Okay, so here are the pics from my recent trip to the Delta, the home of the Blues!!! This was my fouth trip in as many years and I’ve really begun to feel like Clarksdale is my second home. I even had people recognize me in town from my last trip, which was very cool!
The first two nights in town I stayed at the Shack Up Inn which you may recognize from the back cover of the CD. The Shack Up is on Hopson’s Plantation and they have turned the shotgun sharecropers’ shacks into rooms. I stayed in the Cadillac Shack, as usual. The “sh*t box Dodge” in the front is actually from the Blues Brothers movie. It has the dent on the roof from the megaphone to prove it!
On Wednesday I headed Greenwood, MS where Robert Johnson lived, played, and died. There is an empty lot where the house stood that he spent his last days in agony after being poisoned by a jilted lover. Rule#1 of the blues-never sleep with the bar owner’s girl. Hoover’s grocery stands across the street from that spot and they were having a little gathering with a band and of couse, BBQ! I met up there with the owner of Cat Head Music and Blues Revue columnist, Roger Stolle. A super cool guy that is a wealth of knowledge.
I next headed up the road about 6 miles north of Greenwood, MS in the middle of nowhere and stopped by Robert Johnson’s grave. It is only one of three, but this one is widely accepted as his “true” grave. It’s kinda funny who you run across in graveyards. Today, Corey Harris was there visiting.
On the way back to Clarksdale, I decided to head up to Stovall’s Plantation to see where Muddy Water’s cabin used to sit. Muddy was born and raised in a small cabin that stood there for many years, but it was damaged by a storm in the ’90s. It has since been reassembled and resides inside (yes, inside!) the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.
Thursday I moved into The Riverside Hotel on Sunflower Ave. in downtown Clarksdale. Talk about a blues history. The Hotel opened in 1944, but was used as an African-American hospital before that. In 1937, Bessie Smith and her manager were travelling through the area early one morning headed to another gig. Their car was struck by a truck and Bessie was severely injured. A doctor happened by on his way fishing and attended to her until they could get her to the hospital. Bessie died a few hours later on the operating table of the hospital, which is now the Riverside Hotel. The son of the original owner, Frank “Rat” Ratliffe, runs things there now and has been there for 50-some years. He has seen it all. His frequent guests have included John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, and Ike Turner among countless others. Rat gave me a tour of all the rooms, each bearing the name of the person that stayed in that room. I was fortunate enough to be put in the John Lee Hooker room. It still has the original furniture of when he stayed there. Pictures 1&2 – Bessie Smith’s room (the one she passed in), 3 – John Lee Hooker’s room, 4 – Sam Cooke’s room, 5 – Ike Turner’s room, 6 – Rat and me at Red’s, 7- the hallway at night – very eerie.
Thursday night I headed down to Ground Zero Blues Club, which is partly owned by Morgan Freeman. A cool larger venue, with good food! It still manages to keep a juke joint feel while being so big. Lightning Malcom was playing there that night and I was able to get up and jam most of the evening. Lots of fun!
Friday night came around and James “Super Chikan” Johnson was playing at Ground Zero. You know it’s gonna be a good show when he starts the night off with Freddie King’s Hideaway.
After a set of Chikan, I headed down the street and across the tracks to Reds, a real juke joint. When I mean a real juke joint, I mean there were no windows, no phone, and I didn’t recall seeing any bathrooms. Awesome place that oozes the blues. Burnside Exploration was playing there that night. The band consists of Gary Burnside (R.L.’s son) on guitar, Cedric Burnside (R.L.’s grandson and longtime drummer) on drums and vocals, and Lightning Malcom on bass. They play some kick-ass modern hill-country blues! I was there for a little while and Gary asked me to play harp the rest of the night. Very cool. He broke a string on his tele and ended up using my Strat after that. 2am rolled around and we were still going when Super Chikan rolled in a sat in a couple of songs (he ended up playing the Strat too!) Very cool. They were all a great bunch up guys, and awesome musicians.