Head to Jackson for Three Feel Good Festivals
On the subject of prolonging summer, I bring you three good reasons to shout, dance and sway in Jackson, Tennessee this August and September:
International Rockabilly Festival
There’s a man in Jackson who holds a little piece of my heart: Mr. Henry Harrison, connoisseur of bad coffee; keeper of edging-on-unbelievable stories about coming up (and coming-of-age) in the same circles as Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis; creator of the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame Museum.
The museum is small but packed – with a pair of hometown boy Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes; the letter from Paul McCartney authorizing Mr. Henry to paint his likeness on the museum’s exterior; a drum set played by Elvis’ drummer D.J. Fontana (you can play it too).
But it’s Mr. Henry who makes this place with his never-know-a-stranger demeanor and stories that don’t quit. Before you pop in for a tour, call to make sure he’ll be around (731-427-6262). I can guarantee you’ll find him Aug. 8-10 during the museum’s annual festival, which is set to attract worldwide standouts in the genre: Sweden’s Ulf Nilsson and the Cadillac Band; France’s Francois Roche; Carl Mann (the Tennessee-born rockabilly artist whose first hit, for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, was a rockabilly version of Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa”); Billy Burnette (the Memphis native who grew up to play with Fleetwood Mac); C.W. Gatlin (he used to pick with Levon Helm). Three-day tickets run $25; tours are $10. Find the full schedule and details here.
African Street Festival
One of the city’s largest (and longest running) festivals, this kaleidoscope of stilt dancers, drummers, fashion shows, art and live music is scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Jackson Fairgrounds Park. Get all the details from festival sponsor The Society for African-American Cultural Awareness.
Oldtime Music & Art Festival
Stop by Casey Jones Village any Thursday night to hear (or join) the Oldtime Music Jam. Around 6 p.m., musicians and all manner of erstwhile instrumentation – guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, bass fiddles, dulcimers, autoharps, spoons, bones, washboards – assemble. Squeeze in to listen for free. If you’re new to the jam, whether as a musician or a listener, this jam etiquette from the Jackson Area Plectral Society makes an illuminating read (don’t leave the page without skimming “The Ten Jammandments”).
For the grand-pappy of all jams, get to the Casey Jones Village Oldtime Music & Art Festival on Sept. 14. As the name implies, local art and good food will accompany the stage shows.
Which of these festivals is on your list? Tell us in the comments section below!