From the Delta to the Delaware Valley: WXPN Brings Mississippi Blues to Philadelphia

01 Oct 2012


James \Super Chikan\" Johnson. Photo by John Vettese/WXPN."

Authentic Mississippi blues traveled to the Philadelphia area in 2012 and 2013, thanks to a year-long performance series produced by WXPN, the public-service radio station of the University of Pennsylvania. The Mississippi Blues Project featured eight exceptional blues musicians who made their regional debuts, all of whom were selected for their contributions to the genre and its continuing evolution as a vibrant folk art form. The project kicked off in August 2012 at the Philadelphia Folk Festival with performances by the Cedric Burnside Project and singer/harmonica player Big George Brock.

The series represented WXPN's first-ever effort to concentrate on a specific genre of music through live events—all of which represented rare opportunities for local audiences. "We wanted to bring awareness to a somewhat obscure form of blues from Mississippi," Bruce Warren, WXPN program director, said in a Philadelphia Inquirer article. "We wanted to focus on...dozens and dozens of incredible blues guys and women who rarely play outside of juke joints and areas of rural Mississippi." All performances in the series, curated by Jonny Meister, host of WXPN's The Blues Show for over 30 years, were recorded and posted on the Mississippi Blues Project website, along with interviews with the musicians, essays, and other resources. Meister explained to NewsWorks that this material is integral in spreading the word about Mississippi Blues, thereby contributing to widespread recognition of the genre and its ongoing growth: "The average person—even someone who knows something about blues and would name somebody like B.B. King and Muddy Waters without difficulty—probably never heard of Terry 'Harmonica' Bean and Jimmy 'Duck' Holmes," Meister said. "So this is new. This is new to the area and new to people."

Watch live footage of musicians Terry "Harmonica" Bean and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes performing as part of the Mississippi Blues Project:

Terry "Harmonica" Bean Blues Band in concert at Sainte Colombe, France, March 17, 2012. Terry Bean, guitar, harmonica, chant; Mike Greene, guitar; Fred Jouglas, bass; Simon "Shuffle" Boyer, drums.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes performing "Nightmare" at the 2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon Expo in Jackson, MS, January 6, 2012.