The 6th Annual

International Conference
on the Blues

Zakiya Hooker, daughter of John Lee Hooker, performs at the 2017 conference.

Welcome to the sixth annual International Conference on the Blues, a celebration of the art form through scholarly activity, discourse, and music! It takes place on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, recognized as the birthplace of American music.

Festivities kick off with a pre-conference concert at 7:30 PM Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, with the funkadelic Kool and the Gang, whose hits include “Celebration,” “Cherish,” and “Jungle Boogie.” Still going strong after 50 years, the most sampled R&B band of all time performs at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on the DSU campus. Purchase tickets by calling the box office at (662) 846-4626 or clicking here.

The all-day conference on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, begins bright and early and continues until after dark. The morning and afternoon feature academic presentations at DSU. Topics include the blues; African American musical traditions and influences on world cultures; the influence of gospel, spirituals, and soul music; music of the American civil rights movement; African American music as social commentary and protest; and history and culture of the Mississippi Delta.

At night, there are two free concerts: local and regional acts on the courthouse grounds in downtown Cleveland and a “blues in the round” acoustic jam session at Mississippi Grounds, hosted by award-winning singer/songwriter David Dunavent.

Cleveland, Miss., recently named by Smithsonian magazine as #2 of the top 20 small cities to visit in the country, is located 45 minutes from the Greenville, Miss., Airport and two hours from the airports in Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn. Cleveland is the home of the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, located next door to the DSU campus.

For more information, contact co-chairs Don Allan Mitchell and Shelley Collins at

“What is the Blues?”

An Academic Experience

The Como Mamas

2019 Keynote Performers

The Como Mamas sing get-you-through gospel. Ester Mae Smith, Angelia Taylor, and Della Daniels, all from Como, Miss., perform what gospel music scholar, civil rights activist, and vocalist Bernice Johnson Reagon calls “I songs”—“God Is Good to Me,” “I Know It Was the Blood,” “Soon I Will Be Done.” In a review of the Como Mama’s record Get an Understanding, ethnomusicologist Fredara Hadley celebrated how their three voices come together in an energy that moves people, that gets people through life.

Past Featured

2017 keynote performer Aaron Neville

Grammy Award-winning/nominated artists
Alvin Youngblood Hart, Trombone Shorty, and Dom Flemons

Blues scholars & educators
Elijah Wald, Bob Santelli, and Charles Reagan Wilson

Rising blues stars
Jontavious Willis, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and Marquise Knox

Past Presentation

2017 keynote speaker Dr. John F. Szwed

The legacies of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters

Ties of the blues to psychedelic music and culture

The blues as a form of protest in East Germany

The blues and the revitalization of the Mississippi Delta

The legacy of Alan Lomax and his music archive

2019 Conference Partners

Connect on Social Media

Conference hashtag #bluesDSU.