More than a hundred musical events, including 15 festivals, are scheduled for the third annual Bridging the Blues event, a cooperative effort between Arkansas, Mississippi and Memphis that takes place through the end of King Biscuit Festival. In addition to weekend festivals, there are special events including shows at vintage juke joints, Mississippi Blues Trail marker unveilings, public talks with blues artists, live radio programs, and blues competitions.
The first weekend of BTB includes three festivals: Clarksdale’s Delta Busking Festival (September 26-28), Gonerfest in Memphis (September 27), and, in Hollandale, the Sam Chatmon Blues and BBQ Festival (September 7), featuring leading artists of the Delta music scene.
After a successful debut last year the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival( (October 3-5) in Greenville, Mississippi, returns this year with artists including Gov’t Mule and Dr. John on the Mighty Main Stage, and a full lineup of traditional artists on the Highway 61 Blues Stage. Camping, late night movies and sports access is part of the fun at beautiful Warfield Point Park on the Mississippi River.
One of the key events during BTB is the four-day King Biscuit Blues Festival (October 8-11) in Helena, Arkansas. Celebrating its 29th year, the “Biscuit” features a lineup including Roy Rogers & Sonny Landreth, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Vivino and the Black Italians (house band for Conan O’Brien’s late night TV show), and other festival favorites like Bobby Rush and James Cotton. Dozens of acts perform across multiple stages, and there’s plenty more music along historic Cherry Street.
On the Sunday following the “Biscuit” there are three festivals in Clarksdale—the 14th Annual Pinetop Perkins Homecoming, the Cat Head Mini Blues Festival, and the Second Street Blues Party.
Clubs throughout the region have extra bookings throughout BTB, and special events include shows at the legendary Po’ Monkey’s juke joint (October 2 & 9) near Merigold, Mississippi, a performance by Big Tyme Rhythm and Blues Band at historic Club Ebony (October 3) in Indianola, and an appearance by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes at the Blue Front Cafe (October 2) in Bentonia, Mississippi, which his family has operated since the late ‘40s. Other special events include multiple shows at Memphis’s outdoor amphitheater, Levitt Shell, and a “Blues Tweet Up” (October 8) featuring Blind Mississippi Morris at the Gateway to the Blues Welcome Center in Tunica, Mississippi.
Monday through Friday at 12:15 p.m. you can watch veteran broadcaster Sonny “Sunshine” Payne host the legendary King Biscuit Time radio program over KFFA via a studio at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena. A special edition of Thacker Mountain Radio (October 11) in Como, Mississippi, will feature a group from blues legend Mississippi Fred McDowell’s home church, Hunter’s Chapel MBC, and Beale Street Caravan will be recording many of the BTB events for later broadcast on over 600 internationally-syndicated non-commercial radio stations worldwide.
In addition, there are special exhibits up at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland, the B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, and the Delta Cultural Center in Helena.
Regional competitions for the International Blues Challenge will be held by the Memphis Blues Society at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street (October 8), while the Vicksburg Blues Society’s event will take place at Ameristar Casino’s Bottleneck Blues Bar (October 12).
The International Conference on the Blues (October 6-7) debuts this year at Delta State University, featuring an interview and performance by Grammy® award-winner Alvin Youngblood Hart. The 4th Annual Call and Response Blues Symposium (October 11) takes place in Helena during the King Biscuit Blues Festival and features several panels of musicians and blues journalists.
Unveilings for three Mississippi Blues Trail markers are scheduled to honor soul legend Willie Mitchell (Ashland, Mississippi, September 27), the location of the legendary railway intersection “Where the Southern ‘Crosses the Dog” (Moorhead, Mississippi, October 2), and harmonica great Sonny Boy Williamson II (Helena, October 9). There are over fifty Mississippi Blues Trail markers in the Delta region alone.
Bridging the Blues has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from across the nation and around the globe and was recently named an event to watch in ABA’s Top 100 Events in North America for 2015. Mississippi Tourism Association named BTB as the 2013 Tourism Achievement Winner and Acoustic Guitar Magazine also named Mighty Mississippi Music Festival as the “do not miss” fest in Mississippi.
This year, Mississippi Delta Tourism Association is asking you to upload your own photos from Bridging the Blues using the hashtag #BridgingtheBlues2014. A winner will be chosen to receive a Nikon Camera! To sign up, visit bridgingtheblues.visitthedelta.com.