Robert Johnson festival a celebration of the blues

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 4, 2007

Blues lovers from all over will be making their way toHazlehurst this weekend for the annual celebration of the man whohelped put the city on the map.

The second annual Robert Johnson Blues Festival takes place onSaturday, and the gates open at 9 a.m. to a day of crafts, gospel,and blues music, with partial proceeds going to the HeritageHouse.

“We’re really excited about the lineup this year,” said Dr.Janet Schriver, executive director of Heritage House. “We’ve gotgreat entertainers here.”

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The day will showcase 11 different artists, as well as vendorsfrom all over the South.

And with Hazlehurst’s recent addition to the Mississippi BluesTrail, festival organizers see this weekend’s event as the perfectway to celebrate Johnson’s contribution not only to the city, butto music itself.

“People like Robert Johnson created a style of music thatbelongs to America,” said Mississippi Arts Commission DirectorMalcom White. “Mississippi has made enormous contributions to whatwe call cultural and heritage tourism. And Hazlehurst and CopiahCounty have a huge part to play in the Robert Johnson story,because it’s the biggest story in the blues.”

The morning opens with four gospel acts starting at 10 a.m. At2:30 p.m. the blues show breaks into full swing with local favoriteSunny Ridell of Crystal Springs, and will also feature Grammynominated Hazlehurst native Dorothy Moore.

Closing out the evening is Grammy-nominated Bobby Rush, who willplay from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

In addition to the stellar lineup of blues professionals, thefestival will also feature a kids jam session.

“This will feature some of the best young talent in thecountry,” said Schriver, who was instrumental in bringing theparticipants together. “We’ve got Patrick Droney, Clay Newsome, andmost importantly, Cortland Collins, who is a Hazlehurstnative.”

Droney is the 2006 New Generation Award Winner, and is muchacclaimed as a guitar prodigy. Newsome is a keyboard andsaxophonist from New Orleans, and Collins plays the drums. Thekids’ lineup will also feature Homemade Jamz of Tupelo.

The festival has plenty of other entertainment, as this yearthere will be children’s activities such as the Kitchens Brothers’Kids Club at the corner of Highway 51 and Gallatin Street andvarious art exhibits.