Natchez Bluff Blues Fest builds on decade of good music

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; The Natchez Bluff Blues Fest will celebrate its 10th anniversary when it opens for music and other entertainment on Friday.

The April 22-24 event will be special in other ways this year, said founder Eric Glatzer of the Natchez Blues Heritage Association and World Blues Festivals.

With the 5:30 p.m. kickoff on April 22 at the Marketplace Cafe, the event will pay tribute to the Rhythm Night Club of Natchez, one of the first big blues clubs and the site of a tragic fire in 1940. Music will be by Texas Johnny Brown, an eyewitness to the fire.

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Other clubs such as Speakeasy, Biscuits and Blues, Club 601, Dimples, Under-the-Hill Saloon, Peacock’s Bar and Grill at The Natchez Eola Hotel and In the Mix also will host blues groups for the Friday evening.

On Saturday, the festival opens at noon and remains open until 6 p.m. at the Rosalie Bicentennial Gardens on the grounds of the historic house Rosalie at the end of Broadway Street.

In addition to the music, a new expanded children’s area will be open for young people, Glatzer said.

Volunteer Matilda Stephens has taken on that project with great success, Glatzer said. &uot;Matilda has really stepped up to get a full-blown kids area this year, and most of it is free,&uot; Glatzer said.

One opportunity for children will be a musician on hand to teach them about the blues, Stephens said.

&uot;This is one of the things I’m most excited about,&uot; she said. &uot;James Campbell will be there to give free demonstrations on the guitar. And he can really play the blues.&uot;

She hopes children can begin to appreciate the blues as an important style of music but also to learn about its historical Natchez connection.

Getting children interested now could have implications for the future, perhaps for programs connected with the school system that are eligible for arts grants, she said.

Stephens also has taken the designation of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month to tie into some of the activities at the children’s village at the blues fest, she said.

&uot;There will be a variety of activities from agencies and organizations, about 70 percent of them free,&uot; Stephens said. &uot;Eighteen agencies have signed up to take part.&uot;

Opportunities such as the putt-putt golf that will be provided by the Natchez Recreation Department may help to strengthen interest in the department’s summer sports program for children, she said.

Five groups will perform on the bluff above the Mississippi River on Saturday. And on Saturday evening, music at local clubs, bars and restaurants will resume at some of the same places that will host musicians on Friday, as well as at Center City Grill, Andrew’s, Pearl Street Pasta and King’s Tavern.

At In the Mix, a battle of the bands will begin at 11:59 p.m.

Sunday’s activities will begin with blues brunches at Marketplace Caf, Center City Grill, The Natchez Eola Hotel and Biscuits and Blues.

Each restaurant will feature its own special menu served up with the blues, Glatzer said.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Alvin Shelby will host a gospel tribute to the

Rhythm Night Club at Marketplace Caf to close out the event.

Festival talent includes Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, sponsored by the Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel.

&uot;The Isle of Capri is providing one of the hottest blues bands in the blues circuit,&uot; Glatzer said. &uot;They asked how they could step up their involvement, and this is what they are doing.&uot;

In fact, all the festival sponsors have increased their involvement, Glatzer said, and there are more venues for club music than ever before.

Furthermore, more volunteers have come forth, he said. &uot;More people are finding that the festival is a way to stimulate their business,&uot; he said. &uot;And that was supposed to be the point of it all. It’s very exciting and heart warming for me.&uot;

Others performing during the festival will be Maggie Brown, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Vasti Jackson, YZ Ealey, Alvin Shelby and the Adams County Mass Choir, John Lisi and the Delta Funk Band, Brint Anderson, Black Bayou featuring Josh Roberts, Li’l Jimmy Reed, Todd O’Neil and the Big Cat Daddys, the Rhythm and Blues Konnection, Ready or Not, Rex and Julie and more.