Appreciative crowd gathers in ballroom

By Staff
PICK AND GRIN Tab Benoit, Friday night headliner at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival, plays Jimmie Rodgers' guitar and hangs out with Al Brown, center, and Britt Gully before the show. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
May 5, 2001
Organizers of the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival said Friday they could not tell yet if attendance is higher than last year but fans filling the Temple Theatre Ballroom said the new format is a great idea.
This year's festival is three days long instead of a week. It includes country music, but also expands to include Rodgers' influence on blues and rock n' roll. Performances are in the Temple Theatre ballroom a smaller, more intimate concert venue.
Brown said bringing artists who know Rodgers' music attracts a different crowd from the "radio-listening" crowd, adding the Grateful Dead never saw much air-time but they drew a crowd.
What the fans say
If the new format passes Samuel Watson's approval, there is something to be said for it.
Watson said he liked the new music. He said performer Britt Gully played a good Jimmie Rodgers, but he can't yodel as well as Jimmie Rodgers.
Gully, who picked a few tunes before the band Blue Mountain took the stage, said he has enjoyed being Jimmie Rodgers.
Different atmosphere
Long-time festival fan Stephanie Peninger said it was a "good idea" to try new forms of music at the festival. Her husband, Wendell, said it "was the best idea they ever had."
Ed Boykin, who has lived in Meridian since 1981, said he also came to see Tab Benoit. Boykin said he has listened to Benoit's CDs but has never heard him perform live.
Benoit has been playing since he was 8 or 9 years old.
The Houma, La., native played a blues festival at Bonita Lakes in 1997 and said he has been through Meridian several times. His influences include "everybody, from Jimmie Rodgers to Hank Williams to B.B. King to James Brown."
Lauderdale County Tourism Director Allison Beasley said 200 people bought table-seat tickets but she would have to wait until after the event to get a total attendance count.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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