By Stephen R. Farris
Special to The NavCo Chronicle
After having to cancel the 2020 show, the Wortham Blues Festival returned in September of 2021. The festival is held on the second Saturday of September each year on the famous brick streets in downtown Wortham.
The festival is sponsored by the Wortham Chamber of Commerce, and has been held each year since 1997, in honor of Wortham native, and blues legend, Blind Lemon Jefferson. Jefferson started his music career playing on the streets of Wortham, before heading to record his songs in Dallas in the early 1920s, according to his bio. After finding success, he went up to Chicago to play. Over the course of his short career, Jefferson recorded over 80 songs. Unfortunately, his life was cut short, as he was found deceased on the streets of Chicago in December of 1929. His body was brought back to his hometown and is buried in the cemetery that is named after him, just northeast of Wortham on Hwy. 14.
People from all over the world have visited his gravesite, many leaving coins and guitar pics. His only wish was that his grave be kept clean, according to blues historians and aficionados.
This year has an awesome array of talent that will be hitting the stage starting at 6 p.m.
Leading off will be the Peter Sinclair Band, who’ll be playing until 7 p.m. Sinclair is a Wortham native, who says he puts his heart and soul into his music, and credits his parents for exposing him to the blues and other musical genres at an early age. His debut album, The Freestone Man, was recently released, and he’s looking forward to producing more in the near future.
Sinclair will bring a mix of that old and new style of Texas country music, with notes of the blues mixed in.
In the second hour of the festival (7:30 to 8:30 p.m.), Frank Hasty and Da’ Merge, who headlined the event last year. The band will fill the early night air with their old school grooves, a little funk, and a whole lot of that good timin’ music that’ll make you jump out of your seat and shake what the good lord gave ya’!
Next up on stage, from 9 to 10 p.m., will be Texas born singer, Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps. The group comes all the way to Wortham from Los Angeles, Calif., bringing their sassy, yet contemporary blues sound with them. Their 2019 CD titled, Here in Babylon, was nominated for a Grammy in the Contemporary Blues category, according to the group’s website. James moved to L.A. many years back, and has been a part of the LA blues scene ever since.
You might check out their latest CD, Rose-Colored Glasses, or any of their 12 albums they’ve produced, to bring you up to speed before the festival. James notes that her dad started teaching her the guitar at age eight, and she studied classical music until she was a sophomore in high school. Growing up, James was introduced to a variety of different music, which ultimately led her to lean more to the blues side of life. According to the reviews, this band has all of the blues sounds from “Memphis soul to New Orleans-flavored grooves, with a side of Texas-style grease and blues thrown in.”
Dallas born Tatum Jackson (aka Xavier Jackson) – this year’s headliner – brings his unique style of blues music to the festival stage from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., closing out the night. Tatum started playing music at the age of six, taking piano lessons from a family member. His real love came later, as he switched from the piano to a Hammond organ. From there, you could say, music history was made. According to his bio, Jackson went on to study music at the famous Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Since then, he has toured across the country and has gained tremendous life experience, in which is the way he views his music. Life music. His debut CD is titled “Me & My ‘Ole Lady.”
Don’t be surprised while he’s performing on stage, that you find yourself taking your date by the hand and begin slow dancing on the brick streets of downtown Wortham.
It’s going to be a great afternoon, evening, and night on Saturday, September 10. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the music starts at 6 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults (13 & Up), $5 for ages 6-12, and free admission for kids five and under. Be sure to bring your lawn chair, a hat, sun screen, shades, and your cooler (no glass containers allowed). This is a BYO event, however, water and soft drinks will be available for purchase.
For more information, check out the festival’s website as www.worthambluesfest.org.
By Stephen R. Farris