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Southern Literary Festival Hill County Blues Celebration

Yoknapatawpha Arts Council

Friday, March 28, 2014 from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM (PDT)

Southern Literary Festival Hill County Blues Celebratio...

Ticket Information

Ticket Type Remaining Sales End Price Fee Quantity
General Admission - Non Conference Attendee
General admission to the concert with the proceeds going to the J.E. Pitts Artist Fund. The J.E. Pitts Fund provides support to Lafayette County Artists to produce new work. The award is given annually by the Arts Council. Donations will be accepted at the event
73 Tickets Ended $10.00 $1.54
Donation to J.E Pitts Artist Fund   more info Ended

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Event Details

Celebration of North Mississippi Hill Country Music

Friday, March 28, 2014
The Powerhouse

Shardé Thomas & the Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band


Shardé Thomas is the 23-year-old granddaughter of Othar "Otha" Turner who passed away at the age of 95 in 2003. He lived his entire life in northern Mississippi as a farmer, where, at the age of 16, he learned to play fifes fashioned out of rivercanes.

He became one of the best known fife players in the vanishing American fife and drum blues tradition. Fife and drum blues is a rural derivation of traditional country blues. It is performed with one lead fife (musical instrument) player, often also the band leader and vocalist, and a troop of drummers. The vocals derive from two main styles: the traditional call and response of Black spirituals and short, repetitive lyrics. The genre once flourished in remote rural areas of the South and today endures in a stretch of the deep South from northwest Georgia to North Mississippi.

Turner started the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band with friends and relatives to entertain at farm picnics but they began to receive wider recognition in the 1990s. Turner was featured on Mississippi Blues in Memphis Vol. 1 in 1993, and included in many other blues compilations. They released their own critically acclaimed album Everybody Hollerin' Goat in 1998. This was followed by From Senegal to Senatobia in 1999, which combined bluesy fife and drum music with musicians credited as "the Afrossippi Allstars". The title, Everybody Hollerin' Goat, refers to a tradition Turner began in the late 1950s of hosting Labor Day picnics where he would butcher and cook a goat  in an iron kettle, and his band would provide musical entertainment. The picnics that began as neighborhood and family gatherings grew over the years to attract musical fans from throughout the world.

When Turner died at age 95 in 2003, his daughter Bernice who had been suffering from cancer, died the same day, at age 48. A joint funeral service was held with a procession to the cemetery led by the Rising Star and Fife Band, with Shardé Thomas, then 13 years old, at its head playing the fife.

Shardé has been performing with the Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band for 16 years and managing the band for the past decade. The Rising Stars consists of three drummers and a fife.

The group has performed overseas five times, and regularly performs at blues festivals throughout the world, and their music has been featured in such movies as Martin Scorcese's Gangs of New YorkBlack Snake Moan, and Super-Size Me.

The Rising Star and Fife Band has also performed with artists like Eric Clapton, Cyndi Lauper, Bobby Rush, North Mississippi All-Stars, and many more. They released their first album What Do I Do? in 2010 and have kept a busy performance schedule ever since.

Reverend John Wilkins


The Rev. John Wilkins is the son of famed bluesman Robert Wilkins, who was himself a bluesman turned preacher and whose song Prodigal Son was covered by the Rolling Stones. The elder Rev. Wilkins subsequently performed at the Newport Folk Festival to considerable acclaim and the new Reverend carries on the family blues/gospel/preacher/musician tradition. From early childhood on Rev. John Wilkins was stooped in the musical traditions that surrounded him, heavy blues & gospel influence, soul, R&B and the whole amalgam of the African-American musical experience. While he grew up in Memphis, the family was exposed to the country blues of nearby North Mississippi, just a short drive over the state line, where his daddy played house parties and neighborhood picnics. It all stuck, but there is a twist because of the stigma associated with the well known sinning ways of he blues, known as “the devil’s music” in some circles: Rev. John Wilkins is a blues player if ever you heard one but he does not refer to himself as such.  He does not just carry the Reverend title for show, as some bluesmen tended to do, but he is actually a preacher for the Hunter’s Chapel in Como, Mississippi where Hill Country bluesman Fred McDowell and his wife Annie Mae were once members, as well as the late Otha Turner.  “As such, Rev. John Wilkins is a “gospel guitarist” playing in the fingerpicking, rural blues style. That’s the perpetual struggle of the sacred and profane! Call it what you want. Memphis based Rev. John Wilkins is fundamentally a bluesman in the North Mississippi Hill Country tradition who sings sacred lyrics and a spiritual country blues– but if you are one of the many blues fans internationally who does not speak English, it will sound like plain old blues. It’s all good.

Signed to Fat Possum Records, he enjoys national recognition and is regularly on tour and often seen at festivals. While he often performs in an electric band, the deep roots Memphis/North Mississippi country blues sound is unshakeable.

Rev. John Wilkins has performed with Phil Wiggins and many others and has yet another persona. According to Phil Wiggins, the good Reverend “dons his black leather jacket and takes up his duties as chaplin of the King Riders Motorcycle Club. In Como, he’s known as the “Biker Preacher.”

A brilliant performer with a rich, expressive voice and a superb guitarist, the Rev. Wilkins was recently recorded as part of the 78 Project, a team of musicologists who is recording on old fashioned 78 rpm record technology. Their video far exceeds any current YouTube film available, and they do justice to showcasing this great American folk singer.

Duwayne Burnside


Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Duwayne Burnside is one of 14 children born to legendary North Mississippi musician R.L. Burnside and his wife, Alice. He has been a frequent performer with the North Mississippi Allstars since the early 1990s, when that group, fronted by Luther and Cody Dickinson, formed. The youngBurnside learned his first few guitar licks and chords from his father, but proved a quick study and soon began playing with local club owner Junior Kimbrough and the Soul Blues Boys. Growing up in Holly Springs, he was close to Memphis, and as soon as he was able to get to Memphis, he did, and soon had the chance to sit in withLittle Jimmy King, Albert King, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and others. Duwayne also began playing in his Dad's band, Sound Machine Groove, where he further honed his skills as a guitarist and showman. He recorded for Hightone and Fat Possum Records with his father's group before moving to Memphis, where he opened his own club, Burnside Kitchen and Grill, near Highway 61. He booked the music, cooked the food, sold the beer, and had his own band perform there on a weekly basis. 

In 1998, Duwayne traveled to Los Angeles to record his first album, Live at the Mint, as Duwayne Burnside & the Mississippi Mafia. After returning to Memphis, he decided to take a break from the bar business and settled back home in Holly Springs. In 2001, he joined the North Mississippi Allstars on-stage for the first time in Birmingham, Alabama, and that led to incessant touring with the band. He recorded with them on their third album, Polaris, and is featured on two of the group's EP's. In 2004, he opened another version of the Burnside Blues Cafe in Holly Springs and formed a new band that fused soul blues with hill country blues. His albums under his own name include Live at the Mint (1998) and Under Pressure (2005), both for B.C. Records. An album celebrating his father's life and music remains in the works. One of the last things he asked his father to do -- R.L. Burnside passed at age 80 in 2005 -- was sing with him at the massive, popular Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. Burnside continues to tour, helping to keep the North County, Mississippi hill-style blues flourishing. 
Have questions about Southern Literary Festival Hill County Blues Celebration? Contact Yoknapatawpha Arts Council

When & Where

Powerhouse Community Arts Center
413 South 14th Street
Oxford, MS 38655

Friday, March 28, 2014 from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM (PDT)

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Southern Literary Festival Hill County Blues Celebration
Oxford, MS Events Performance Music

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