Willy Bearden is a filmmaker, photographer, author and producer. His documentary films include: Visualizing the Blues, The Story of Cotton, A History of Memphis Garage Bands, Overton Park, Elmwood Cemetery, Horn Island Journal, Project 366, The Perea Project, 100 Years of Juvenile Court, and The View From Adams Avenue. His museum projects include The Blues Hall of Fame, The Tunica RiverPark, The Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum, Gateway to the Blues Museum, The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange, and the Memphis Wonders Series. He is the chairman and a founding member of the annual Delta Symposium held at the University of Memphis. He is the recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Achievement Award in the Creative and Performing Arts presented by the College of Communication and Fine Arts at the University of Memphis. Bearden regularly participates on film and writing panels, and presents at fifteen to twenty public speaking engagements each year. Other honors include the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award, and the Paul Coppock Award for Outstanding Contributions to West Tennessee History.
He is the author of four books: Cotton, From Southern Fields to the Memphis Market; Overton Park; Elmwood Cemetery, and Memphis Blues, Birthplace of a Music Tradition. Bearden is also a 30 year veteran of the live event production business. He has produced the Blues Music Awards since 1998, the inaugural Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Salute to the Grammys since 2007. In the summer of 2010, Mr. Bearden released his first feature film, One Came Home. Bearden grew up in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, in the Deep Delta.