The Mighty Mississippi was flowing in the evening sunlight as citizens of the Mid-Delta gathered for a celebration of the announcement of the main stage lineup for the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, slated for October 3rd – 5th. Fans were thrilled to see Gov’t Mule, Dr. John, The Band of Heathens, Alvin Youngblood Hart and countless famous Delta bands and blues musicians on the list for the weekend-long, camp -out festival at Warfield Point Park which could be described as the “Golden Buckle on the Bridging the Blues Experience”.
The citizens of Washington County were all in high spirits to welcome a man who knows Delta blues and has been a pioneer in Southern rock, Mr. Warren Haynes, to play on the banks of it’s sacred waters. Haynes’ soulful work with Gov’t Mule, and his solo work have inspired countless fans, as well as being the driving force of The Allman Brothers’ Band for years.
Dr. John will bring his own variety of funky, New-Orleans style jazz-rock to the riverside festival. Fans of jam music are in for a treat watching this music legend all with the Mississippi River flowing in the background.
Alvin Youngblood Hart is slated to play the main stage. A celebrated blues player in his own right, there were whispers at the Warfield Point get together about the magic that happens when he and Warren Haynes jam out together on the stage.
The Band of Heathens, a favorite song-writing, cosmic Texas rock band who make you want to boogie and also make the hair on your arm stand up, will be playing the main stage as well. Founders Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi each have a unique sound, and when they come together with their band, the blend has a classic sound somewhere between The Band and The Subdudes.
Of course, the Mighty Mississippi would not be the same without it’s Delta natives. Mr. Steve Azar, a ring leader of the music festival, will be playing the main stage along with Jason Fratesi & the Dirt Road Jam Band, which is filled with river-rat characters. Shannon McNally, Jimbo Mathus and my old friend, The Reverend Rob Mortimer will be hitting the main stage with his band Good Paper.
Fans will also welcome the return of Cedric Burnside, who is slated to play on the Highway 61 stage and the main stage. Growing up in a family of blues legacy, Cedric keeps the Delta sound alive and well. Lightnin’ Malcolm, who was once a two-man wrecking crew with Cedric, will also be on the Highway 61 stage. John Horton will be playing old Howlin’ Wolf and other boogie-down favorites like “Mustang Sally”, and Jimmy Phillips singing Delta classics about fried chicken and life on the farm.
After Steve Azar thanked the sponsors, he gave the floor to Mr. Billy Johnson who showed us the painting that will be the artwork for the Highway 61 Stage t-shirts, which was a blues man playing a guitar in a canoe! He talked about how we were gearing up to bring a lot of tourism to the Mid-Delta with the Bridging the Blues project.
I got a chance to speak with one of the festival ring leaders, Mr. Wesley Smith about his work with the Bridging the Blues project. What a lot of people don’t realize is that acts like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughn used to play at the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, only a few miles from the riverside campground where the Mighty Mississippi will take place this October. It has since been over shadowed by the fantastic, internationally renowned, King Biscuit Blues Festival which will follow the weekend after the Mighty Mississippi. Along with the Sam Chatmon festival and the ones already named, there are a total of about eight festivals in the Delta around the time of the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival.
The Mighty Mississippi is an invitation to Americans and to blues lovers across the globe to incorporate the Mid-Delta into their pilgrimage to the home of the blues. What Bridging the Blues offers is a guarantee that between Helena, Greenville, and Memphis, you can spend more than two weeks in the Delta and see a blues show every night! The only disappointment you will have is if you can’t make it!