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Lower Mississippi
River Dispatch
LMRD No 252, Saturday, August 9, 2014 Moon/sunflower moon3.jpg
THIS WEEKEND! Moon/sunflower moon.jpg
Full Sunflower Moon with Steve Gardner's Acoustic House Party:
Sunday Aug 10, 6pm to midnight on the Mississippi River
Fundraiser for Quapaw Canoe Company Legal Defense Fund
Leaving from Helena Outpost 107 Perry Street, Helena, Arkansas Moon/sunflower moon4.jpg


Bill Steber, Rambling Steve Gardner and Libby Rae Watson donate some river time for Quapaw fundraiser!

Y'all, full moon trips are always sublime experiences on the Mississippi River, but this one will be even stronger, deeper, more mysterious, more beautiful and more powerful, and certainly going to a good cause. Our close friends Steve Gardner and Bill Steber were omnipresent during our long tax fight, and stood by us through the years of trials and travails. But they wanted to do something more meaningful than just send in a donation over the internet. Last year after the 2013 Sunflower Fest we schemed and dreamed up this full moon trip as a a neat way to benefit the Quapaw Canoe Company legal defense fund. We won the fight, but we still have bills to pay. Look for Libby Rae Watson and Wes Hill joining Bill and Steve in front of Stan Street's Hambone Gallery today (Saturday, Aug 9th) in downtown Clarksdale during the annual Sunflower River Blues Festival (Full schedule below). ALSO: Come watch or help us carve dugout canoes in front of Quapaw Canoe Company (10am-5pm). LASTLY: come and enjoy a spectacular experience with the Full Sunflower Moon on the mighty Mississippi River! Open seats still available. We will add as many big canoes as necessary to fill this very special offering. Respond to this email or call 662-902-7841 to reserve your seat! See below for more details. Moon/sunflower moon4.jpg

(From Steve Gardner website:

Hello everyone!

The year of the HORSE has come hard at us here in Tokyo . Let's hope that this new year 2014 will send us a horse with good teeth and sure feet; a horse that can foxtrot, lope and run when we sit in the saddle and pull back on the reins, wave our hats in the air and shout, "Hi-Ho Silver! AWAY!"

Like the man once said, "Make hay while the sun shines, drink beer in the evenings, laugh with friends and keep looking under that Christmas tree...I mean with all of this horse shit left over from 2013, there JUST HAS to be a pony around here some place!"

Rambling Steve Gardner

Tokyo New Year 2014 to Be.jpg

(from recent performance and interview at ABC News Center, Meridian)

Meridian, Miss. Born and raised in Pocahontas, Miss., Steve Gardner has made a name for himself in Japan where he now lives and performs almost year around. He occasionally visits his home state of Mississippi to play his music. He now goes by the name Rambling Steve Gardner and has become somewhat of an ambassador of southern music to the Japanese.

Bill Steber, who has been a long time band mate and partner with Steve says, "The go to guy for traditional music in Tokyo. But there's so many people in that scene over there and a lot of musicians. He's kind of the center of that traditional music scene and really an amazing advocate for Mississippi and for southern music and American music over there.”

One has to wonder how a boy born in Mississippi ends up in Japan.

Gardner says, "Things were just not happening in the 70s for me. And being a young guy I was looking around. I figured I could be poor and miserable if I stayed home or I could just be poor someplace else. So I just took off over there, started working and touring with Sony music.” Moon/sunflower moon4.jpg

About Steve Gardner:

I was born in Mississippi in 1956. Music came into my life by way of an old phonograph, my cousin's Japanese transistor radio, our black and white television set and church on Sundays. And especially those great times when Daddy would play rhythm on four kitchen knives while Uncle Amos Parker played and sang. I picked up the guitar and harmonica later on and have never looked back.

