The Mississippi Blues Trail was created by the Mississippi Blues Commission in 2006 to place interpretive markers at the most notable historical sites related to the birth, growth, and influence of the blues throughout (and in some cases beyond) the state of Mississippi.
Now in its 25th year, Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues & Heritage Festival is the recipient of a Mississippi Blues Trail marker, noting the festival’s significance and contributions to blues music.
Created by the Mississippi Blues Commission in 2006, the Mississippi Blues Trail includes interpretive markers at the most notable historical sites related to the birth, growth, and influence of the blues throughout – and in some cases outside – the state of Mississippi. The largest concentration of markers is in the Mississippi Delta, but other regions of the state also are represented. Out-of-state markers also have been erected where blues with Mississippi roots has had significance. The blues trail marker for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues & Heritage Festival is the sixth on the Mississippi Coast and the first in Jackson County, with a second marker in the county soon to follow in Moss Point.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues & Heritage Festival was founded in 1991 by the newly formed Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues Commission under the guidance of Winston Smith, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy who had just been assigned to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. Smith had been stationed in California, where he enjoyed attending the Monterey Bay Blues Festival. Discovering there were no blues festivals on the Gulf Coast when he arrived, Smith and a core group of supporters from the African American community pledged their own funds to fill the void by co-sponsoring the first Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues Festival with the Biloxi Coliseum. After seven years at the coliseum, the festival moved to the Jackson County Fairgrounds in 1998.
The festival has presented a wide variety of blues and blues-related music, including Souther soul, gospel, zydeco, and blues-rock to enthusiastic audiences over the years. Past headliners have included Bobby Rush, Millie Jackson, Clarence Carter, the Average White Band, O.B. Buchana, Mel Waiters, Bobby Bland, Latimore, Willie Clayton and Marvin Sease. Among the many Gulf Coast performers to appear at the festival have been Keith “Chicken Daddy”, Hunter & Hot Wings, Sue Venable, Libby Rae Watson, the Pat Murphy Band, the Apollo Blues Band of Mobile, AL, and Arthur Foy of New Orleans.
Youth organizations of the coastal counties share in proceeds from the festival and other blues commission events.
The Mississippi Blues Trail is seeking photos, recordings, and biographical information on blues and rhythm blues performers from the Gulf Coast, and anyone with blues-related material to share is invited to contact research director Jim O’Neal at (816) 931-0383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.