Booker Festival: Who is James Booker

The Booker Festival kicked off tonight in Bay St. Louis, but many don’t know the story behind the famous piano genius James Booker.

Booker Fest is a unique weekend long music festival held in Bay St. Louis that promises to deliver great music, yummy food, and an awesome community experience but exactly who is James Booker? Booker was a one-eyed New Orleans rhythm and blues keyboardist raised in Bay St. Louis. 100 Men Hall Director Rachel Dangermond said, “He is revered worldwide as being one of the most brilliant pianists to ever come out of this region.”

Booker learned to play at a young age and would play in local clubs and homes in the area before moving to New Orleans. Booker went on to have a short, but memorable career playing in Europe before passing at the age of 43. “He influenced so many other people and one of the famous people that he taught how to play was Harry Connick Jr.”

To honor his life and legacy, the 100 Men Hall decided to start Booker Fest. “In 2019, we had our first one. 2020 we couldn’t do it. Here we are again. So, this is our second annual, but we feel like we had such a good time that we know what we are doing now.”

The 100 Men Hall is a historical marker where African American performers would come and showcase their talents. “They would come to places like this and play. It was what became known as the Chitlin Circuit and so we have had amazing musical legends play here.”

Dangermond says the goal of Booker Fest is to remember James Booker, but also preserve the rich history in the City of Bay St. Louis.

Categories: Featured, Local News, News