I met and made friends with Sam Chatmon, of the Mississippi Sheiks in the 70's as I worked on a degree in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. After a few photos and a meal of fried chicken or catfish Sam would let me blow the harp with him a while saying, "Steve, everybody needs a chance to be told to sit down!" I learned to take that chance when it was may not get another one anytime soon.

The music and photography became my pass way to friendships with so many fine musicians like Jack Owens, Jessie Mae Hemphill, James Son Thomas, Booba Barnes and more who opened their homes and hearts to me. They all pointed out that you must find your own road into the blues, play your own songs and play them your own way. Usually they would say something like, "Steve, you ain't me and I ain't you so just git on with it!" I did too.

In 1980 I left my photography job at the Jackson (MS) Daily News and moved to Japan where I freelanced for Japanese magazines as well as Time and Newsweek. I covered Asia and the US from here and still found time for the blues. This international interest in the blues led me to finish my best black and white picture book on Mississippi and the blues, Rambling Mind (1994). This book shows the Mississippi that I grew up and know with its-share croppers, good times and hard, its people and the musicians that treated me like both friend and family. My first CD, Rambling With The Blues (2002) is this book's musical companion.

The music, the blues has continued to light my path as I ramble across the deep waters from Mississippi to Tokyo. The photography still counts but it has taken a back seat to the guitars and harmonicas. I travel to several Universities in Japan where I play blues and do programs on Mississippi and southern culture. I even do this part-time for Meiji University, a very fine institution indeed. My new CD is Wooly Bully Express (2011/3) it more or less sums up what I think about these turbulent and changing times. If life is like a bottle of whiskey, you better drink it all and not waste a drop...Remember, you can't be afraid and live free...after all, everybody gets the blues...sometime.

(From Steve Gardner website:


1) Dugout Canoe Carving Demo during Sunflower Fest

Friday Aug 8th, 10am-5pm; Sat Aug 9th 10am-5pm

Quapaw Canoe Company

Street level 3rd and Sunflower

Watch or participate. Hand tools only including handsaws, axes, adzes, scorps, hand planers and hand chisels. Carving instruction. Sharpening Instruction. Made possible with grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Photographs welcome. Carve at your own risk. Moon/sunflower moon4.jpg

2) Full Moon Blues Yodel #13


Sunday, Aug 11th, 6-midnight with Acoustic House Party musicians Libby Rae Watson, Rambling Steve Gardner, Bill Steber, and Company! Fundraiser for the Quapaw Canoe Company Legal Defense Fund. Meet 6pm QCC Helena. Potluck (bring a dish to share). BYOB. Bonfire and get ready to howl at the Sunflower Moon. Write or call 662-902-7841 to reserve your seat!

3) Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Fest August 7-10th, honoring the Oilman, Big Jack Johnson. Full Schedule Below. Story about Big Jack “rassling a bear” below by Panny Mayfield. For more information about the festival, please go to

4) Mississippi River Naturefest (Labor Day Weekend Fri, Sat Aug 29,30th) Tara Wildlife Preserve, Eagle Lake, Mississippi. Canoeing the Mississippi with the Mighty Quapaws. Go to for more info.

5) Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, Memphis Tennessee. (Labor Day Weekend Fri, Sat Aug 29,30th). Canoeing the Mississippi in downtown Memphis with the Mighty Quapaws. Go to for more info.

Mark River Blog:

Delta Morning

It's a an unusually cool July morning in the delta. One lone fisherman waits patiently on the river bank as the sunrise barely peaks above the horizon. Mockingbirds ruffle through the leaves of the large sycamore tree behind the canoe shop. I watch their technique. Sometimes they use their long tails to expose mosquitoes and other insects from hideouts between the broad sycamore leaves, other times using their wings to disrupt the sleep of the nocturnal pest. One mockingbird walks out on the limb as if to show me the prize. It's a green caterpillar. After a quick snack, it turns its attention to dragonflies hovering over the Sunflower River as largemouth bass strike the surface for the ones to close. The mockingbirds keep close watch, waiting for an opportunity to ambush the dragonflies on the grassy hillside.

