James “Super Chikan” Johnson lived at Elvis Presley’s uncle, Curtis Presley, place in Rena Lara as a child.
That was one of several stories Johnson, age 70 and born Feb. 16. 1951, told as the headliner at the third Red Old-Timers Blues Fest Saturday night.
Johnson made his own guitars he used at the festival.
“Poor boy ain’t got no choice,” he said. “He can’t buy nothing so he has to make them.
“These are all mine. I made them all.”
Johnson had a chicken guitar, bass player and bojo.
"Because it's round like a banjo with a diddley bo neck on it,” said Johnson explaining the bojo.
Johnson has been a headliner at many festivals including the Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival in Clarksdale.
“I just do my best to please the crowd,” Johnson said.
“That’s the main thing, make them feel like they’re a part of what you’re doing.”
Johnson has played at two of the three Red Old-Timers Blues Fests and enjoyed himself.
“Everybody keep having fun and living and loving the blues,” Johnson said.
While there was bad weather earlier in the week, Red Paden, the organizer and founder of the festival, said it was supposed to be sunny on Saturday.
And that it was.
“My God is good,” Paden said. “He looks out on me.”
The turnout was not what it normally would have been.
“This COVID’s got it kind of down,” Paden said.
However, Paden felt those who attended had a good time.
“I’ve been here from start to finish and it’s been great,” Paden said. “It’s been a great show.”
Paden said the festival will be on Memorial Day weekend again in 2022 when it is not as hot.
“We’ll have a whole new crew next year, mostly,” Paden said.
There is only nine months in between festivals, but Paden does not expect that to be a problem.
“I’m just going to make it do what it do,” Paden said.
“Anytime our health is right, we’re right.”
“Cadillac” John Nolden, born April 12, 1927 and age 94, opened the festival on Saturday. His home is Sunflower and he lives in Cleveland.
“I enjoyed it,” Nolden said. “Just little wholesome stuff.
“I like people to get with you. That’s what it’s all about. I enjoyed it.
“There wasn’t a lot of people, but it was good,” said Nolden early on.
Nolden said he expected a larger audience as the day progressed.
Mac Crank, one of the founders of the festival, who now resides in Oklahoma, came back on Wednesday and stayed through the event.
“We’ve had a good lineup this year. Super Chikan anchored it.” said Crank. “It’s a good lineup.”
Larry Quattlebaum resides in Heber Springs, Ark., and learned about the festival through Roger Stolle’s website. He owned Larry’s Discount Store in Clarksdale, Indianola, Rosedale and Shelby at one time and is familiar with the area.
“I just wanted to see how it was doing this time,” Quattlebaum said. “We’ve been to the one in April several times, the Juke Joint Festival. We’ve been at King Biscuit (in Helena-West Helena, Ark.). We found out King Biscuit wasn’t going to happen this year, so here we are.”
Quattlebaum enjoyed having the festival at the Martin Luther King Park stage.
“This is fine,” he said. “It’s a nice good place to have it. I’d like to see more of the festivals when they get going good. We’ll probably come back.”
Matthew Wade from Clarksdale said the stage should be used more for other events and enjoyed the festival.
“I love it,” Wade said. “What’s unique about this one to me is the fact that it’s an old-timers blues thing. No young people.”
He enjoyed listening to Super Chikan.
“Don’t tell him I called him an old-timer though,” Wade joked.
Jerry Johnson was gone from Clarksdale for 27 years, but came back in 2019.
“I haven’t seen a blues festival,” he said. “I’ve seen concerts in the auditorium and places, but I have never seen a festival. I’ve never seen it like it is now.”
Jerry Johnson said he liked the outdoors and live entertainment.