Annually, the Freedom Creek Blues Festival offers an opportunity to enjoy genuine blues performed in an outdoor, rural setting that is in the heart of Blues Country. Originally, the festival was held on the late bluesman and band leader Willie Kings’ property in Pickens County so far out one was almost in Mississippi. Maps skills were needed to find Old Memphis because a GPS device might not work there. Roads became smaller and smaller until a driver was on gravel. However, that was not the end. A turn left into a hay field was required and then into a second field where a stage was set up in the back of the field into the edge of a forest. Those trees provided shade which was greatly needed due to the heat at the beginning of June in Alabama.
Willie King died five years ago and since that time the festival has been held at Cookie Man’s Place on Highway 17 slightly outside of Aliceville toward the little town of Geiger, sometimes claimed to be the birthplace of another great music man and the father of country music, Jimmie Rogers, though disputed by Meridian, MS. The site is somewhat rustic as it should be for genuine blues with very large oak shade trees, hand-me-down tables with stools, a covered concrete slab and port-a-potties. One benefit of the new site is that it is much easier to find.
Venders brought food to sell but those attending could bring their own food and drink. Since most of Pickens County is a “dry” county everyone bringing alcoholic beverages was encouraged to keep a low profile and mind their manners. There has always been “security” on duty but very little, if any, misbehavior has ever occurred.
Those organizing and putting on the event have learned from experience and have improved the logistics of the situation. At the first production at the new site about four in the afternoon a cloud came up and wind began to blow. Performers had set up on a paved strip in front of the covered area. Tents shading the musicians began to blow over and rain started prompting a quick retreat to the covered area with instruments, speakers, and other electronic/electrical equipment. The stage was re-set up at one end of the concrete slab and after the rain and lightning stopped performers took up where they left off. Since then, that end is the stage.
This year’s event was held on May 24 and had ideal, warm, no rain weather. Some attendees sat under the cover while others used the provided seating or brought their own folded chairs in a bag (a great invention!). A small area was used by some for dance. Some performances were by singular musicians and others with numerous band members. All performers were very professionals and seemed to enjoy the festival as well as the attendees.
One band, Mudcat, led by Daniel Peter Duddeck, was a particular favorite. His band performed later in the afternoon when the sun was about to retreat to the horizon. He told someone that they were going to try something a little different. When Mudcat’s turn came all the members formed a parade line and played and sang “When the Saints Go Marching In” as they meandered through the crowd and finally stopped at the stage area. Mudcat Band ended in the same manner as they had begun. The whole presentation was outstanding and any reader is encouraged, if the chance presents itself, to see and hear the Mudcat Band perform.
This year’s event is over but very likely there will be another Freedom Creek Festival next year. Other blues event will occur locally, involving some of the same the same musicians and others. Blues events present opportunities to enjoy music, dance and basically have a lot of fun.
A prominent local band is the True Dats led by Debbie Bond with her husband, Rick Asherson, on keyboard and harmonica. They play at clubs and events around the country and also tour in Europe, where they will spend July and August. The True Dats and those that join with them are definitely worth making the effort to see and hear their performances.
Rick Asherson was also the organizer of this year’s Freedom Creek Festival and deserves much credit for the success. It is estimated that 300 or more were in attendance.

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