Q&A with Clarksdale, Mississippi native bluesman Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, learned the blues from the masters

"Clarksdale is the birthplace of the Blues. Most people who travel here are looking for something. And I really don't know what that something is, maybe the presence of the fellas who started it all, I'm not sure, but I heard there is a feeling when you come here. And a lot of people come here to chase that feeling or they want to stand where Robert Johnson stood."

Anthony “Big A” Sherrod: Bluesman's Time

International Touring Artist and multi-instrumentalist (Roy) Anthony "Big A" Sherrod personifies the authentic delta blues legacy that is still heard today in his native Clarksdale, Mississippi. As the godson of Big Jack Johnson, he learned all facets of his craft at the feet of a master. He has held standing gigs at all of the iconic Clarksdale venues: Sarah's Kitchen, Red's Lounge and Ground Zero in addition to countless other performances throughout the region and beyond. In 2022, Nola Blue Records celebrated the signing of Anthony "Big A" Sherrod with the re-release of his 2016 debut album, "Right on Time", remastered. Named "Best Debut Blues Album - 2016" by Living Blues magazine, Sherrod demonstrates his musical prowess as one of Clarksdale, Mississippi's native sons. The Cornlickers, band of the late Big Jack Johnson, Sherrod's godfather, provide the rhythm section for this masterpiece of Mississippi blues.

(Mississippi bluesman Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Ground Zero Blues Club / Photo © by Sadie Robertson)

Introduced to music in the church, his father, E.J. Johnson, was a gospel singer that performed with The Golden Stars. By the age of 6, he began playing and hasn't stopped. As a student of the after-school program at the Delta Blues Museum, Sherrod studied with Johnnie Billington. Sherrod wrote the title track and appeared in the 2012 documentary, We Juke Up In Here, an inside look at what little still remains of the juke joint culture of the south. Clarksdale, Mississippi native bluesman Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, says: "I would say my sound is similar to B.B. King, meaning that my sound is clean and clear. My lyrics come from life. And my lyrics are also inspired by other artists as well as my own experiences." 

Interview by Michael Limnios

Special Thanks: Tameal Edwards (Ground Zero Blues Club)

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I have learned how to express myself through music, whether I am in a good mood or bad mood the Blues always fix whatever ails me. The Blues means the creative journey of life.  

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your lyrics creative drive come from?

I would say my sound is similar to B.B. King, meaning that my sound is clean and clear. My lyrics come from life. And my lyrics are also inspired by other artists as well as my own experiences.

Why do you think that Clarksdale Blues Scene continues to generate such a devoted following?

Clarksdale is the birthplace of the Blues. Most people who travel here are looking for something. And I really don't know what that something is, maybe the presence of the fellas who started it all, I'm not sure, but I heard there is a feeling when you come here. And a lot of people come here to chase that feeling or they want to stand where Robert Johnson stood.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

You can play it and you can write it, but you have to feel it to be successful! I also learned that when musicians work together no matter what type of music you can go far in your career.

"My hopes are for the Blues to keep going and growing. And some of my fears are that the meaning of the Blues is going to change, because Blues music was built off of the struggles of life and some of the younger generations have not had that many struggles." (Anthony “Big A” Sherrod & Morgan Freeman, Ground Zero Arts Foundation launch party, Clarksdale MS 2023 / Photo © Ground Zero Blues Club)

What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Honestly when I met my mentor Mr. Johnny Billington at the age 5 and when my dad put my first guitar in my hand is when my life changed. I have had so many things that I have done that I am proud of but one of my favorite things have been the travel that I am able to do. So far, I have been to France, Brazil, and Ireland just to name a few.  And a new project that I have been blessed to be a part of is Ground Zero Blues Club's Blues-Symphonic Project. I get to play with an orchestra and it's a very different experience, but I love it.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss all of the legends that I have had the chance to learn from; James "Super Chikan" Johnson, Johnny Billionton, my God-father Big Jack Johnson, Josh "Razorblade" Steward and so many more. My hopes are for the Blues to keep going and growing. And some of my fears are that the meaning of the Blues is going to change, because Blues music was built off of the struggles of life and some of the younger generations have not had that many struggles.

Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues? What is the role of blues music in today’s society?

It is important that we teach the younger generation so that Blues is never forgotten. I have taught the Blues for over 15 years, and I have carried on the teachings of my mentors to my students so that they will never forget where it started and so that they can keep it going so that it never dies.

The role of the Blues back then was to express yourself and not the role is to bring people together from all over the world. Blues is one of the oldest forms of music. We are not advertised like other music. But we have young artists coming out now that are keeping the Blues alive. They are making Blues cool and changing the sound a little bit. But they all started listening to all of the legends and they have created their own sound, such as myself.

Anthony “Big A” Sherrod - Home

(Photo: Mississippi-based bluesman Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, he learned the blues from the masters)

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