I walk down the hill to get a glimpse of the two voyager canoes tied to the huge cypress tree. First light beams on the canoes as I admire the curvature of these fine pieces of art. In a few hours there will be kids from throughout the city and county participating in summer camp joining the Quapaws for a morning paddle. We are a few days into camp and I'm on cloud nine. Every time I see these kids run down the ramp and wow! at the canoes, I get a sense of joy and clarity of my mission to introduce all walks of life to the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

My mind gets interrupted as a small swallow flies franticly in an elliptical pattern back and forth in front of me as if to warn me. I look to my feet and there's three baby swallows. The mother bird has them on the ground and it's time for them to fly. I stood there for twenty minutes as the mother continued to fly, not taking a break , expressing the urgency of the lesson. One of the babies steps out of the grass cover stretching and flapping its wings. Trying desperately to imitate its mother. Emotionally I watch, rooting for as if my own, them one by one take flight.

It occurred to me at that moment that we have to make these kids fly. Not in the sense of birds, but as intelligent human beings wanting to leave our natural world in a better place once we leave. We have to teach and mentor these kids to understand the importance of our great rivers from every aspect. From drinking water to floodplains, from crops to commodities, and from flora to fauna -- we must past down all of our knowledge to assure generations of the future to protect and preserve these incredible resources.

The Quapaws show up looking fresh with big smiles and great attitudes. It seems as if the kids are having the same effect on them. A great blue heron flies over heading to breakfast. Mississippi kites glide above, dive bombing the swarms of dragonflies. All this abundance of living things are directly proportional to the health and existence of freshwater.

I hear a sound in the distance. The sound of a small stampede of curious minds and hope for the future. The legacies of our great rivers and the leaders of tomorrow. The opportunity to share and to pass knowledge down to the next generations. The sound gets closer as the herd runs down the hill with bright eyes and eager smiles. I greet them the same. What a way to start the day!

Mark River is youth leader and river guide with Quapaw Canoe Company. He is also the Southern Region Outreach Assistant for the 1Mississippi Program.

From Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Publicist

Panny Mayfield:

Big Jack’s Birthday Party Rocks!

CLARKSDALE - The Sunflower River Blues Festival’s tribute to Big Jack Johnson got an early start when Red Paden and Angenette Johnson hosted a birthday party for the Oilman Friday night, Aug. 1.

With news of the party spreading fast, Red’s Blues Club was packed with family, friends, and international visitors from Switzerland.

“Jack’s actual birthday was Wednesday, July 30, but we decided to wait til Friday because live music was booked,” says Johnson’s wife, Angenette.

Musical phenom Kingfish, the Space Cowboys, Anthony Sherrod, and Harvel Thomas threw down a rocking show. At the break, birthday cake was served.

The official Big Jack Johnson festival tribute is scheduled August 8-9.

For more information about the festival, please go to

“Red Paden talks about Big Jack Johnson”

CLARKSDALE – Celebrity wannabes at Blues Trail Marker celebrations often claim close personal relationships with the honored musician.

Few, however, can describe Big Jack Johnson winning a $100 bet for rasseling a bear and flipping him to the ground.

Except Red Paden.

“Actually Jack flipped the bear not once but two or three times,” says Paden, owner of Clarksdale’s heralded blues club where Big Jack performed exclusively when he was in town. He says the wrestling match took place in Coahoma County following a dare and the promised $100 payoff.

Acknowledging unofficial but reliable grapevine news that Jack Johnson’s name will appear on a blues marker during the Sunflower River Blues Festival, Paden confirmed the two were tight as brothers.

They first met when they were 12 or 13, he says.

“We used to see each other around; both of us liked the same little stuff: farming, raising a garden, fishing and hunting to feed our families,” continued Paden who grew up in a family of 11 children.

“Jack and one of my sisters had the same birthday: July 30,” he said.

