Returning to West Point, Friday, Sept. 1, is the Black Prairie Blues Festival.

By: 
DONNA SUMMMERALL
Staff Writer

The festival will include a lineup of established and up-and-coming musical talent.

This indoor, air-conditioned concert will be held at the Community Counseling Services gymnasium on the former Mary Holmes College Campus. Gates will open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and are available at the Columbus Arts Council, Jack Forbus Insurance Company (Starkville) or the Growth Alliance or order online at blackprairiebluesfestival.com.

Tickets will also be available for $25 at the door.

Jeremy Klutts, program director of the Black Prairie Blues Festival, said the doors will open at 5 p.m. with the music starting at 6 p.m.

There are tables available to reserve for $50 each in addition to ticket prices. The table can seat up to eight people.

"We allow small coolers, there will be bottled water and soft drinks for sale," Klutts said. "We will have barbecue and chips for those who want something good to eat while enjoying the great music we have lined up. The festival is inside the gymnasium so it takes place rain or shine."

Bands will begin performing include:

1. Old Memphis Kings: The Kings were born several years ago in Old Memphis, Alabama under the tutelage of late bluesman Willie King. Now reborn in Starkville, with a sound all their own but still rooted in the dirty black prairie blues that their mentor taught them. Just trying to spread the music and Willie King's message of love and blues healing while not starving in the process.

2. Victor Wainwright & The Train: Victor Wainwright, singer, pianist, “hepcat” from Memphis, by way of Savannah, Georgia; is a raucous high-octane dynamic performer and crowd pleaser with soul to spare. After earning what he calls a "double major in Boogie, a Ph.D. in Swing and a master's in Rhythm," the "Piana' from Savannah" is making a name for himself in a big way.

3. Big George Brock & The New House Rockers: Big George Brock may well be one of the most underrated blues performers of his generation. With the Mississippi Delta of his youth just a breath away, Brock's huge harmonica sound and Deep South voice are instantly recognizable. They also stand out wonderfully against today's world of rock and soul-inflected blues performers - conjuring up images of the way blues used to be played in the sweat juke joint dance clubs of yesteryear.

"Big George is an amazing musician and he is 85 years old. We are thrilled to have him," Klutts said. "He requested to be allowed to play as long as he wants to and we are more than happy to honor that request. The other two acts will play 1 1/2 hour sets but the rest of the night belongs to Big George Brock and the House Rockers."

Klutts said he was glad to have the Old Memphis Kings, of Starkville in the line-up.

"We like to have local groups take part when they are available," Klutts said. "We hope some of their fan base of college students will come to the festival to support them and enjoy the music. We want to introduce young people to the roots of modern music."

Along with the musicians playing the blues, T-shirts and CDs will be available for purchase. T-shirts are $20 and can be bought at the Growth Alliance in advance. The Black Prairie Blues Festival is sponsored by The Prairie Belt Blues Society, area businesses and many other prominent organizations. The festival has a strong educational element which is tied to Howlin’ Wolf and other great Mississippi Blues artists.

The Prairie Belt Blues Foundation is a state chartered non-profit organization. Its objectives are to promote blues education in North Mississippi and to perpetuate the musical achievements of Chester Arthur Burnett, a native son of Clay County,and other blues greats.

The Blues Foundation helped establish a memorial black granite statue of “The Wolf”, along with a memorial bench and marker honoring Lillie Handley Burnett, "Ms. Wolf", in the West Point park. In honor of Howlin’ Wolf, the society and the Burnett family received the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame Award, the Walk of Fame Award on historic Beale Street, and the Peavine Award given by the Mississippi Delta Blues Hall of Fame. In 2007, the Society was honored by receiving the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive Award. A museum opened in West Point in honor of Howlin’ Wolf in 2005 and West Point received the Wolf's Mississippi Blues Trail Marker in 2007.

Connect with us on Facebook at Black Prairie Blues Festival or contact Jeremy Klutts 494-2537.

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