By Monica Land
KILMICHAEL – There is no doubt that legendary bluesman B.B. King is a down-to-earth kind of guy. His superstar status has earned him international and worldwide recognition and his talent and musical abilities are beyond question.
But the singer’s humble nature has become so evident, especially when he makes the time to return “home” to the Mississippi Delta to participate in his annual homecoming celebration.
This year’s event will kick off Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 12 p.m. at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola with performances by Grady Champion, Southern Halo, Lil’ Ray Neal, Mark “Muleman” Massey and Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry.
The Master of Ceremonies is Big LLou of B.B. King’s Bluesville Sirius XM radio program.
B.B. King will end the festival with a performance at Club Ebony, also in Indianola, at 7 p.m.
On Tuesday, Aug. 21, however, King plans to attend a special ceremony in the small town of Kilmichael, for the unveiling of a blues marker in his honor.
The “Kilmichael: Roots of B.B. King” marker will be unveiled Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. at 105 Depot Ave. on the Kilmichael Town Square, as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Select town officials are expected to speak at the ceremony and Charlie Lee, a member of the Kilmichael Male Chorus and Chairman of the Board for Kilmichael Hospital, will offer closing remarks and the benediction.
King, who was born in the Delta 50 miles west of Kilmichael in 1925, spent many of his formative years in Kilmichael in the 1930s and ‘40s before achieving super stardom.
His grandmother and mother are buried at Pinkney Grove Church in Kilmichael.
King’s first mentor on the guitar was the Rev. Archie Fair, who played while preaching at a local church.
King credited his teacher at the one-room Elkhorn School, Luther Henson, with instilling in him dignity, independence and hope.
King has returned to Kilmichael several times for a reunion with the surviving classmates of the Elkhorn School, which still stands next to the Elkhorn Primitive Baptist Church in Kilmichael.
A historical marker was placed on Highway 413 in 2007 in honor of B.B. King’s connection to the school and the church.
Charlie Lee, who was also a student at the Elkhorn School, said King’s connection to Kilmichael will leave a lasting legacy for the future.
“It means a lot to have him come here,” Lee said of King. “Words can’t explain what it means for a small town and a person of his caliber – a worldwide blues king – to come to Kilmichael and be a part of Kilmichael. This will leave a lasting impression on Kilmichael and for future generations, and that’s what’s so important.”
The “Kilmichael: Roots of B.B. King” Marker Unveiling
Master of Ceremonies: Open
Welcome by: Kilmichael Mayor Ryan Wood
Invitation: Pastor Gary Jackson
Acknowledgement: Rep. Bobby Howell
Family: Fannie Henson Draine and Martha McKee
Resolution: Dr. Katrina Poe, Kilmichael Hospital and Clinic, and Calvin Johnson
Key to the City: Mayor Ryan Wood and Kilmichael Board of Aldermen
Friends: Allan Hammons, Hammons and Associates, Greenwood
Unveiling: Alex Thomas, Mississippi Development Authority
Guest of Honor: B.B. King
Closing Remarks: Charlie Lee