Review: The Cathead Mini Festival, Clarksdale and Pinetop Perkins Homecoming Festival, Hopson’s Plantation, Clarksdale – 7 Oct

Posted on: Tuesday, Nov 6, 2007

After the conclusion of the Blues and Heritage Festival in Helena, a trip was made to Clarksdale just over the river in Mississippi for two great events.
Opening at the Cathead Festival were local guitarist Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry backed by Terry “Harmonica” Bean and they went through a nice set of covers before the 84 year old “T” Model Ford or 87 years old dependent on which day it is, took the stage accompanied by his 9 year old grandson Stud on drums.
With Ford you get a great raw rhythmic blues of predominantly standard blues numbers each one of which is finished with a quick slug of Lynchburg’s finest bourbon and a wry smile “It’s Jack Daniels time”. To his great credit he encouraged young Stud who showed great skill for one so young.
One of the star acts of the King Biscuit were undoubtedly The Rev Payton and The Big Damn Band and they gave another great set of high energy stomping blues with the My Old Man Boogie the top number.
70 year old guitarist Robert “Bilbo” Walker was born and raised in Clarksdale but moved to California years ago. He returns regularly to his roots and although he can play a variety of genres, he is best known for his Chuck Berry influenced style of rocking blues. However after two numbers, an instrumental and Magic Sam’s All Of Your Love a slightly worse for wear T Model Ford stood beside him playing air guitar on his walking stick, quite obviously provoking him. He then sat down and plugged in his guitar in readiness to play which prompted a full blown row on the stage between him and Walker much to the amazement of all present. Luckily Cathead owner Roger Stolle diffused the situation, Walker blasted off into Johnny B Goode and all was forgotten.
The festival finished off with Robert “Wolfman” Belfour who gave a superb hour of North Mississippi hill country blues including the wonderful Black Mattie.
It was a great start to the day before everyone moved over to The Hopson Plantation just 2 miles out of Clarksdale and congratulations to Roger Stolle for the event and all he is doing for blues in the area.

Pinetop Perkins although he was born in Belzoni, was raised and picked cotton on the Hopson Plantation and today the old commissary building and sheds and shacks have been converted into comfortable B&B accommodation.
The commissary is the setting for Pinetop’s homecoming festival and is arranged the day after the Arkansas Blues and Heritage festival and basically it takes the stage as a four hour plus jam session with many of the acts from Arkansas joining the fun.
It’s difficult to name the numbers that were played as they gelled from one to another but there were certainly some marvellous performances again to savour. Willie “Big Eyes” Smith started on drums with Robert Stroger on bass and one of the first guitarists on stage didn’t actually appear at the festival, Super Chikan with a home made gas can guitar followed by Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges. Most of the artists played two numbers and Jonn Richardson and Diunna Greenleaf and Bob Margolin, were then replaced by RJ Mischo. The appearance together of Carl Weathersby and Michael Burks was again another treat and they, to great applause, played a lot longer than the two numbers.
All the while Pinetop was walking around chatting to everyone, thoroughly enjoying himself.
There was also an acoustic stage and people like Bill Abel and Steve Chesebrough performed beautifully and an even T Model Ford showed up and played in one of the sheds where the amazing drummer Cedric Burnside and guitarist Lightning Malcolm were performing tracks from their new cd.

After it had all concluded at about 9pm a trip was made back into Clarksdale to visit Red’s Lounge, the Clarksdale juke joint. Big T and the Family Blues Band were the house band for a great jam night after acoustic openers from Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood and Robert “Wolfman” Belfour. Joining the jam were Blind Mississippi Morris, Cedric Burnside on drums, guitarists Lightning Malcolm and Bill Abel and a wonderful vocalist in the Tina Turner mould, Miss Zeno from Memphis.

It had been the longest day of blues music experienced by most people, 9.30 am through to 1.30am the next morning, but all totally memorable.


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