Celebrating the Blues and Juke Joint Culture in its Birthplace

Saturday April 23 was the main day of Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, a bright and sunny day, but extremely windy. In fact, the wind was so severe that it blew down a number of the vendor tents along downtown streets. When I arrived at the Wade Walton Stage, one of the free stages throughout the daytime, Memphisippi Sounds was on stage, the duo of Cameron Kimbrough and Damian Pearson. While there are not a lot of young Mississippi Hill Country artists, this group is one of the best emerging artists from the region. They were followed by Garry Burnside and his band, and then Duwayne Burnside and his band, and finally Kenny Brown, who was mentored by Mississippi Joe Callicott and the great R. L. Burnside. Around the same time, Como bluesman R. L. Boyce and Lightning Malcolm were on the Sunflower River stage next to Quapaw Canoe Company.

2022 brought some new openings to Clarksdale as well as some sad closings. The Riverside Hotel, famous as the the former hospital where blues great Bessie Smith died, has remained closed since it was damaged in a storm, and a fundraising effort is underway to keep it from closing permanently. Yazoo Pass, although open to a limited extent during weekdays, has closed at night, and was open only briefly on the festival day. But Sean “Bad” Apple’s new blues club in the former Club 2000 building, as well as the opening of the new Buster’s Blues Club next door show that the renaissance in Clarksdale still remains strong coming out of the pandemic.

After a dinner at the Hooker Grocery, I made my way over to Pete’s Grill on Sunflower Avenue for Duwayne Burnside’s night show. While the daytime stages are free to the public, the night shows inside the various juke joints require wristbands or paid admissions, but the shows are generally well-attended, and Duwayne’s was no exception.

4 Replies to “Celebrating the Blues and Juke Joint Culture in its Birthplace”

    1. Tickets are not required for the Juke Joint Fest, as such. The daytime activities occur on the downtown streets of Clarksdale, Mississippi and are free. At night, to enter the juke joints, you need a wristband. They will go on sale about a month before the event, which is in April of 2023. Your biggest difficulty will be in getting a place to stay, as all the rooms in Clarksdale are undoubtedly already booked solid. You might be able to get rooms in Tunica, Senatobia, Batesville, Cleveland or Helena. Sometimes people cancel rooms close to the event, and I have succeeded in getting a room a week or so before. The big city of Memphis is only an hour north of Clarksdale, so that is also an option.

  1. Hi this is Selby minner in Rentiesville OK and we have the dusk of dawn festival as you know which which is finished number 32 over Labor Day weekend. We always present Watermelon Sl im and Pat moss ..we’ve had Queen Iretta recently recently Johnny Rawls….I do hope that you will consider employing my band which shall be minor and blues on the move during a festival 9188550978. It thank you!!!

    1. Mr. Minner, this is just a blog that I run about Southeast culture and lifestyle. I do not have any direct connection with the Hill Country Picnic in Mississippi. You should contact Kenny or Sarah Brown about booking, but my understanding is that only artists from the Hill Country region of Northeast Mississippi are booked.

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