Paden says Johnson grew up chopping cotton on a farm around Lambert before moving to Clarksdale where he had relatives running a blues club near the oil mill in Lyon and another on Sixth Street.

Big Jack’s moniker “The Oil Man” stuck during his truck driving days for Rutledge Oil Company. He has an album with this title, and his band members were called “the Oilers.”

Paden spent his childhood in Clarksdale except for one banishment period cutting pulpwood at his Aunt Clara’s in Lorman.

“They had every kind of wild animal down there especially skunks, and tomato juice was the only way to get rid of that smell,” he said.

“Jack and I had our ups and downs; he was one of the good guys; he helped folks out; gave them a helping hand,” continued Paden. “He was 90 percent good.”

Paden says Johnson liked white country music, but he played blues because “blues is about hardship and goes deeper.”

Performing and recording first with Sam Carr and Frank Frost as the Jelly Roll Kings, Johnson played non-stop on weekends, but Paden says, “We were all brought up in perspective and went to church on Sunday.”

As a soloist, Big Jack was recognized time and time again by Living Blues magazine and more than a dozen Blues Foundation nominations for Handy Awards as a virtuoso guitarist and a dynamic live performer.

He loved playing mandolin, writing songs, and his gritty compositions targeted real life events, problems and relationships.

“He told stories, “says Paden. “We’d be traveling together around Arkansas, Florida, and Mississippi, see something happen, and Jack would write about it. He was always rambling.”

Touring internationally from Scandinavia to Japan, Johnson amassed a global reputation.

“He was not like a lot of musicians who become famous; he always came back to Clarksdale,” Paden adds

Angenette, their children, grandchildren, friends and home came first, says Paden.

For more information about the festival, please go to

27th Annual Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival

August 7-11th Downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi

On Monday, March 24, Clarksdale's Board of Mayor and Commissioners voted unanimously to proclaim August 9, 2014, Big Jack Johnson Day in Clarksdale.

The August festival will feature an historic Saturday night finale featuring the Big Jack Johnson core band and numerous musicians who performed with him and were influenced through the years by his career.

Other award-winning celebrities headlining the 3-day event showcasing 40 musical groups include Latimore, Johnny Rawls, Home Made Jamz, Super Chikan Johnson, Jimbo Mathus, and Kenny Brown

Acoustic blues masters performing Saturday morning under the VIP tent include Robert Belfour, Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, Lusicous Spiller, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Leo "Bud" Welch, and Shardee Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band.

"While traveling the world, Big Jack Johnson remained true to his Mississippi heritage, his family, and God," says drummer Dale Wise who played with Johnson for more than 12 years.

"Night after night, day after day, Big Jack gave everything he had. Every performance was as if it was his last. He was never too tired to play another song or too busy to talk to anyone who wanted to meet him, "continued Wise.

"More times than not, the conversations would center on fishing, food, and Mississippi. Big Jack Johnson was a goodwill ambassador of the highest order, he added. "On stage he worked to bring Mississippi to the world. Off stage he worked to bring the world to Mississippi."

Remembering Big Jack Johnson, an educational program with conversations from community leaders, family, and friends will be held earlier Saturday afternoon.

Noted artist Cristen Craven Barnard has created the festival's 2014 design featuring a signature image of the well-known musician whose funeral service filled Coahoma Community College's Pinnacle three years ago.

For 50 years Big Jack Johnson traveled the globe performing before audiences from Japan to Scandinavia and introducing Clarksdale, the state of Mississippi, his family and friends as his inspirational center and home base.

Renowned for his virtuosity on guitar and mandolin, Big Jack was equally acclaimed for the power of his compositions. He won numerous awards from Living Blues magazine as an outstanding live performer, a Handy Award for best acoustic album, and appeared in prestigious documentaries: Deep Blues and the Smithsonian-sponsored video, River of Song.

