Local Festivals

Published on October 5th, 2022 | by University of Mississippi


Oxford Blues Festival Highlights Local, Regional Talent

Ole Miss professors, local and national artists to perform at annual event

When office hours are over, some professors don’t hit the books – they hit the stage. 

Four such University of Mississippi professors are among the 18 bands scheduled to play during the 11th Oxford Blues Festival, which runs October 6-8, 2022 at Harrison’s near The Oxford Square.

Headlining the event this year are two Grammy-nominated artists, John Primer, Trent Ayers, and R.L. Boyce, as well as “Howlin Madd” Bill Perry. Ole Miss faculty members Steve Brewer, professor of biology; Ricky Burkhead, professor of music; Wendy Garrison, professor emeritus of biology, Alan Gross, professor emeritus of psychology; and Adam Gussow, professor of English and Southern studies, will be performing throughout the three-day event.

Tickets for the festival, which also will feature Effie Burt, Lady Trucker, Lightnin’ Malcolm, are available at https://oxfordbluesfest.com/tickets. Students can purchase tickets at a discount. 

Darryl Parker, an Oxford native and producer of the festival, said he created the event back in 2011 after several years of volunteering with different festivals around Chicago

“It all started here. We have a rich culture that’s influenced the whole world here,” Parker said. “We want to introduce people to blues. You don’t have to like it, but if you’re exposed to it, you might. It’s everybody’s music.” 

Gussow, author of a number of books on Southern culture and blues music, will play with the trio Sir Rod & The Blues Doctors and lead a workshop on playing the harmonica. Tickets for the Blues Harmonica Workshop are available online, and the first five people between the ages of 12 and 16 who sign up get a free harmonica, Gussow said. 

Gussow said the festival will be the first time his trio has played in Oxford, though they toured up and down the East Coast over the summer. Gussow has been playing blues since 1986 and has toured on multiple occasions, notably as a part of the blues duo Satan & Adam, which was later featured in a Netflix documentary. 

“There are an extraordinary number of truly important blues musicians from Mississippi,” he said. “We have that reputation that we can be proud of. Mississippi is best known around the world for its blues players.” 

Though the field of blues and several surrounding genres are dominated by men, female musicians are out there, too. Slide guitarist Wendy Garrison, who has been playing folk and blues-inspired music for more than 30 years across Oxford and north Mississippi, said Parker has always sought out female musicians as he seeks to showcase Mississippi’s talent. 

“I’ve found that the blues musicians of the South are totally accepting of me,” Garrison said. “Some folks in the music industry are gatekeepers – they certainly are not. I think it’s important to keep raising your hand and saying ‘Hey, we’re here.'”

Oxford has a place within the Mississippi blues tradition, though the city is more often associated with “Southern-fried Americana with a little bit of country and a little bit of jazz,” Gussow said. The festival highlights north Mississippi’s contributions to the genre, he said. 

“It’s a chance for people in Oxford and surrounding area to come and see a lot of great music,” Gussow said. “As a blues scholar and performer, I think it’s the best lineup that Darryl’s ever put together.”

By Clara Turnage

Sir Rod & The Blues Doctors: Adam Gussow, University of Mississippi professor of English and Southern studies, Sir Rod, Alan Gross, University of Mississippi professor emeritus of psychology.
Wendy Garrison, University of Mississippi professor emeritus of biology.
Steve Brewer, University of Mississippi professor of biology.

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About the Author

The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is Mississippi’s flagship university. A member of the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, Ole Miss has a long history of producing leaders in public service, business, academics and the professions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school; nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy; and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action. Acclaimed as one of the nation’s most beautiful, Ole Miss's main campus is in Oxford, which is routinely recognized as one of the nation's best college towns.

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