pretty safe bet I'd never have the chance to see him play again. Which is why I don't gamble. Since then, Perkins has won two Grammys - for lifetime achievement in 2005 and another last year for traditional blues album for a concert recording with Henry James Townsend, Robert Lockwood Jr. and David "Honeyboy" Edwards called "Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas." Townsend and Lockwood died in 2006, leaving Perkins and Edwards as two of the few surviving bluesmen with a direct, first-hand connection to seminal figures like Waters and harmonica ace Sonny Boy Williamson. In his time, Perkins played with both of them. This week and last, Perkins was in his native Mississippi for ceremonies dedicating a couple of Mississippi State Blues Trail Markers in his honor. He's also up for Blues Foundation award for his DVD, "Born in the Honey - The Pinetop Perkins Story." He'll be celebrating his 95th birthday on July 7 with a new "Pinetop Perkins and Friends" CD, set to be out in June, with guests Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Jimmy Vaughan.

In related news: Blues marker honors Hopson Plantation, Pinetop Perkins

The History of BB King - The Legendary Blues Guitarist

In his youth he played on street corners for dimes and pennies! He was born on 16 September, 1925 on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. He spent his youth playing on street corners for dimes. Today B.B. King (Riley B. King) averages 250 'packed to the rafters' concerts around the world each and every year. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee to pursue his music career and it is first love. His first major break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio broadcast. As the years well by, King has developed one of the world's most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, incorporating his distinct and complex voice-like string blends and his left-handed vibrato, both of which have become vital components of a blues guitarist's vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. In the mid-1950s, two men got into a fight during one of King's performances. The men knocked over a kerosene stove and set fire to the venue. King raced outdoors to safety and then realised he'd left his beloved acoustic guitar behind. He rushed back in to retrieve it and almost lost his life. He found out later that the fight had been over a woman. He named his guitar Lucille to remind him to never do a crazy thing like fight for a woman. Ever since, each one of King's guitars has been called Lucille.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hubert Sumlin

Hubert Sumlin will enter the Blues Hall of Fame this week and gain a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

The Greenwood Commonwealth writes (read the full story - Sumlin: Greenwood's still my town)

Hubert Sumlin’s first wife told him to shape up or be single again. “She said it was either my guitar or her,” Sumlin said of an early tiff married life tossed his way. “So I picked up my guitar and walked out the door.” That decision, in effect, will be honored Tuesday when a marker is placed on the Mississippi Blues Trail in the blues giant’s hometown of Greenwood.

Sumlin, who as a 12-year-old in the 1940s was performing with harmonica great James Cotton, got his break when Howlin’ Wolf caught wind of the duo’s sound and invited them to do a 15-minute set on West Memphis’ KWM radio station. “Wolf told us, ‘If you do it right, I might have to get you in my band,’” Sumlin recalled. Something must have been done right.
From the 1950s until Wolf’s death in 1976, Sumlin’s lead guitar playing – described as “darting, unpredictable” by American Roots Music – complemented Wolf’s performances. Then, when Rolling Stone magazine made a list in 2003 of the top 100 guitarist of all time, Sumlin ranked number 65. And a sentence guitarist Jimi Hendrix is said to have uttered has entered into music-enthusiast legend: “My favorite guitar player is Hubert Sumlin.”

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sumlin be honored with a marker on the Mississippi's Blues Trail. The dedication will take place on Greenwood’s River Road Extended.

Billy Watkins writes about Sumlin's connection with famed rocker Eric Clapton in the Clarion Ledger (read the full article here - Finger-lickin' good: Blues Hall of Fame welcomes Hubert Sumlin):

Hubert Sumlin had never seen so many guitars. American brands. Japanese. German. The walls were covered with them. It was near midnight in April 1970 at Clapton's home. They had just finished what would come to be known as The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, a studio jam that included the Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood and Klaus Voorman.

"I can't take no guitar from you, Eric," Sumlin said. "I want you to," Clapton insisted.

Sumlin then spotted a guitar case on the floor and opened it. He pulled out a black mid-1950s Fender Stratocaster. He ran his fingers up and down the neck a few times, cradled it against his belly. "This one ... I'll take this one, Eric," Sumlin said.

The words made Clapton's whole body tremble. "No, Hubert, not that one. Please, man. Not that one."

Clapton had just recently purchased it in a small music store in Nashville for $100. It was the guitar of his dreams, the way it played and spoke.

"This is the one, man," Sumlin said. Several minutes passed. Sumlin kept playing. Clapton kept shaking.

"OK, Hubert," Clapton finally said. "But if I want this guitar back one day, can I buy it from you?"

Sumlin shook his head. "Naw, man, I'm gonna play it a while, and then I'll give it back to you. You ain't gotta buy it."

After he returned to the U.S., "I think everybody in Eric's family -including his butler - called me about that guitar," the 76-year-old Sumlin recalls now. "But I told them the same thing I told Eric. 'I'll give it back one day.' "

Hubert Sumlin, one of the Top 100 guitarists of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine and scheduled to be inducted Wednesday in The Blues Hall of Fame at ceremonies in Tunica, grew up on a plantation just outside Greenwood.

