Bridging the Blues, a multi-week celebration of the musical heritage of Memphis and the Delta regions of Mississippi and Arkansas, marks its fifth anniversary with dozens of activities in late September and early October. These include its signature events: The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival in Greenville, Mississippi, (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) and the 31st annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas (Oct. 5-8).
Created with a mission to maximize the experiences offered to visitors to the region, Bridging the Blues (BTB) encompasses multiple festivals, and its many partners have created a broad array of daily events. A new participant is GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi in Cleveland, which opened this past spring and is currently featuring the exhibit “Pride and Joy: The Music of Stevie Ray Vaughan” through mid-October.
Returning for its 3rd year is the International Conference on the Blues (Oct. 3-4) at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, which will include a keynote speech by GRAMMY award-winning producer Boo Mitchell and an outdoor concert by the Cedric Burnside Project (Oct. 3). On Saturday, Oct. 8, the 6th annual King Biscuit Blues Symposium will feature two panels with blues musicians including Kenny Neal.
The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, set in beautiful Warfield Point Park on the Mississippi River, features two stages with a diverse mix on the main stage and well-loved artists on the Highway 61 Blues Stage. Artists this year include G. Love & Special Sauce, Maren Morris, Ryan Bingham, The Revivalists, Mr. Sipp, Steve Azar & the King’s Men, Kenny Brown, Leo “Bud” Welch and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes.
The headliners at this year’s King Biscuit Blues Festival, staged along the Mississippi River levee in historic downtown Helena, are Charlie Musselwhite, John Mayall, and Sonny Landreth with Roy Rogers. There are dozens more artists across the festival’s multiple stages including Kenny Neal, the Rebirth Brass Band and Kenny Smith with Bob Margolin & Bob Stroger. The stages include the Lockwood/Stackhouse Stage, the Gospel Stage, and Delta Cultural Center’s Front Porch Blues Bash, where inside the Center are displays on regional music.
On Thursday, Oct. 6, Memphis hosts the “Road to the Biscuit Blues Festival,” which includes the debut of a new exhibit of Marc Norberg’s photos at the Blues Hall of Fame and free shows at 14 clubs along historic Beale Street by artists including Bob Margolin, Lonnie Shields and Mike Zito and local favorites Blind Mississippi Morris, Will Tucker, Barbara Blue and Southern Avenue.
On the first weekend of BTB is the Sam Chatmon Blues Festival (Sept. 23-24) in Hollandale, Mississippi, a small town street party featuring artists including John Horton, Nathaniel Kimble, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and Libby Rae Watson. The concluding day of BTB, Sunday, Oct. 9, once again features three events in Clarksdale—the 16th annual Pinetop Perkins Homecoming at Hopson Plantation and the Shack Up Inn, the Cat Head Mini Blues Festival and the Second Street Blues Festival.
Other events include the Bonafide Blues Festival in Memphis’ Overton Square (Sept. 30-Oct. 1), which features several dozen regional blues artists including Reba Russell, John Nemeth, Super Chikan, and Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, and the Front Porch Jubilee (Oct. 8) in Hernando, Mississippi, which will feature artists including Cedric Burnside and Travis Wammack.
Unique events include a “Blues TweetUp” at the Gateway to the Blues center in Tunica, Mississippi, featuring Terry “Harmonica” Bean and Preston Shannon on Wednesday, Oct. 5, and the Marks Mules and Blues Fest on Sept. 28 in Marks, Mississippi, which will feature Bobby Rush, celebrate a historic civil rights march, and include the dedication of a new Amtrak station in Marks, which is close to Clarksdale.
In addition to connecting live music and related events in three areas that have a Mississippi River bridge in common, Bridging the Blues also refers to different types of music that had their origins in the blues, and these include almost every genre of popular music. The variety of artists playing at both the festivals and smaller venues is a testament to how far the roots of the blues have spread. For more information on each festival, visit Bridging The Blues.