Hughes/Horseshoe Lake News

Blues legend set to play WM Civic Center

Bobby Rush headlines blues, R& B showcase Saturday night

The man known as “The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit’” is coming to the West Memphis Civic Center.

The 84 year-old Grammy winning Delta Bluesman Bobby Rush, who American Blues Scene says deserves to be mentioned in the same context as Blues greats Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and B.B. King, will be the featured act at the inaugural Big River Crossing Blues Classic on May 6.

“We’re very excited,” said Jim Jackson, executive director of West Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is putting on the show. “I think people are going to be excited and that it is going to be a nice event.”

Rush has recorded more than 300 songs, including 'I Ain't Studdin Ya' and 'Chicken Heads,' and is the oldest Bluesman still performing with over 200 shows a year.

His album 'Porcupine Meat' won a Grammy Award for best traditional blues album in February.

“He’s 84 years old and he’s still in high demand,” Jackson said. “We were lucky because we started negotiating with him before he won the Grammy.”

Rush was born in Louisiana, the son of a preacher, but moved with his family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where he began his performing career in the 1950s. He donned a fake mustache in order fool club owners into thinking he was old enough to enter their juke joints. Rush recalled playing in segregated Memphis for $14 a month and living to survive on a dollar a day.

The family later moved to Chicago where he met and performed on the local music circuit with many of his musical heroes such as Etta James, Howlin’Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter.

Rush formed his own band in the 1960s and began to develop his own distinct style of blues and recorded numerous singles for smaller labels before finally scoring a hit in the early 1970s with “Chicken Heads.”

He moved to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1980s to be closer to the South and has continued to record and rock music festivals from Memphis to Europe and even the Great Wall of China, where he was the first blues artist to ever play in that country.

Rush was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006 and appeared in the film “The Road to Memphis,” which was produced by Martin Scorsese, and the documentary film “I Am The Blues” in 2015.

His impassioned vocals and harmonica playing on his latest album “Porcupine Meat” has been hailed by critics as among the best performance of his career.

Jackson said they were fortunate to get Rush and believes it will be a sell-out crowd.

“He’s just a super nice guy and is admired by everyone,” Jackson said. “He’s is a Chitlin’ Circuit type, but his music appeals to a wide demographic. So we think this is going to be a nice event.”

In addition to Rush, the show will include guest performers O.B. Buchanan, Sheba Potts-Wright, the Lyrics Band featuring Bird Williams, Larome Powers, Dan Charett & Absolut Blue, and Greg Lackey & Kings of the Delta.

Jackson said this is the first ever reserved seating event at the Civic Center.

Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door and can be purchased online at VisitWestMemphis. com or in person at the Civic Center.

“We’ve got 1,031 seats,” Jackson said. “You can actually go on-line and pull up a map and select where you want to sit. We have already sold over 300 advance tickets and they are selling fast. We need to sell out this Civic Center.

Readers of The Evening Times can get tickets half off if they use Evening Times in the promo code.

Jackson said they hope to make this an annual event.

“He’s very excited about coming here,” Jackson said. “And I’m fortunate that our A& P is willing to spend some money to see. I think Blues and R& B will be a good sell in West Memphis.”

By Mark Randall