Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson

Time really flies by.  Two Sunflower Blues and Gospel Festivals have come and gone since Wesley Jefferson died on July 22, 2009, from complications due to lung cancer, he was only 65 years old.   Jefferson, the blues singer, bass player and band leader, was truly missed at both events as he was a popular figure on the blues scene in and around Clarksdale.

Blues enthusiast and photographer Ron Blankenship visits Clarksdale on a regular basis and donated photos of Jefferson, which now are on display in the Rock & Blues Museum. These photos show Jefferson performing live with his band in Red’s Blues Club on Sunflower Avenue, where he often performed during the last years of his life.

Born in Roundaway, a rural area south of Clarksdale, Wesley Jefferson was raised in poverty, picked cotton, plowed and worked the fields with a tractor. He was drawn to blues music at an early age, hearing records on the jukebox at the juke joint run by his mother. He bought his first guitar at the age of 18, after moving to Memphis for work. He returned to the Clarksdale area, taking on a job as a mechanic on the Hopson Plantation, where he worked for 22 years.

From the mid-1960s on, Jefferson played with well-known Delta bluesmen like Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, Frank Frost, Robert "Bilbo" Walker, and Super Chikan.  Nicknamed "Junebug", he became a popular draw in the Clarksdale region. Although he performed regularly for decades, Jefferson's recorded output is slim.  His first recordings appeared on a 1990 Rooster Blues label cassette called Clarksdale, Mississippi – Coahoma The Blues.  In 1996, Jefferson recorded the The Wesley Jefferson Band: Delta Blues Live from the Do Drop Inn CD with James “Super Chikan” Johnson.  Jefferson's last recording was 2007's Meet Me in the Cotton Field, a collaboration with Clarksdale guitarist Terry "Big T" Williams, whom Wesley met in the 70’s.  In 2008, Jefferson appeared in the documentary film “M for Mississippi”.

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