The official celebration doesn’t happen until next weekend, but the gifts are already rolling in.
This year marks the 100th birthday of Chester A. “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett, and for Howlin’ Wolf Museum director Richard Ramsey, the birthday gifts have been overwhelming with the 15th annual Howlin’ Wolf Festival looming in just over a week.
“As the festival gets closer, it’s picking up more and more steam,” said Ramsey on Wednesday. “We’ve had local people donate items to the museum, we’ve had donations come from Minnesota, Chicago, Europe....You name it, we’ve gotten it.”
On Wednesday, Ramsey unveiled a few new items that have poured into the museum over the last few weeks, including a new oil painting by West Point artist Lee Gibson.
Gibson’s newest work is a painting inspired by a 1950’s-era picture of the Wolf that is also on display at the West Point-based museum.
“To have artists of this caliber locally contributing to this museum, it’s just unreal,” said Ramsey of Gibson’s painting. “This is the second or third one she’s done, and they’re all just incredible.”
In addition to Gibson’s painting, Ramsey also received a work from Kyle Stribling, of Montana, that honors Wolf through the style of African tribal art.
Other gifts now on display at the museum include:
• A rare autographed picture of the late Willie King, a legendary blues man in his own right. That item was submitted by Margo Cooper of Minnesota.
• A 6-panel framed series of pictures of late blues singer Bo Diddley, which were taken just before his death and contributed by former West Point native Mike Murphree.
• A $575 donation from the Fattenin’ Frogs blues band of Minnesota, which held a birthday benefit for Wolf in June.
In addition to the donations pouring in, plans for the 15th annual festival are currently in high gear, as eight days remain before the blues fest takes over The Civic in West Point.
For Ramsey, this year’s response seems better than ever.
“It’s really heating up right now,” said Ramsey. “Ticket sales, shirt sales, they are both ahead of where we usually are right now. I’ve already sent tickets to people in England, Norway, all over the United States. This year could be huge.”
Headlining acts for the 2010 festival will be Homemade Jams of Tupelo and James “Super Chikan” Johnson. A full story on the feature acts will appear in Sunday’s DTL.
Tickets for the festival are on sale at Bits N Pieces on Commerce Street, and they are $15 in advance. Gates will open at The Civic at 4 p.m. on the day of the event.