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2010 Juke Joint Festival
Kim "Festival Junkie" WelshBy Kim "Fest Junkie" Welsh

Watermelon Slim
This Fest Junkie got her fix at the seventh annual Juke Joint Festival in historic downtown Clarksdale!  This is my favorite small festival because it has the feel of a county fair and a blues fest all wrapped up in one wonderful package in the heart of the Delta. Four members from STL Blues were there representing.

On the way, we stopped at Po' Monkey's Lounge outside Merigold, about 30 miles south of Clarksdale.  Willie Seaberry, the resident owner who opened the juke in 1963, was out in the field driving his tractor.  I was surprised to see the new, relatively "professional" signs on the front and the new Blues Trail Marker with a statue of Po' Monkey made of old salvage.  His shiny red Silverado with a personalized license plate was parked in his "garage."

Juke Joint Festival strives to promote authentic Mississippi blues. The festival is free and for a $10 wristband one can juke in any of the sixteen nighttime "juke joint" venues!  Mississippi legends and up-and-comers... from Roman Barten-Sherman, 8 years young to David "Honeyboy" Edwards, a 94 year old blues legend, all played their heart out at the Juke Joint Fest. There were over fifty real-deal blues musicians from all over the world including Big George Brock, Big Jack "Oil Man" Johnson, 89 year old Jack Daniel's connoisseur "T-Model" Ford, LC Ulmer, Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Robert "Wolfman" Belfour, "Mr. Johnnie" Billington, Earl The Pearl, Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, Robert "Bilbo" Walker, Super Chikan, Mr. Tater, Mary Ann "Action" Jackson, Cadillac John Nolden, Blind Mississippi Morris, Cedell Davis, Cedric Burnside, Terry "Big T" Williams, Josh "Razorblade" Stewart, Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry, Clarine Wagner, Miss Gladys, Anthony "Big A" Sherrod, Rip Butler, Hal Reed, Johnny Rawls, "Gearshifter" Youngblood, Watermelon Slim, Blue Mother Tupelo, Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Stan Street, Jon Shorty, "Black Smoke" Sam Wiggins, Arthur Williams, Deak Harp, Kim Mason, and Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band.  Go to YouTube and search for little Roman Barten-Sherman!  He was the highlight of my weekend with his haunting version of Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on my Trail."  A real-deal child prodigy, for sure!

Juke Joint FestWe enjoyed a delicious pulled pork dinner compliments of Marshall "TopHat" Golgan at Abe's Barbeque. The STL Blues Team went to Hopson on Saturday night and couldn't pull ourselves away from their three stages. Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm closed out the evening with Mississippi Hill Country blues at the Juke Joint Chapel, Big George Brock and the Houserockers with Charine Wagner laid down some heavy blues in the Commissary, and Brian Sivils from Alto, Louisiana and Buddy Flett (in the movie, "Ten Days Out.") charmed the back porch with acoustic blues.

A new addition was the Juke Joint Express train transporting visitors between downtown Clarksdale and the venues at Hopson Plantation. Highlights included two stagings of Grammy award winning Jimbo Mathus' musical "Mosquitoville" which explored the origins of Mississippi music and mythology through story and song at the Delta Cinema.  An 83rd birthday celebration for bluesman Cadillac John Nolden from Renova, MS was held at Red's Juke Joint. And, of course, there were pig races, monkeys riding dogs, paddling down the Sunflower River, a petting zoo, segway tours, 5K and 8K runs, bus tours, barbeque on every corner, vendors selling interesting crafts such as cigar-box guitars, quilts, pottery, delta blues photography, etc. and a turkey and duck calling contest. Never a dull moment in Clarksdale on Juke Joint Fest weekend!

On Friday, a Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled on Delta Avenue at the original site of WROX, where pioneer African-American deejay Early Wright broadcasted for nearly 50 years.  Following that, an interview at the Delta Blues Museum of 94-year-old Delta bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who still has an uncanny memory for days gone by in the Delta.  The museum also hosted a presentation with blues scholar William Ferris centered on his new book, "Give My Poor Heart Ease." The STL Blues Dream Team juked at Red's on Friday night to the electric blues guitar of 70 year old Big Jack Johnson.  With ten recordings under his belt, Big Jack played with the Jelly Roll Kings for fifteen years with the late Sam Carr on drums and the late Frank Frost, one of the foremost Delta blues harmonica players of his generation.

The third annual Cat Head Mini Blues Festival was held on Sunday, featuring T-Model Ford, Big George Brock, "Bilbo" Walker, "Honeyboy" Edwards and Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band who had a flaming washboard finale!  Roger Stolle sure knows how to put on a great free show right on the front porch of his record store!  My Bluesaholic hat is tipped to Nan Hughes, Roger Stolle, Goldie Hirsberg, many generous sponsors, and the host of other folks who helped organize and make the Juke Joint Fest possible.

Keep on jukin'!  Next up. Jazz Fest!

-- Fest Junkie

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