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The Sunflower fest: blues & gospel together again

This weekend's Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival is one of Mississippi's most beloved festivals, and has been an anchor in making Clarksdale a pilgrimage for blues fans around the world.

It's unique in highlighting both blues AND gospel side-by-side. As they have for years, blues musicians juke up Friday through late Saturday night, and gospel takes the stage on Sunday.

Take the blues highway south, and you'll see the Gospel & Blues marker in Cleveland. It reads:

"Despite their conceptual differences, gospel, the Sunday morning music of the church, and blues, the Saturday night music of the juke joint, share some of the same roots, influences and musical traits. Many African African singers have performed in both fields...

"While both genres have their own distinct characteristics, many gospel songs have been transformed into blues or soul songs, and vice versa, by simply changing a few words in the lyrics."

Gospel & blues talent often runs deep within the same family: Clarksdale's Reverend Willie Morganfield was well-known for his 1959 gospel standard "What Is This?" and was pastor of Bell Grove Baptist Church until he died in 2003.

His brother was McKinley Morganfield... better known now as Muddy Waters.

So say THANKS to all the volunteers who keep Sunflower blues & gospel going, tip tip tip the band, then trace these roots of the blues by following the #mississippibluestrail on your way home. All markers are listed at

Marker credit: Scott Barretta & the Mississippi Blues Commission. Photo (c) Shared Experiences USA.


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