Kenny Neal wants the world to know that Highway 61, aka the Blues Highway, doesn’t stop at the Mississippi-Louisiana border. With that message in mind, the Grammy-nominated Baton Rouge blues artist is spearheading the Kenny Neal Blues Highway 61 Music Festival this weekend in St. Francisville.
Nonetheless, blues isn’t the only musical genre at Neal’s new festival. Taking a cue from the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Blues Highway 61 Music Festival presents the big picture of Louisiana and roots music. The event’s three stages contain swamp pop, zydeco, Southern soul, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, country and gospel.
The talent includes classic New Orleans R&B artist Walter “Wolfman” Washington; Neal and his brothers with Lafayette zydeco guitar great Lil’ Buck Sinegal; and swamp pop favorites the Boogie Kings and Don Rich.
The festival runs Friday through Sunday at the West Feliciana Sports Park. Carnival rides, a classic car show, guitar giveaways, and arts and crafts are part of the fun, too.
Neal spoke about the festival in an interview with The Advocate.
Why did you want such musical variety at the Blues Highway 61 Music Festival?
I want the festival to be made up of the talent and culture we have here in Louisiana. Tourists who come to the festival will experience all of our traditional music.
You staged festivals in Port Allen for several years. Why have you moved to St. Francisville?
This is the first time that I’ve had a board and met with everybody around the table. Everybody has different chores to do. They take care of things. That makes it so much easier for me because I had been doing it all myself. Now, I have support, sponsors and people who want to see my vision happen. It’s really working, with Pointe Coupee Parish and West Feliciana Parish coming together.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington is one of the performers at the festival. Didn’t you work with Washington when you both backed the late New Orleans R&B singer Johnny Adams?
Walter and I were there with Johnny Adams, riding in those backwoods all around Thibodaux and Sorrento. They picked me up when they needed a bass player. I was 14 or 15. That’s why I wanted to have Walter be a part of what I’m doing. We know where we came from. Now it’s time to enjoy it and have some fun.
You received a Grammy nomination for your latest album, “Bloodline.” Although you didn’t bring a Grammy home, has “Bloodline” been a great project for you?
I had been off for a couple of years. I wanted to make a comeback with an album. So, I put the “Bloodline” album together. It got a Grammy nomination, and it won at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. In this business, man, you don’t know. You’re up against thousands and thousands of people. For me to get to the nomination, that was cool enough for me.
KENNY NEAL BLUES HIGHWAY 61 MUSIC FESTIVAL
WHEN: 4:30 p.m.to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: West Feliciana Sports Park, 10226 West Feliciana Parkway, St. Francisville
COST: $25 per car
6 p.m.: Don Rich Band
8 p.m.: The Boogie Kings
6 p.m.: Tyree Neal
8:45 p.m.: Cupid
2 p.m.: Late Evening Band
3:30 p.m.: Vince Hutchinson
4:30 p.m.: South Soul Queens
5:45 p.m.: Chris LeBlanc and Jonathon Boogie Long
7:15 p.m.: Kenny Neal
8:45 p.m.: Walter “Wolfman” Washington
2 p.m.: Sheriff Bud Torres
3 p.m.: Ernest Scott and Funk Children
4 p.m.: OMT
5 p.m.: LaRouge
6:15 p.m.: Rougon
7:45 p.m.: JJ Callier & the Zydeco Knockouts
9:15 p.m.: Gregg Martinez and the Delta Band
9 a.m.: Racoon
10:15 p.m.: Eddie Smith
11:30 a.m.: Mike Broussard
12:45 p.m.: Kenny Fife
1:30 p.m.: Car show awards
2 p.m.: Mellow Band
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Sunrise service with Rev. John Thompson, Rising Stars Gospel Singers, Spiritual Voices of Praise, Kenny Neal, Leroy Toussaint, Mia Kylie and the Mystics