So long Mississippi, it was real fun y’all….

It was strangely sad to cross the border into Tennessee on Thursday.  We had only spent 5 days there but for various reasons i.e. the blues connection and some very nice people we met, we had grown a genuine fondness for this unique somewhat unspoilt state.  I haven’t done a count yet, however I estimate that we covered around 1000 miles zigzagging around the state mopping up as many iconic blues related places as we could.  With hindsight one could easily spend two weeks in Mississippi on the blues trail, which would be great for me, however, although the present Mrs F is something of a convert, I wouldn’t wish to push my luck.

So we are now in Memphis having arrived on Thursday and leaving today, Saturday. We are headed for Nashville which is a particular choice of Linda’s.  I’m sure that I will grow to love all that country & western music…….but it does have the added bonus of being the home of Gruhn Guitars, an iconic shop run by arguably the worlds expert on the subject.  Anticipate lots more on this venue later!  Excited?

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Before leaving Mississippi we stopped for lunch at this iconic restaurant.  The original site in Tunica burned down some years ago.  No matter, this venue is very atmospheric efficiently run and we got to meet Passion, a lovely girl with a smile to match.

 

 

Above is the wholesome and gigantic fried chicken meal we had for lunch.  The piece of memorabilia, a guitar made from a bed pan naturally caught my eye.  Now thats the hospital for me.

From the restaurant we moved onto our very last port of call in Mississippi.  The inaptly, in our case, ‘Gateway to The Blues Museum’.  For some reason it is assumed that most folk on the Blues Trail start from Chicago and work downwards.  Never mind, this was a little gem.  Easily the best collection of guitars we’d encountered.  Some of which are extremely valuable.  I photographed so many guitars that I have spared you task of wading through them all.  On returning to England I will be holding special viewing for you avid followers.  After all, we all love to sit through an evening looking at someone else’s holiday snaps don’t we!  Entrance will be 5 shillings.

 

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Jimmy Hendrix’s jacket.  We plan to visit his grave in Seattle 

 

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Just the one guitar selected for you.  Good ‘ole Muddy.
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Guess where we are?  Most visitors to Graceland’s first comment is about how small it is.  Well it is.  Elvis added many extensions to the house which makes it feel like Dr Who’s Tardis inside.  Despite this however none of the rooms are very big.  Also, I’m afraid to say that his massive musical talent wasn’t matched my his interior design skills or taste.  Sorry Elvis.  Nevertheless it was a long ambition fulfilled and interestingly still very sad despite his passing 41 years ago at the age of 42.
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The road outside is appropriately named Elvis Presely Boulevard. Before this however, and on the deeds to the property for which he paid $100,000 in 1955ish it was called Winchester Road.  Which is only interesting if you happen to live in Winchester UK.  As we do!  Below is Elvis’s grave alongside his mother, father and grandmother Minnie Mae who outlived all of them.  Linda is standing in front of the paddock at the front of the property which leads down to the road.  Elvis and his friends would gallop up and down this paddock in full view of anyone passing by.  Can you imagine that today in this security obsessed world.  
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Here you see Sun Studios Memphis where Elvis recored his first demo.  Sam Philips the owner was out for the day so Elvis was in fact recored by his secretary Marion.  On returning to the office Sam listened to the tape and rejected it stating that it was another boring ballad.  It took Elvis another 12 months to persuade Sam to re record him.

Above are various photos of Beale Street in Memphis.  The neon sign at the top says ‘Home of the Blues’.  I don’t wish to be picky, but the blues actually started in the Mississippi Delta.  Details, details.  Whereas Bourbon Street in New Orleans is atmospheric and a party street, Beale Street would fit well into Blackpool.  Not the friendly atmosphere we encountered in Bourbon Street and police were everywhere.  Still every bar has live blues music and one or two bands were excellent.  Alfred’s above, is apparently world famous.  Ever heard of it?  No me neither!

Just packing up to drive the 4 hours to Nashville.  See you on the other side.  Toodaloo!

