The Memphis Country Blues Festival (as it came to be known in succeeding years) had a shoestring start, organized by the Memphis Country Blues Society, an ad hoc group consisting of counterculture figures, musicians, and fans, including Robert Palmer, who would go on to write the seminal book Deep Blues and become the first pop music critic for the New York Times. His daughter, Augusta Palmer, a filmmaker and professor at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, is seeking to tell the story of the festival in a documentary called The Blues Society.
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Country Blues Festival: 50th Anniversary
From 1966-1969, the Memphis Country Blues Festival was held at The Overton Park Band Shell (now the Levitt Shell). This racially integrated festival was significant in its use of blues, rock and soul music in a time of segregation in Memphis. In 1969, the footage of the festival was broadcast nationally on Sounds of Summer, hosted by Steve Allen. This hour-long footage features performances by The Bar Kays, Johnny Winter, Bukka White, Rufus Thomas, Furry Lewis, Moloch, Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge and many more.
On Thursday September 8th at 7 p.m. the film, The Blues Society will be shown at the Levitt Shell to celebrate the 50th anniversary. A panel discussion will follow the film with Robert Gordon, Augusta Palmer, and others.