Labor Day Weekend Highlights Oklahoma Blues Tradition

Aug 31, 2016



From Reba McEntire to Garth Brooks to Carrie Underwood, Oklahoma has left its mark on popular country music. But the Sooner State also has a deep and enduring connection to the blues.


Small town blues festivals are a Labor Day tradition in Oklahoma. This weekend, Medicine Park, Arcadia and Rentiesville will all host concerts featuring many of the most talented blues musicians from Oklahoma and surrounding states. Of course, any blues festival in the Sooner State wouldn’t be the same without Dorothy Ellis, better known as “Miss Blues.”


She has been inducted into both the Oklahoma Blues and Jazz Halls of Fame. At 81 years old, she’s not showing any signs of slowing down.  In fact, she’ll perform at all three festivals this weekend.


Ellis was orphaned at an early age and her earliest memories are of picking cotton in Direct, Texas. She worked in the cotton fields during the summer and would return to school once it began again.  Her mother instilled in her a love and respect for learning and an ear for blues.


"My mother was not a singer, but she would sing in the kitchen all the time, and one of her favorite songs was Drifting by Charles Brown" Ellis said.


Ellis receive her masters degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma. Her first book For Blacks Only was published in 1979.


But, her passion for the blues remained. She said she uses the Texas shout style of blues singing.


"It's like I'm the preacher on a Saturday night or Friday day night." Ellis said, "Where you can relieve some of the tension and hear some of the moans and the groans."


After performing with Richard "Groove" Holmes, Little Joe Blue, Drink Small and opening for Bo Diddley, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame in 2004.


"I think it's just something that's dear to my heart because it is a part of our culture." Ellis said, "I just think we should not let it die down."


She will perform in Arcadia Friday night,  Medicine Park Saturday and Rentiesville on Sunday.


Arcadia Blues Festival

The Arcadia Blues Festival is one of Oklahoma's longest running Blues Festivals and takes place Friday, September 2nd. Garrett "Big G" Jacobson and Miss Blues will headline the event. Big G is known for his soulful sound and guitar performances. Miss Blues is a dynamic singer and fans have come to love her "Texas Shout" style. Dirty Red and the Soul Shakers will also take the stage. Gates open at 6:00 p.m. and Garrett "Big G" Jacobson performs at 9:00 pm. Miss Blues preforms with Joe Settlemires at 10:45 pm. 

Medicine Park "Mayor's Blues Ball"

The Mayor's Blues Ball features 13 acts over 3 days.  The Shane Henry Band will headline the festival. Fillmore Slims, Miss Blues, Chant and Groovement will also take the stage. Gates open at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Rentiesville "Dusk 'Till Dawn" Blues Festival

The "Dusk 'Till Dawn" blues festival takes place in the small town Rentiesville, Oklahoma. Although the town may be home to less than 100 people, it is a hub for blues in the state. Rentiesville is the childhood home of blues guitarist D.C. Minner, and each year his widow brings in the best down home blues from around the country for the festival. This year 200 musicians will take the stage over three days. Headliners include Joanna Connor, Johnny Rawls, Fillmore Slim, Norman Jackson, and Miss Blues. Each day the gates open at 5:00 p.m. and the final acts will conclude at 5:00 a.m. each morning.