A card showing proof of taking the COVID vaccine was required to attend the Deep Blues Festival at the New Roxy in downtown Clarksdale Thursday through Sunday.
That was not a problem and everything went as planned as two bands played each night.
“We had pretty good attendance show up,” said one of the festival coordinators Hannah Young. “We sold a lot of tickets ahead of time and then we also had some people come and buy tickets at the door. And so attendance was pretty good. We were requiring vaccine to come and so that seemed to go over pretty well. I feel like we did everything safely. We’re happy with the turnout.”
A select few did have to be turned away because they did not have their vaccine card.
“There was only a couple and it was just because they didn’t know ahead of time,” Young said. “And they didn’t seem too upset. Everybody who bought tickets ahead of time was aware of it and they cooperated well.”
The Sister Dynamite band closed on Saturday night. Left Lane Cruiser played right before Sister Dynamite.
“The night before that was really great,” Young said. “We had a great turnout for Friday night.”
Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Muscle Theory played on Friday and Jimbo Mathus played late night Friday.
Chris Johnson started the Deep Blues Festival in another town, but it has been in Clarksdale for several years.
The festival has been smaller than usual the past two years due to COVID. However, the 2021 festival was larger than 2020.
“It’s a little bit scaled back from our usual,” Young said. “Last year, we did a really, really small version. This year, we kind of bumped it up a little bit, but our normal festival would be the same nights. It would be Thursday through Sunday, but we would have 14 bands instead of seven. And we would have split them between the Shack Up Inn and here. So this year, we only used the New Roxy and we only had seven bands in total. But usually it’s double the amount of bands.”
The goal is for things to be back to normal in 2022
“I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like,” Young said. “We’re going to have to play it by ear.”
Young did not know if people will have to show their card to enter the festival in 2022.
“I guess it’s just going to be a play it by ear thing,” Young said. “We’re just going to have to see what the world’s looking like by then.”
While Young was pleased with the turnout, she said it was good by pandemic standards, not a regular year.
“Normal turnout probably would have been a little larger, but we weren’t wanting it to be super large because we wanted it to be a little bit smaller than our normal turnout,” Young said.
Most attendees were from the United States.
“It’s still hard for people to travel right now,” Young said.
The weather helped make the festival a success.
“The weather’s been really great actually,” Young said. “We had some rain on Friday, but that really cooled it off. Since then, it’s felt really nice. Mosquitoes seemed to have calmed down a little bit. We’ve been really fortunate for that. The weather’s been really good.”
Amos Harvey, manager and bass player of The Wilkins Sisters, talked about how the band played in memory of the late Rev. John Wilkins, who died of COVID Oct. 6, 2020.
“He died from complications of COVID last year,” Harvey said. “His daughters are his backup singers. He is, obviously, not with us, but we’re doing shows in his honor.”
Wilkins’ granddaughter LaToya Malone, youngest daughter Tawana Cunningham and Goddaughter Beverly Bell all sang in the band. Wilkins’ second daughter Tangela Longstreet was the lead vocal. Kevin Cubbins played the guitar, Eric Freeman played the drums and James Judon played the keys.
Harvey is from Water Valley, Judon is from Holly Springs and everyone else is from Memphis. The band played songs from Wilkins’ latest CD Trouble including “You Can’t Hurry God,” “God is Able” and “Storm And Rain.”
The band has played at the festival for at least five years.
“It’s a bit of a down home festival,” said Harvey of why Wilkins liked the festival. “He gets in the realm of deep blues even though he’s gospel.”
“We’re just happy to be here,” said Harvey while thanking everyone involved.
“We just love being here. It’s a really comfortable place to be.”
Wilkins’ father was from Senatobia and he preached in Como.
Jim O’Bryan, who lives between Batesville and Oxford, comes to the festival every year.
“It’s heavy blues,” O’Bryan said. “A lot more rockin’ than the Juke Joint Festival.
“I come here a lot and stay at the Shack Up Inn every time.”