Bluesman Garry Burnside, like his brother Duwayne, grew up in the rural areas near Independence, Mississippi, between the larger towns of coldwater and Holly Springs, but in recent years has made his base of operations in Ripley, the county seat of Tippah County. Tippah, like Marshall, Benton and Tate counties, is in the Mississippi Hill Country, but does not have as many famous musicians as Marshall or Benton counties do. Still Ripley has dedicated an alley to the Hill Country blues, with beautiful painted portraits of the region’s best performers; most recently new portraits of Garry Burnside, Cedric Burnside and Little Joe Ayers have been added. Ripley is seeing something of a blues renaissance, with both Garry Burnside and his nephew Cedric opening live music clubs in town in recent months, and in April of this year, Garry launched the Burnside Blues Festival, which featured a day of music and food trucks near the Blues Alley along the railroad tracks.
Unfortunately, the day got off to a rough start due to rain; the stage was covered by the eaves of an old warehouse, and so the show could continue, but the fairly heavy showers kept crowds to a minimum at first. As the weather dried out later in the afternoon and people became convinced that the showers were gone, the crowds got bigger. Those who braved the elements got to hear excellent performances from Garry Burnside, Kent Burnside, Mark “Muleman” Massey, Kenny Brown, Lightning Malcolm, Eric Deaton and Duwayne Burnside. Garry showed off his versatility too, playing drums, bass and guitar with various groups during the day.
The inaugural Burnside Blues Festival proved to be really good fun, with good music and good food, and hopefully it will be a part of Ripley for many years to come.