A local city celebrates a music legend

Brownsville, Tennessee — A local city held a festival.

On Saturday, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center celebrated the life and legacy of blues pioneer Sleepy John Estes.

Estes was born near Ripley, Tennessee on January 25, 1899 and was raised in northeastern Haywood County near Nutbush.

He made his first guitar out of a cigar box and was born at a time when the blues was beginning to be recognized as a genre of African-American folk music.

He was one of the first generation of singers to become blues specialists and stood out for his vocal style and songwriting.

Director of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, Sonia Outlaw Clarke, loves helping celebrate the blues legend’s birthday.

“Today was blues pioneer Sleepy John Estes’ 124th birthday.
Always make it a point to celebrate its birth and the legacy he left us,” said Outlaw-Clark.

The birthday celebration focused on Tennessee’s lost flute and drum traditions, followed by a birthday cake and an acoustic blues jam.

Author John M. Shaw has this to say about his new book: Follow the Drums: Tennessee African-American Fife and Drum Music.

The book travels through African-American history and the history of Tennessee, with music driving the story.

Outlaw-Clark was excited to invite everyone to come learn the history of Sleepy John.

“Even John Lennon says he used to listen to Sleepy John Estes in art class when he was a kid. I think it’s very important to remember that at home,” Outlaw Clark said.

This was Sleepy John Estes’ eighth birthday celebration.

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