Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival


The first Sunflower River Blues Festival took place in 1988 and was funded primarily by Clarksdale's downtown merchants and organized by Jim O'Neal and Dr. Patricia Johnson. It featured dozens of musicians performing on outdoor stages on the banks of the Sunflower River beneath the Riverside Recreation Center and in the open space between Sunflower and Delta Avenues. It was filmed by Mississippi Educational Television (ETV).

Some of the performers were the Jelly Roll Kings, Jack Owens and Bud Spires, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Boogaloo Ames, and Othar Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. The finale performances by James "Son" Thomas followed by Otis Rush took place inside the Larry Thompson Center for the Performing Arts, formerly the Paramount Theatre, formerly the Marion Theatre.

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