46th MS Delta Blues Fest one for the record books

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Bobby Rush and King George (Photo: Ralph Smith Photography)

On September 16, the 46th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival saw the arrival of King George, a first timer on the longest running blues festival stage.           

The longstanding guardians of the main stage at the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival had to make a “U-Turn” with the arrival of the hottest R & B headliner, “King George, a hitmaker gunslinger who threw down hit after hit that brought in an approximate crowd of 10,000,” according to the festival artist recruiter,      Howard Boutte.

Festivalgoers from all over the country came in droves this year to see somewhat of a mystery man, King George, who hails out of Hopkins, South Carolina. Very little is of common knowledge when it comes to this young cat, even his age is put in the range of 23-27 as noted in most publicity surrounding this artist.  But what is not a mystery is the sound that this young man has put into the universe.  His music has the undeniable roots in gospel quartet with the original blues feel that is unmistakable. Some call his sound Southern Soul but even better, it is Blues With A Feelin’!      

The fans get what King George is putting down. We all know that blues is a feelin’ and is the cornerstone of all other modern day American and some European music such as the Beatles and especially the Rolling Stones. King George emanates an old soul sound that puts this writer in mind of Tyrone Davis and Johnny Taylor who always sang about uncomplicated themes and in a vocal range that you and I could sing along to without having superior vocal capabilities. His songs resonate with everyday people and the struggles that we encounter at different stages of our lives with respect to love, relationships, and our human condition that go through changes as we mature while bringing back memories of days gone by; songs that can be found on all platforms and social media.  

Take a listen and see if you agree that King George has that “Thang.”  Songs such as “Keep On Rollin,” “Too Long,”           “U-Turn,” “Lil Weight,” and      “Friday Night.” His songs are overlaid with smooth vocals that are easy on the listening ear…nothing too complicated and that’s what makes us buy music. Relatability is what King George is selling to the masses. He puts lyrics and musical arrangements into a package that will withstand the test of time from generation to generation akin to what Motown and Malaco did back in the day. It        has longevity that few artists consider regarding the creation of generational wealth through music that appeals to young and old consumers.  

King George’s music is the best kind of Black music that is unapologetically culturally centric and can be played at the family reunion, backyard barbecue, and is well-suited for the line dance house party and at the VFW on Saturday night.

The main stage at the 46th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival was loaded with artists that have drawn people to the Delta for blues over the long haul that included Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band (of Otha Turner lineage), Pat Thomas (of James “Son” Thomas legacy), The Kattawar Brothers (Kings of Duet Improvisation), John Horton (Down Home Blues), Sweet Angel (Memphis Redbone with a Saxophone), Mr. Sipp (The Mississippi Blues Child), T. J. Hooker Taylor (son of Johnny Taylor), and OB Buchana (North MS Old School Southern Soul). 

The soon-to-be 90-year-old two-time GRAMMY Award winner, Bobby Rush brought his A-game as usual with them girls and his long list of hit songs that have stood the test of time.  Bobby told the audience, “I was born on November 10, 1933, and I’ve got over 460 songs of which I know the lyrics to 358 that I can remember right now. I am an original and the rappers stole from me and James Brown, we are the original rappers. Wouldn’t be no 50 Cent if not for me and James Brown; it would be a dime or a nickel or something. I love what I do, and I plan on coming back to the Delta Blues Festival to do what I do.”  Bobby’s fans showed their appreciation by giving him standing ovations and singing along on songs that fall into each category and stage of his lengthy career. Their applause  noted how his sound has progressed over the years from traditional blues in 1951 to his present-day funky blues that has crowned him King of the Chitlin Circuit.

Newcomer to the festival, Crystal Thomas, the Louisiana Blues Queen, brought the blues lovers to their feet as she sampled female blues greats such as Denise LaSalle and a tribute to Tina Turner interspersed with her originals “Hey Baby,”           “Somebody Else’s Man,” and      “Drank of My Love” that the audience helped her sing during her entire performance. Knowing the lyrics came easy for attendees due to her heavy Delta southern radio airplay and record blues chart rankings.   

The Juke Stage offered an alternative for blues lovers that needed just a little bit more incorporating local and established headliners such as Pat Thomas, The Kattawar Brothers, Emmons Band, John Horton Blues Band, Cadillac John Nolden & Bill Able, Jake & The Pearl Street Jumpers, and Juke House Stage Ends.

This year’s festival was dedicated to the late Gwen Young Baskin from Duck Hill, Mississippi, who died from COVID related symptoms. The official poster for the 46th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival was created by Tony Davenport of Jackson, Mississippi. The Mississippi Action for Community Education, Inc. (MACE) paid tribute to musician Butch Mudbone for past festival performances and Tina Turner for her contributions to the soul and blues music culture. 

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46th MS Delta Blues Fest one for the record books

By Brinda Fuller Willis
September 25, 2023