More than 10,000 viewers tuned in to watch the Virtual Juke Joint Festival throughout the day on Saturday.
The Virtual JJF could be viewed on the Live From Clarksdale Facebook page. Live From Clarksdale is a product of Shared Experiences USA. It was held in place of the regular festival, which was cancelled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lineup consisted of Watermelon Slim, Ryan Lee Crosby, Mississippi Marshall, Stacy Mitchhart, Side Street Steppers Duo, Ghalia Volt, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Theo Dasbach, David Dunavent, Lightnin’ Malcolm, Deak Harp, Eden Brent, Johnny Rawls, John Mohead, Carlos Elliot Junior, Jimbo Mathis, Stan Street and Lee Williams, Blue Mother Tupelo, Lucious Spiller, Grace Askew, Sean “Bad” Apple, J.H. Sitton, Jesse Cotton Stone, Big John Short, Lala Craig and Reverend Peyton.
Ted Reed showed the video Juke Joint Festival Revisited after the performances.
“Our Virtual Juke Joint Festival celebration on Saturday held in lieu of the traditional festival event far exceeded our expectations with many more viewers than we could have possibly hoped for as well as incredible online comments and our main thing online generosity when it came to tipping the musicians,” said JJF co-founder and organizer Roger Stolle.
Stolle provided an introduction prior to the performances. Slim kicked off the Virtual JJF at Bluesberry Café at noon Saturday. He said it was the second time he ever performed without an audience. He was glad some form of the JJF was able to take place.
“If anything like normality is ever going to be achieved, then this and other peoples’ live streaming and live music virtual gigs will help at least keep people’s interest alive,” Slim said. “We’re all underdogs to this virus at the moment and this is the way of saying, ‘No we’re going to do what we need to do and want to do. Virus or not, we’re going to stay safe, but we’re going to continue to be a culture.’”
Slim acknowledged how things have changed in a short time. He said he had tours in Italy and Spain scheduled for this year, but they will not likely happen.
Colleen Buyers, who helped put together Live From Clarksdale on Shared Experiences USA’s website as well as the Facebook page, reported 10,000 people watched the Virtual JJF, 1,000 watched together at a single time and 1,000 shared it on Facebook.
The viewers came from more than 30 countries on six continents. In addition to the United States, counties included the UK, Italy, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and South Africa.
Buyers said David Rodwin and Brooke Hines helped pull off the Virtual JJF. Rodwin helped with his technical skills, while Hines worked with musicians and managed the show.
“We accomplished what'd hoped: We celebrated the Juke Joint Festival, and shared the blues and Clarksdale with the world,” Buyers said. “Thanks to Brooke, David, Roger and these incredible musicians, the festival was far better than we'd hoped. This ‘virtual’ festival reached over ten thousand people. It shared Clarksdale and our music with the world, and brought people together. It also inspired them to come visit Clarksdale, as soon as they can.”