By: Mynecia Destinee Steele
Mr. Clarence Davis has been around since the first Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, and he remembers it well.
Clarence attended the first Black Belt Folk Roots Festival 41 years ago and he has not missed one yet.
Davis says that he remembers when Jane Sapp, music and cultural instructor for the event, and other staff of the Miles College-Eutaw Program, started the festival. “I remember them going around trying to get people and musicians together,” said Davis.
Davis has not only attended the festival regularly, but he also participates in musical performances. Davis was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2014. The City of Eutaw is privileged to have had Davis’ music grace its courtyard square every August.
He plays what he calls Delta Blues. This style of music came from the Mississippi area during the ‘20s and ‘30s.Growing up, Davis fell in love with this style of music, and eventually taught himself to play blues on the bass.
“I first started playing around with a guitar at seven”, said Davis. “But, I really started getting into it when I was 12.”
Learning to play took lots of practice, but Davis was dedicated. He would listen to songs and mimic the sounds of other musicians until he sounded exactly like them.
According to Davis most musicians during that time tried to imitate that delta sound. The music expressed the hardships that many people, especially farmers, were experiencing during that time.
Davis went on to reminisce about some of the other original festival performers and musicians. He clearly remembers that raw down-home sound. He particularly loved the way the performers played the hambone.
There was something special about those homemade instruments said Davis. These instruments were reflective of our roots. And that is what the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is all about.
He misses the old time sounds of the festival, but he also appreciates the way that younger generations have taken on the tradition of playing at the festival, with their new school blues and hip-hop.
Mr. Davis says that one thing he would love to see, before his last festival, is for it to continue to grow. He suggested that the event be moved to the local park. This space would provide a larger venue, and therefore more vendors could participate and more people could attend.
Davis emphasized how important this event is to the Black Belt community. “For a lot of the older people, this is probably the only time they really get to come out of the house,” said Davis. He said that this event is one time out of the year that the entire community is able to get together and have a great time.