One of the themes for the 30th annual Chicago Blues Festival is “Rollin’ Up the River”. The migration from Mississippi of blues musicians to Chicago is well documented. On Friday June 7, The Mississippi Juke Joint Stage will feature three artists who play North Mississippi Hill Country Blues.
North Mississippi Hill Country Blues are much different from Delta Blues. The sound features more rhythm and percussion songs defined by a guitar riff. There are few chord changes, unconventional song structures and an emphasis on the groove (a steady driving rhythm).
The sound was defined by Mississippi Fred McDowell. He influenced later artists such as R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, who are probably the most well known of this style. They recorded for Fat Possum Records which helped to popularize the sound.
Starting at 12:45 will be Terry “Harmonica” Bean. Terry is a native of Pontotoc, MS. He performs one man shows with guitar and harmonica, while stomping his feet for percussion. He comes from a musical family. His father, Eddie Bean was a bluesman who held parties at his house. Terry eventually was featured at those parties. Terry also had a promising baseball career. He was a star pitcher, leading his team to the state championship in 1980. Terry pitched five no-hitters and got the attention of many pro scouts. Unfortunately he was injured in a motorcycle accident. He got serious about the blues in 1988. Since the mid-’80s, Terry has maintained a full-time job at a furniture factory in Pontotoc while keeping a busy performance schedule. Terry has released six self-produced CDs.
At 1:45 p.m. Lightnin’ Malcolm takes the stage. Malcolm was born in Missouri in the mid-70s and found his way into the North Mississippi Hill Country. He found it to be his calling. He was playing guitar and singing with a bass and snare drum. His one man show fit this style to a tee. He was schooled by the likes of R.L. Burnside, Big Jack Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, T Model Ford and Honeyboy Edwards. He won the 2009 Blues Music Award for Best New Artist. His latest album is called “Rough Out There”.
At 3:00 p.m., guitarist/singer Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry will perform. Bill hails from Abbeville, MS. Some say he’s the best blues singer out there. He’s compared to Howlin’ Wolf with a haunting gravelly bourbon-soaked voice. Bill moved to Chicago as a young man and listened to performances by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Mighty Joe Young. He recorded and produced for Chess Records until they shut down in 1975. Perry moved around after that, from New York to Memphis to the West Coast. He has played with Little Milton, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King and even Little Richard. By the 1970s he was burned out and retired for eight years. In 1987, he moved back to Mississippi and started a family based band with his daughter on bass and son on keyboards. Bill now records his own music. He teaches music at the Delta Blues Museum and moonlights as a DJ for WROX in Clarksdale. Check out his latest release called “The Clarksdale Sessions”.