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……

 

 

What did the Romans ever do for us?

Everyone knows that the Romans specialised is building straight roads for efficient travel.  Well compared to the state of Mississippi it is clear they suffered from a distinct lack of ambition.  Want to see how to build straight roads that seemingly go on for ever?  Then come here.  And its not just the highways, they are everywhere.  Boring? No!  Just set the cruise control, sit back and enjoy the ride – luxury.  Naturally falling a sleep might create a few issues.  However to para phrase Spike Milligan “driving’s not dangerous, crashing’s dangerous” ho ho!  Oh yes, and how about a few roundabouts folks to avoid having to stop every 2 minutes (gross exaggeration to just make the point) for traffic lights that aways seem to favour the minor road flow.

Yesterday was a funny, slightly frustrating old day.  Once again, apart from the BB King Museum, where we met Helen on reception a retired science teacher and old friend of BB’s, there was zero knowledge or interest from the locals and in a few cases no marker on the supposed spot.  This meant in some instances we drove miles to find nothing in particular.  I guess that The Blues Foundation, who are responsible for placing these markers, needs permission from land owners which won’t always be forthcoming.  Nevertheless this won’t prevent me from sending them a stiff note (commonly know as “Smithy’) asking why they don’t at least point this out on their website.

Spare a thought for Linda, despite going down with a bad cold and sore throat (blame BA’s air-con – ‘allegedly’ just in case their lawyers are reading this) she bravely faced the road with me yesterday (seriously, what does she want??).  My only tiny issue is that it affected her singing voice so that our two part harmonies were slightly out!

And so to the day….

Onwards to the town of Indianola (sounds like a fizzy drink produced in Bombay?)

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B.B. King.  Surely everyone has heard of him?  Sadly died 3 years ago aged 89.  This museum was created in 2008 at the cost of $16m and is a fine example of how it should be done.  BB, look him up on Wikipedia, it’s a true rags to riches story, influenced many of the modern greats.  Eric Clapton calls him the grand master.  Oddly he’s never been a favourite of mine.  Each to his own I guess?  Nevertheless this visit was long anticipated and it didn’t disappoint
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In his youth BB actually worked in the building which now houses his museum stacking bales of cotton.  I wonder if he could get his mind around that? ( rhetorical – please!!!)
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One of his old tour busses.  Reminds me of my youth playing in soul and rock bands.  Mind you, our tour bus was a clapped out Bedford van!  (look Smithy – different Tee Shirt!)
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Inside where BB once worked. Clearly all spruced up now. Each year he would hold a dinner here for all his local friends and family.  After he died, he was laid in state in this room.
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BB is buried outside.  There are plans to enclose this area soon.  Thanks again to Helen on reception who regaled us with loads of personal stories about BB.  Apparently he never forgot his roots and was a kind and humble man till the end.  He was onstage a few days before he died.

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Albert King ‘The Velvet Buldozer’ best know for his song ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’. One of the Three Kings – BB, Albert & Freddie.  Joe Bonamassa celebrated them in a dedicated concert recently.

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The Club Ebony.  An iconic venue for the lovers of blues.  Now owned by BB’s museum company.  Sadly not open when we visited and the meanies had drawn the curtains so that peeking inside was denied us!
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This, I think, is where BB King was born in Berclair.  We had to drive down a dusty track for about two miles to get there – scary stuff.  This was a cotton plantation when he was born and the area would have been covered in workers shacks.  As there is no marker we had to take a guess to the actual spot.  BB’s father left them when he was very young and his mother died in her early 20’s when BB was only 9 or 10 years old.  He lived all alone for the next 4 years until he was taken in by a white farming family – obviously quite a thing in those days.  BB said that the owner called him son and not boy which he always appreciated. (put the hankies away!)
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We turned right here ‘down the dusty track’ – good name for a song eh?
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Here we searched for the birth place of Eddie Jones, better know as ‘Guitar Slim’ – but to no avail.
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Here he is again for a second posting.  Well it is RJ.  In a previous blog I said that no one knows where he was buried.  Well the fine town of Greenwood begs to differ.  Here they say he might have been buried! I don’t wish to bicker, but I might have been born with exceptionally good looks!  Oh well, perhaps it is true then?!
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Lets play………find the R.J.
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Located in the middle of nowhere.  I do hope he was laid to rest here as its a beautiful and peaceful spot.
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I mentioned the Romanesque roads earlier.  This map plots all the places we are trying to visit in the Delta.  Therefore ours is more of a zigzag road.  It’s just a shame that all these legends didn’t have the foresight to be brought up in roughly the same region along ether side of the same road.  Note for all future icons.