His numerous recordings include Hey, Big Boss Man and My Back Scratcher with the Jelly Roll Kings in 1966, Rockin' the Juke Joint Down, The Oil Man, Daddy, When Is Mama Comin' Home, and Live in Chicago for the Earwig label in 1979, 1993, and 1997, and The Oil Man Got Drunk in 1997 for Rooster Blues, We Got to Stop This Killin', All the Way Back, Roots Stew, and the Memphis Barbecue Sessions for M. C. Records, and his final CDs: Juke Joint Saturday Night and Katrina recorded with his Pennsylvania-based band, the Cornlickers in 2008 and 2009.

Volunteers and donations to keep the festival free are needed and welcome. The Sunflower River Blues Association is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization, and donations are tax-deductible. All proceeds are used to pay production costs, performers, advertising and education programs.

Electric blues and gospel musicians will perform in downtown Clarksdale on the Melville C. Tillis Delta Blues stage, renamed by Clarksdale's City Board to honor the Sunflower Festival's longtime co-chairman, who died in 2013.

Acoustic blues musicians will perform beneath the VIP Tent Saturday morning followed by the Remembering Big Jack Johnson community program.

For additional information and complete lineups, visit the Sunflower website:

-Panny Mayfield, SRBF publicist

Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival

2014 Lineup:

Thursday, August 7, 2014 Grits, Greens & Barbecue VIP Party @ VIP Tent

6:00pm – 6:45pm

Richard "Daddy Rich" Crisman

7:00pm – 7:45pm

Bill Abel & Cadillac John

8:00pm – 9:00pm

Terry "Harmonica" Bean

Friday, August 8, 2014 Main Stage

5:00pm – 5:30pm

Delta Blues Museum Band

5:45pm – 6:15pm


6:30pm – 7:00pm

All Night Long Blues Band

7:15pm – 7:45pm

Otis "TCB" Taylor Blues Band

8:00pm – 8:30pm

Joshua "Razor Blade" Stewart

8:45pm – 9:15pm

Stone Gas Band

9:30pm – 10:30pm

Johnny Rawls

10:45pm – 11:45pm


Saturday, August 9, 2014 Acoustic Stage

9:00am – 9:30am

Robert "Wolfman" Belfour

9:45am – 10:15am

Eddie Cusic

10:30am – 11:00am

Pat Thomas

11:15am – 11:45am

Lusicous Spiller

12:00pm – 12:30pm

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes

12:45pm – 1:15pm

Leo "Bud" Welch

1:30pm – 2:00pm

Sharde Thomas & Rising Stars & Fife Drum Band

Saturday, August 9, 2014 Education Program

2:00pm – 3:00pm

Conversation with Family & Friends of Big Jack

Saturday, August 9, 2014 Main Stage

3:15pm – 3:45pm

David Dunavent & The EVOL Love Band

4:00pm – 4:30pm

Kenny Brown

4:45pm – 5:15pm

Heather Crosse-Heavy Sugar' & Sweet Tones

5:30pm – 6:00pm

Terry "Big T" Williams & the Family Band

6:15pm – 7:15pm

James "Super Chikan" Johnson

7:30pm – 8:30pm

James "Jimbo" Mathus & The Tri State Coalition / with Special Quest

8:30pm – 8:45pm

Award "Presentation of Early Wright Award"

8:45pm – 9:45pm

Home Made Jamz Blues Band

10:00pm – 12:00pm

The Big Jack Johnson Band

Sunday, August 10, 2014 Gospel Stage

4:00pm – 4:30pm

W.A. Higgins Academy of Art Choir

4:45pm – 5:15pm

Morning Star & Locusr Grove Mass Choir

5:30pm – 6:00pm

Diane & The Spirtual Angels

6:15pm – 6:45pm


6:45pm – 7:00pm

Award ""Presentation of Julius Guy Award"

7:00pm – 7:30pm

Chapel Hill Male Chorus

7:155pm – 7:45pm

The Myles Family

8:00pm – 9:00pm

The Gospel Four Moon/sunflower moon3.jpg
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