Celebrating Tate County’s Blues Legacy at Senatobia Blues and Brews


On November 4, 2017, Senatobia launched its inaugural Blues and Brews festival in Gabbert Park, in unusually warm and wet weather. In fact, dense fog enveloped the whole park, and made it hard to see the crowd from the stage area. But a small crowd braved the wet (although not technically rainy) weather to celebrate the unveiling of an historic marker in honor of Sid Hemphill, and the rededication of another to Black country pioneer O. B. McClinton, as well as beer, good food, and great blues. Of particular interest was the opening performer, Glen Faulkner, a master of the one-string guitar from the Gravel Springs community, which was also home to the better-known Otha Turner and his fife-and-drum band. Faulkner has been recorded little, perhaps because he doesn’t sing, and clearly was not feeling his best, having to be helped onto the stage. But once on stage, he demonstrated his absolute mastery of his somewhat unusual instrument, treating the audience to his version of Hill Country standards like “My Babe” and “When I Lay My Burdens Down.” Faulkner was followed by Little Joe Ayers, one of the original generation of Hill Country bluesmen who for many years was part of Junior Kimbrough’s band, and then by Kent Burnside, one of R. L. Burnside’s grandsons, who rarely appears in this part of the country, although he performs frequently in the Midwest and internationally. Mark “Muleman” Massey was next on the lineup, followed by Garry Burnside and his girlfriend Beverly Davis, along with the seldom-seen guitarist Joe Burnside, to close the evening’s festivities. There were quite a few local food vendors as well, including Alma Jean’s Southern Kookin and Bliss Handcrafted Ice Cream. It was a memorable night of blues on an unusually warm day in November.









Hill Country Blues in Benton County on a Very Hot Day

001 Ashland002 Willie Mitchell Marker003 Old Benton County Courthouse004 Arts Beats & Eats005 Ashland006 Ashland007 Ashland008 Ashland009 Old Benton County Courthouse010 Ashland011 El Rancho012 Hill Country Project013 Hill Country Project014 Snow Lake Building015 Ashland016 Ashland017 Ashland018 Old Benton County Courthouse019 Old Benton County Courthouse020 Ashland021 Old Benton County Courthouse022 Ashland023 Ashland024 Ashland025 Garry Burnside026 Ashland027 Ashland028 The Brooks Firm029 Our Club Constitution030 Ashland031 Ashland032 Ashland033 Ashland034 Sherena & Her Niece036 Garry Burnside037 Little Joe Ayers038 Garry Burnside039 Little Joe Ayers040 Ashland043 Garry Burnside044 Little Joe Ayers046 Mark "Muleman" Massey & Little Joe Ayers047 Mark "Muleman" Massey048 Little Joe Ayers049 Garry Burnside050 Mark "Muleman" Massey051 Mark "Muleman" Massey052 Mark "Muleman" Massey053 Mark "Muleman" Massey054 Mark "Muleman" Massey055 Mark "Muleman" Massey056 Mark "Muleman" Massey057 Ashland058 Mark "Muleman" Massey059 Mark "Muleman" Massey060 Ashland061 Ashland062 Ashland063 Ashland066 Mark "Muleman" Massey067 Ashland068 Mark "Muleman" Massey069 Old Benton County Courthouse070 Ashland071 Ashland072 Old Benton County Courthouse073 Old Benton County Courthouse074 Ashland076 Sherena077 Mark "Muleman" Massey078 Garry Burnside079 Mark "Muleman" Massey080 Mark "Muleman" Massey1601 Arts Beats & Eats1603 Old Benton County Courthouse1604 Garry Burnside1609 Little Joe Ayers & Garry Burnside1611 Little Joe Ayers1613 Mark "Muleman" Massey1616 Garry Burnside1619 Ashland
Just to the east of Marshall County, Mississippi is Benton County and its county seat of Ashland, which are also part of the Mississippi Hill Country. However, unlike Marshall County, Benton County is remote, and not as well-known, even though musicians like Nathan Beauregard and Willie Mitchell were originally from there. Sparsely populated indeed, Benton County has never been much of a destination, with the exception of visits from civil rights workers during the 1960’s. However, efforts are being made to preserve the history of Benton County, and toward that end, a festival called Arts, Beats & Eats was held on July 11th in Ashland, to attract people to the courthouse square, which has certainly seen better days. The Benton County Courthouse moved out of the historic structure on the square to a former manufacturing plant on Highway 370, and many businesses seem to have done the same. Worse, the extreme heat on Saturday kept crowds down to a minimum, with the exception of those who were running for office. But blues legends Little Joe Ayers and Garry Burnside were among the musicians who came out to perform with Mark “Muleman” Massey, and as the sun sank lower in the sky, the crowd increased and the temperature decreased. One of the purposes of the festival was to raise funds for the renovation and restoration of the square in Ashland, which is an extremely worthwhile goal. Here’s hoping this summer event becomes an annual thing. Blues belongs in Benton County as well as Marshall County.

Keep up with Mark “Muleman” Massey:
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