Today, Wednesday (one week down, four to go) we are headed towards Clarksdale.  Lots of really interesting places en route.  Can’t wait.  Linda spent 50 bucks (on 4 products – I was in the wrong business) on medicines from CVC’s yesterday.  After such extravagance  I’m just hoping that Linda is able to hit those top ‘C”s today.  Had a good day y’all………………..

 

 

Call this a holiday?

Linda and I have just completed two gruelling days on the road (all for your enjoyment!).  It is now Tuesday around 8.30am as I write.  Sunday we drove for 8 hours (300 miles) and yesterday 12 hours (400 miles.  Still, petrol is cheap).  As the crow flies it’s about 1000 miles from New Orleans to Chicago.  At this rate we will easily double this distance I fear. There are so many blues trail markers I want to visit that there is no avoiding this slog.  Even then we will miss out on most of the less significant characters in the blues story.  As such I have loads of photos to post, so I will crack on with this and then add a few interesting experiences from the two days at the bottom of this blog.

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I am very interested in the American wars of Independence and Civil and the two great Presidents Washington & Lincoln who presided over them.  So it was an added bonus to visit the battle field in Vicksburg where the civil war was effectively won after John Pemberton (left) surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. 
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Linda on the edge of the battlefield (Brave girl!)

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Finding Bolton was easy.  Locating Charlie Patton’s birth place was another matter.  It is 10 miles outside the town in the middle of nowhere (satnav Sam Herring Road for those making the trip).  Once again none of the locals knew who he was even though he’s regarded as the father of the blues by many and an inspiration to Robert Johnson etc. 
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Everyone has heard of Route 66.  But to blues nuts Route 61 is the place to be.  This is THE blues trail even though loads of notable places are nowhere near it.  And today we joined it for the first time.  can you imagine my excitement?!  We turned left travelling North on a ‘gun barrel straight’ deserted road for 30 miles, not uncommon around here.  Naturally I stuck rigidly to the 55 MPH speed limit!
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At last a town that not only remembers its blues heritage but celebrates it.  Blues music plays over speakers in the town centre all day long.  Even I got irritated by it after a while.  We missed out on their Blues Fest held last Saturday -hey ho.
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Ah the great Muddy Waters ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, ‘I’m your Hoochie Chochie Man’ etc.  He was one of the first to take Delta Blues to Chicago and electrify it.
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A replica of the house (Shotgun Shack shack) where he was born

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With the Deputy Sheriff Caroline – what a gal!  I said ‘you will tell me should I mis behave in any way”.  She responded “ya have so far y’all……
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We are now in Leland.  Now this place really celebrates the blues.  We had a great time here and met many interesting and friendly locals
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Sorry Johnny, not one of my favourites so I will move on.
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I had never heard of this Dud (see how I’m integrating?  I can almost speak American already), but I was about to learn all about him.
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Guess what, this is Pat Thomas, son of the late James.  He was in the museum and played one of his songs for us.  Great gravely blues voice.  We could barely understand a word he said and visa versa.  I thought he had a great smile and this was explained by the new dentures he had just had fitted.  “The Blues Foundation paid for them” he told us. “Well I don’t have no $2000 man”  Great character.
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Just about to leave town and this guy comes running out ‘where are you folks from?”  Turned out hat this was Billy Johnson (right) President of the Blues Museum and local entrepreneur.  The other one is James the manager of the museum.  We had a long talk about the delta.  Billy appeared in an episode of Rick Stiens programme on Delta cooking when he was there in 2011.  Great guy.
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Tranpires that Route 61 isn’t Route 61, it’s a new road (is nothing sacred?).  This was this original road.  Also shown below