Just like he promised Clapton, he gave the guitar back. "I kept it a couple of weeks," Sumlin says. "I knew we were gonna be playing Montreal at the same time, so I went over to his hotel. Police led me to his room, and Eric met me at the door. He grabbed me. Hugged me. He said, 'Anything I can ever do for you, you just let me know.' "
Clapton went on to play and write most of his greatest hits on that guitar, which became affectionately known as "Blackie." It was donated by Clapton in 2004 to the Guitar Center in Corona, Calif., for auction, with proceeds going to Clapton's Crossroads drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Antigua. Winning bid: $959,000.

Hubert Sumlin -- Sittin on Top of the World

BB King International Blues Workshop

Greenwood Commonwealth: King will hold blues workshop June 6

The King of the Blues will return to Mississippi Valley State University June 6 for the eighth annual B.B. King International Blues Workshop. Itta Bena native B.B. King will hold his workshop at the H.G. Carpenter Auditorium on the Itta Bena campus. Events get under way with the Musicians Workshop – Part I from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

King, 82, will take to the stage from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. He’ll talk about his guitar style, described as “one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles . . . integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist’s vocabulary.”

Part II of the workshop will begin at 1 p.m. with a musical performance featuring King's daughter, Shirley. Other performers scheduled to attend are MVSU alumni Pat Brown, vocalist; Vickie Baker, vocalist; Rickey Burkhead, drum gear/performer; as well as guests Eden Brent, vocalist and pianist; Nellie McInnis, bass guitarist; Idalee Feaster, drummer; Jessie Robinson, guitar gear/performer; and MVSU student Levan Lortki-panize featured on the harmonica and guitar.

For more details on the workshop, contact the Delta Research & Cultural Institute at 662-254-3001.

Robert Johnson Blues Foundation Hall of Fame

Raymond Reeves writes about the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation Hall of Fame dinner and shares the teacher behind the Robert Johnson devil myth (read the full story: Playin' the blues)

Ask a music expert about the birthplace of the blues, and the answer will be quick and simple: the Mississippi Delta. But central Mississippi can stake a claim as well, as the birthplace of one of this genre's most influential figures.

Robert Johnson [of Hazlehurst], who, legend says, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, will be honored this weekend with the annual Blues Jam. The event, in its fourth year, is organized by the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and features an awards banquet at Jackson's TelCom Center on Friday and a festival in Crystal Springs on Saturday.

The banquet, scheduled for downtown Jackson on Friday night, includes the induction of the latest class into the foundation's hall of fame: David "Honeyboy" Edwards, the last living blues artist known to have played with Johnson, and the late Ike Zinnerman, who will be represented by members of his family. Zinnerman apparently played such a role in Johnson's life that his influence is reflected in the famous legend regarding Johnson's talent.

"Ike Zinnerman is the great bluesman who shared his knowledge of the guitar with Robert Johnson," Clapton wrote. "The (Johnson) family says that, when Robert Johnson came down to study with Ike Zinnerman, he was not that great of a guitarist, quite frankly. When he studied with him, he worked with him so intensely that when he went back to the Delta people were saying 'Man, what happened to you? You must have sold your soul to the devil.'"

Blues Awards

The Blues Music Awards are tomorrow night and as the Clarion Ledger reports, they've come home to the Delta (read the full story: The blues come home):

For the first time in its 29-year history, the Blues Music Awards will be held in the Mississippi Delta. Long known as the birthplace of the blues, the poverty-stricken Delta has taken a back seat to Memphis, headquarters of the Blues Foundation, which puts on the biggest event in the industry. But not this time. Dozens of blues acts - Jimmie Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Omar Dykes among them - are set to attend the event, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Grand Casino Event Center in Tunica. The festivities will kick off at 3 p.m., with Gov. Haley Barbour unveiling a Blues Trail Marker on U.S. 61 in Tunica.

Jay Sieleman, executive director of the foundation, said the group chose Tunica for a couple of reasons. First, the venue in Memphis usually used was already booked. Second, the Delta made sense. "Rather than switch dates," he said, "we thought, how can we take advantage of the situation. From our point of view, historically this is great. The Delta is the birthplace of the blues."

The Ledger has a list of the nominees but for more information visit:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

U.S. 61 to get Blues Trail marker

The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Haley Barbour on Thursday will unveil a marker designating U.S. 61 as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. The ceremony will be held at the Tunica Visitors Center on U.S. 61 in Tunica.

"As the most famed stretch of roadway in Mississippi's storied history, it's only fitting that the highway be permanently and officially designated as the Blues Highway to honor the many talented artists whose travels made it come alive as one of most enduring cultural icons," Barbour said in a statement.

Among the dozens of blues artists who recorded songs about U.S. 61 were Mississippians Sunnyland Slim, James Son Thomas, David Honeyboy Edwards, Big Joe Williams, Joe McCoy, Charlie Musslewhite, Johnny Young, Eddie Burns, Blind Mississippi Morris, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Cotton Pickin' Blues

Here comes another Mississippi Blues Trail Marker Ceremony: Friday, May 9, 2008 at 1pm at the Hopson Plantation in Clarksdale to note The Cotton Pickin' Blues.