The upcoming Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, a Thomson tradition for a dozen years, has enhanced the growing interest in quality musical experiences in the Augusta area.
"Little Charlie" Baty (left), playing with lead singer and harp player Rick Estrin, is heading this year's Blind Willie Blues Festival.
The festival, scheduled Friday and Saturday, continues to attract more regional visitors each year, said Don Powers, a member of the Activities Council of Thomson, which sponsors the event.
"This area is gathering some steam in regard to regional entertainment," said Powers, who noted that about 1,200 fans, including some from out of state, attended last year's Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival.
In support of the growing regional awareness of American music, the festival will for the first time feature a Friday night event. The John Hammond Trio will kick off Friday's entertainment starting at 7 p.m. in the Imperial Theater in Augusta. Headliner Marcia Ball, the Texas recording artist who impressed last year's crowd, will take the stage at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday's traditional festival is located outside Thomson in the large field on Stagecoach Road near Georgia Highway 17. The day's entertainment will feature an impressive roster of some of the top blues players in the country while also paying tribute to Thomson blues legend Blind Willie McTell, who was born in 1901 and is buried in the Happy Valley area of McDuffie County.
Despite losing his vision in childhood, William Samuel McTell earned status as one of the most accomplished guitarists and lyrical storytellers in blues history, according to a biographical sketch by Turner Simkins, a board member for the Activities Council of Thomson.
Though he was talented and appreciated during his lifetime, Blind Willie was never truly successful by today's standards. His lasting accomplishment has been his gift to future generations as his influence continues to educate and influence others about the true American art form, Simkins said.
The doors to Saturday's festival will open at 11 a.m., with music starting about noon. Delta Moon, the "local" band, is up first. Voted Atlanta's Best Overall Music Act in 2003, the group was also named Atlanta's Best Blues Band in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Tickets are available from Thomson-McDuffie County Tourism, (706) 597-1000, or the box office at (706) 722-8341.
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