Clarence Carter strokin’ to Riverfest

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 13, 2009

Clarence Carter — who scored arguably his biggest and most lasting hit, “Strokin’,” in 1986 — will perform on the opening night of Riverfest, event secretary Erin Hern said Thursday.

“We were trying to go with someone who was a little R&B, but a big enough name to draw a lot of people,” said Hern of the choice.

Carter, now 73, is set to take the stage on Friday, April 17, at 10 p.m. Country musician Aaron Tippin,will close out the festival on April 18 with a 10 p.m. performance.

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Local performers will fill out the lineup, with The Chill and The Patrick Smith Band playing on April 17, and C.L.O.S.E.R. and Anthony Walls set to open for Tippin.

Entertainment at Riverfest is being scaled back to one stage this year. Two stages featured entertainers last year, and Hern has said more sponsors and donors are needed to keep Riverfest alive beyond this year.

Born blind in Montgomery, Ala., in 1936, Carter has released 28 albums since 1968, his most recent being “The Final Stroke’” in 2007. Songs such as “Slip Away,” “Too Weak to Fight,” “Snatching It Back,” “The Dark End of the Street” and the tongue-in-cheek Christmas hit “Back Door Santa,” all made the charts in the late 1960s. His most enduring song was a cover of the Chairman of the Board song “Patches,” released in 1970.

Tippin, from Pensacola, has recorded 10 albums since 1991, with five going gold and one platinum. More than 30 of his singles have hit the country music charts. Three have made it to No. 1, including  “There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with the Radio” in 1992, “That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You” in 1995, and “Kiss This” in 2000. He is touring in support of his February release, “In Overdrive,” an album of truck-driving-themed cover songs.

Riverfest is a nonprofit organization created after the spring festival was initiated 21 years ago. Last year’s festival cost around $250,000 to put on, $40,000 of which was spent on headline performer Rick Springfield. Festival organizers have declined to say how much this year’s performers are being paid.

Riverfest will coincide with the 2nd Annual Rally on the River motorcycle rally, which was begun last year to raise money and awareness about child abuse. About 450 bikers participated in the first rally, said event coordinator Kathy Triplett, and raised approximately $7,000. This year’s rally will feature a dice run and walk as well as a bike show on the top level of the parking garage on Walnut Street on Feb. 18.


Contact Steve Sanoski at

If you go

Tickets for Riverfest, April 17-18, are available online at, or at Trustmark Bank’s downtown branch, Paper Plus and Toot’s Grocery. Advance tickets are $15 per night or $25 for a two-day pass. Tickets at the gate will be $20 nightly and $30 for the weekend.

Entertainment lineup:

Friday, April 17

The Chill — 7 p.m.

The Patrick Smith Band — 8:30 p.m.

Clarence Carter — 10 p.m.

Saturday, April 18

GospelFest — Noon to 4 p.m. (Free admission)

C.L.O.S.E.R. — 7 p.m.

Anthony Walls — 8:30 p.m.

Aaron Tippin — 10 p.m.

Gates open at 6 both evenings.