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Here we are at a place called Scott.  The birth place of Big Bill Broonzy.  One of my favourites. Look him up on Youtube to hear ‘Hey Hey’ and ‘Why did you leave heaven’ (Also see a drugged up Eric Clapton from the 60’s play this great ballad on Youtube – wonderful)
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Brilliant Bill.  I love to play his songs myself

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Never heard of either Eddie I’m afraid.  Homework for later!
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They say never meet your heroes.  I would add to this never go to places made famous by songs.  Robert Johnson wrote a lovely song about Rosedale (also hear Clapton’s version).  Sadly the place is now a bit of a tip.

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The Muslims flock to Mecca and the Blueies flock to Dockery Farm.  I have looked forward to this visit for years and it didn’t disappoint.  This is where many of the greats were either born or worked before becoming famous.  Do read up about it, its a fascinating tale.  The owner and creator of this Plantation was known to be one of the few who treated his workers well.
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Note the little platform in the background.  By pressing the button blues Charlie Patton’s songs are played out across the area.  Great stuff.
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We’re in the book – for anyone else paying homage in the future 
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Iconic picture of the farm
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Unusual for plantation owners, Will Dockery would allow his workers to hold parties of a Saturday night.  This drinking trough, that would have been known to Charlie Patton etc, was where up to 1000 workers and their families would congregate to party.

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Now defunct gas station at the entrance to the farm once run by Will Dockery.  You can now hold your wedding reception there!

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The great Jimmy Rogers. Once part of Muddy’s band.  Another of the Chicago electric blues immigrants 
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Sadly some of the markers have become delaminated by the sun.  This is all that can be seen of Howlin Wolfs plaque.  Not one of my favourites but a great nonetheless
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And now for something completely different.  At the end of our 12 hour day we visited a branch of Walmart. We purchased milk, fruit, a cool box and some sweets.  Oh yes and an AK44 automatic each.  What a country????????

Two notes to end on:

  1.  Prior to visiting the Delta I had expected to find a dirt bowl populated by broken down towns. This is probably because most of the books show the Delta during the 30’s and 40’s through black and white and sepia photos.  The reality is quite different, yes the Delta is well named given its remarkably flat terrain.  We haven’t seen a hill since Saturday.  And because it’s below the level of the Mississippi river it occasionally floods with devastating affect.  It is also very hot and humid reaching 30 degrees yesterday.  Despite this however it is very green and lush – at least in May.  The roads are very good and as mentioned dead straight and therefore easy to navigate.  Remarkably despite driving for about 12 hours yesterday it didn’t tire me at all (just in case you were worrying about me?).
  2. I mentioned a few days ago that I had a theory about why the locals haven’t a clue about their famous forbears. And this is it….  Back when these guys were plying their trade, it was done very much on a local basis.  Moving from place from place was was extremely difficult given the distances and dirt roads.  So they became local heroes playing at Juke Joints (someones Shack cleared out for the night to host a party) and or open air get togethers such as at Dockery’s Farm.  Some of them were talent spotted, more of this later, and made recordings of their songs.  Some of these records found their way across the Atlantic during WW2 and were subsequently picked up by folks such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, John Mayall, Elexis Corner and Eric Clacpton etc in the 1950’s.  So it was their love of this music along with the Beatles that was responsible for their revival.  Before this period many of them had given up playing and returned to the fields and factories to work.  Ironically therefore they owe their modern day fame to the Stones, Beatles and Eric Clapton and they readily acknowledged this fact.  So it was a western white mans discovery that gave them their international platform which went onto influence all modern music.  Without them there would never have been the Stones etc.  The majority of the poor local black folk on the other hand couldn’t give a fig for these people.  I mean what did they ever do for them?  Hip hop and Rap etc I would say……….but of course I don’t!

