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West Point festival honors Miss. blues legend Howlin’ Wolf

September 1, 2011

By ANGIE CARNATHAN
sdnreporter@yahoo.com

The 16th Annual Memorial Howlin’ Wolf Blues Festival plans to blow the roof off the Civic Center in West Point tonight with some of the hottest blues acts in the country, organizers said. Luckily for attendees, the hot music will take place in a cool room.
Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased at Jack Forbus insurance in Starkville, Bits N Pieces in West Point and the Columbus Arts Council in Columbus.
“We are a rarity in West Point,” said Howlin’ Wolf Blues Society Program Director Richard Ramsey. “Normally these festivals happen outside, where the heat or weather can be a problem. The Civic Center is air conditioned, so everyone stays comfortable.”
Gates for the festival will open at 4 p.m. Seating is first come, first served, so organizers encourage people to arrive early.
“At last year’s festival we had people here from 26 states and six countries,” Ramsey said.
The show will begin at 5 p.m. with The New Delta Jukes. Perfoming next, at 6 p.m., will be Deacon Jones and the Late Night. Mark “Muleman” Massey goes on at 7 p.m. and features Grammy award-winning Billy Earheart.
At 8 p.m. Living Blues Best New Artisit Award winner Marquise Knox takes the stage.
“Knox knows B.B. King better than B.B. King knows himself,” Ramsey said.
Matt Hill, awarded Best New Artist by the Blues Music Awards, plays at 9 p.m. and features Preston Hubbard, the original bass player for The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
The night closes out with 2010 International Blues Competition winner Grady Champion at 10 p.m. Champion beat out 140 other musicians and bands from all over the world to capture the title.
Small coolers under 48 quarts can be brought to the festival, but no additional chairs will be allowed. The room contains seating for approximately 800 people.
Ramsey said there will be concessions available as well.
“We will have a food vender with barbecue, hot dogs, smoked sausages, cheeseburgers and soft drinks,” he said.
T-shirts, DVDs and CDs will also be available for purchase, and organizers said only cash will be accepted.
“It’s a family-friendly event,” Ramsey said. “Lot’s of people stay in town on Saturday for the Prairie Arts Festival and just make a weekend out of it.”
Ramsey said the festival attracts fans from all over because of the indelible mark Wolf made on West Point and the rest of the world.
“Wolf is the only person from our area in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the only one with a U.S. postage stamp,” Ramsey said. “He’s the only person who can claim a direct link between the pre-war blues of Charlie Patton and the formulation of rock and roll.”
Sam Phillips, legendary producer of Sun Records, once said Howlin’ Wolf was the most powerful performer he had ever recorded, and the accolades don’t end there.
“He was one of a kind,” said B.B. King. “Nobody I heard before him or after him has had that fantastic delivery — that certain something in his voice that seemed like a sword that’d pierce your soul when he’d sing. To my mind, he’s one of the greatest ever.”
Howlin’ Wolf got his name from the way he performed, according the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Society.
According to the society’s biography of Wolf, “He would jump about the stage like an angry man trying to work off dangerous steam, or wriggle on the floor as if he was in unbearable pain, or whoop and howl and hoot like someone who had succumbed to the worst of demons.”
Gospel and blues artist “Little” Milton summed up the power Wolf held over an audience best.
“There was one thing you didn’t want to let Wolf do when we were out playing the circuit together,” Milton said, “and that was to let him go on before you.”
Wolf was born in White Station, Miss., and passed away in 1976.
Ramsey said that his daughters often come to West Point from Chicago to attend the event each year.
For more information, visit http://www.wpnet.org/About_HWblues.htm. or contact Richard Ramsey at rramsey@wpms.net.

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