Best laid plans……..

Unfortunately the logistics of time and distance mean that we are having to abandon a lot of our planned site visits.  We are off to Memphis today (Thursday) with a couple of stops en route.  Geographically this takes us too far away from many of the places on our map and there is no way around this if we are to get to Nashville and Louisville before heading north to Chicago where we need to spend at least two days before flying to Seattle for the drive South.  This is such a vast state, let alone country, that you can drive for 100 miles and get nowhere, if that makes sense.  Most disappointing for me is that I won’t make it to the Huss & Dalton or Martin factories on the East coast.  On the upside however this means we will have to make a separate trip some other time.

We started the day yesterday (Wednesday) back in Indianola.  Not only was Charlie Patton the father of Delta Blues and therefore an inspiration to many of the greats old and new, but he also had the decency to pass away in known place and receive a burial in a listed cemetery.  As we sat at a junction looking lost (normal state) a local guy who looked like a farmer (we were as usual in the middle of nowhere) said “looking for the ‘seamatary?’ (poor attempt at phonics) and pointed up the road with an expression of ‘there’s another pair of idiots’.

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Fascinating array of artefacts left by fans, ranging from a bottle of Bourbon to a rusty rail road nail

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If you like blues harmonica (harp as they like to say) listen to SonWillaimson.  Theres non better.  This was located in very run down village.  If it wasn’t for a few young people hanging around you would have thought the place had been abandoned.  Its hard to describe just how poor some of these places are.  I would imagine that unemployment if rife with few prospects for young people.  I am personally against the gun laws in America for the simple equation that lots of guns = lots of shootings.  However, I have to be honest and say that if I lived in one of these remote areas, and lots of people do, especially if I had a few bob, I would probably be a gun owner.  You have to be here to feel that.  We have occasionally strayed into ‘the wrong areas’ courtesy of our satnav.  And I can tell you its frightening when everyone comes out to stare at you.  Irrational may be, but very real at the time.
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Do you you remember that Billie Joe Mcallister jumped off the Tallahatchie bridge?  Sadly it is also associated wit the brutal murder of a young black boy Emmett Till in 1955.  He was said to have been bright and very confident which probably let to his demise after flirting with a white woman.  He was brutally murdered by the woman husband and her brother and dumped in the Tallahachie River.  Despite being positively identified they were found not guilty.  Remember this was 1955!
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As the plaque below states this is where WC Handy a band leader who went on to make a fortune as a music publisher first discovered the blues.  Whilst waiting at this now dilapidated station in 1903 he heard a black hobo playing a type of music he’d never heard before.  The guy was playing ‘slide’ blues with the edge of a knife.  WC was so captivated that he missed his train.  Following this he wrote several hit blues tunes.  He always regretted not find out the mans name.

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A very touching monument to the local victims of several wars

Onto a one road hamlet called Vance for one of my favourites

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I love this guys style of blues playing it.  Do look him up on YouTube.  12 bar blues, which is the foundation for most blues songs, utilises the 1st, 4th & 5th notes of the music scale.  Simple enough, right?  Not for good ‘ole JLH.  A lot of his biggest hits only utilised the first note being constantly repeated.  If he was feeling creative he might use two of the three notes. He made a fortune out of this.  Less is more?

Onto Clarksdale.  Which in many ways is the Mecca of Blues.  There’s lot’s to see and do here.  As we found however this has bred complacency.  Service is poor, very unusual for this region, and the prices for food and and drink are high.  Unfortunately this much anticipated visit fell flat.

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The afore mentioned WC Handy
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I mentioned in a previous post that Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for extraordinary musical talent.  You see me here at said Cross Roads.  In every photo I have seen of this site it appears to be in the middle of nowhere.  Yet another romantic notion exploded! This junction is so busy I risked my life getting there.  I now have an image in my head of RJ talking to the Devil and then slipping off for a Big Mac.  I know its a myth, but come on Clarksdale…..
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Never heard of him.  Home work for later. Clarksdale was also the birth place of Ike Turner and Sam Cooke.
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Yes I know we have to save the planet and all that, but why oh why did America ever abandon their unique and fabulous automobile industry?  We passed a scrap yard yesterday with about 200 of these beauties just rusting away.

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At last a proper guitar shop.  You see me here with my new best friend Ronnie. Retired bank manager now guitar expert.  We had a long talk about guess what……..  The guitar shown here is dated 1890 and needs repairing, but thats all he knows about it.  Its a little beauty and probably worth a lot of money.  Thankfully I resisted.  I asked him where I could get one of those wigs (I didn’t!).  Great shop and lovely guy.  As I left he said “now y’all come back and hang with me”.  It would be a pleasure Ronnie.

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Robert Johnsons death certificate.  Which begs the question that if this was known, why didn’t they properly record his place of burial?  Perhaps the alleged murderous husband might know something?
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Another John Lee Hooker acoustic guitar.  You don’t see one and than two come along.  The writing is identical to that on the guitar I showed from Hard Rock Cafe New Orleans which is a comfort in these days of forgery.
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Another blank. An hour wasted and no plaque for the person I came to discover.
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Abandoned Share Cropper shack?
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Ground Zero is a blues club in Clarksdale owned by the actor Morgan Freeman.  It is very atmospheric inside but they do charge $5 per head to get in.  Once inside the drinks are expensive and served from plastic glasses. The food is very poor indeed.  The two piece band playing were good but seemed to be going though the motions.  The drummer looked as though he was going to nod off.  I asked the girl on reception if Morgan was in tonight.  She said “who”.  When I explained she said Ive worked here for 2 years and I’ve never seen him.  Nuff said!

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The Red Blues Bar is rated #1 on Tripadvsor.  We waited until 9.00pm and then went off to have dinner (only booze sold here).  On returning later the band were playing Motown and badly.  This is supposed to be the number one blues bar in town?  Frustrating?  You bet.

Setting off for Memphis now.  Lets hope Elvis is in town tonight?

PS. Apologies again for typo’s etc.  No time to proof read……

 

 

2 thoughts on “Best laid plans……..

  1. This is so good Mr Freer. I can’t understand, with all that driving, how you have time to go to all these places and write a blog that is being discussed across the world. And it’s creeping up the blog charts. A number of fans on social media are betting on hands – right hands – is it the pocket or the hip? We will watch with interest.

    Like

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