Phew, thats enough for today (too right I hear yo say).  With apologies for any tiepoos (geddit) etc……….

Off to BB Kings birth place and museum now.  Toodaloo!

Cock up on the photo’s front!

I’m learning fast about this blogging business and the technology, notwithstanding my afore mentioned c grade I.T. capabilities, is far from perfect.  This morning in an attempt to free up space in the photo file on the blog, I deleted all the photos so far imported.  What I didn’t realise was that they would also be deleted from the blog itself.  This is a nightmare of course.  I have written to Word Press the platform created for advice.  So apologies for this.  I hope to restore all lost pictures soonest.

If anyone has any advice on this I would be grateful.  Very grateful……….

And so, onto the Blues Trail – at last!

“Woke up this morning da, da ,da”……… (as all the best blues songs start).  Well I did wake up and with a thumping headache – but it was well worth it.  Knowing that I had to go into battle with Budget Car Rentals over the expensive add on’s they would expect me to pay didn’t help matters much.  Actually it turned our quite well, apart from the limo I had booked two months ago not being there, trying to palm me off with an alternative upgrade (actually a down grade) and tinging me for an extra $300 for a one way trip (not mentioned at the time of booking) it went reasonably well.  Eventually I employed my tested mode of desperation and laid sobbing in the foetal position in the middle of the office floor for 5 minutes.  Eventually they caved in and gave us a nice SUV upgrade with free Satnav.

So off we set to drive north on the Interstate 51 (Oh yes, and just before this I bought a guitar for the road).  I have been looking forward to this trip for a longtime.  Putting some context to the whole Delta blues story was going to be fun.  The added bonus as it happens is that Linda is also getting into it, asking me all sorts of questions about the people and places – blimey!  I wonder what she wants?

150 miles later tired (remnants of the night before still niggling away) we arrived at McComb.  Birth place of Bo Diddley.  This reminded me that our daughter Sarah’s partner  Wayne and I were going to see him play in the UK but he died just before the tour commenced.  I was amazed to note that this was 8 years ago.  Time flies.  Shame, he was one of the greats.

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Next port of call was the birth place of one of the true greats.  Some would say the greatest, Robert Johnson.  When Keith Richard first heard his records back in the 50’s he was convinced that it was more than one person playing the guitar.  This was because he played the bass notes, rhythm and lead notes all at once on an acoustic guitar.  Eric Clapton on hearing him for the first time said that he might as well give up.  It is said that R.J. was initially a poor player and singer.  He then disappeared for 6 months and came back playing and singing better than anyone else and with a large catalogue of songs. he’d written.  It was generally rumoured  that he sold his soul to the Devil at ‘the Cross Roads’ in exchange for his newly acquired talents.  Later on we will be visiting said Cross Roads where today there is a monument erected to the myth.  R.J. was a bad boy with the ladies and it is because of this he met with an early demise around the age of 36 in the 1930’s at the hands/gun of a jealous husband.  No one is certain of this but it is the consensus from the numerous stories associated with his passing.  Anyone interested in hearing his music should obtain ‘The Complete Recordings Robert Johnson’.  And for a modern take on his songs Eric Clapton’s album ‘Me and Mr Johnson’.

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This is worth reading
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Rail Roads were essential to travel in the early 1900’s and one can well imagine R.J. traveling along these tracks.  Each of the places we have been to so far have similar stations and straight line tracks leading out into the world.

I am hugely disappointed by how little has been done in Hazelhurst to mark the life of their greatest (as far as I know) resident.  Below is the Mississippi Music Museum.  I.e. a general museum, not even dedicated to R.J.  It was closed when we were there, and a looksy through the window revealed a half hearted attempt to tell the story of the blues.  A room that appeared to have been dedicated to R.J. was now being used for general storage.  This for a man who influenced every blues and rock band since the early 1960’s.  And I think I know why.  More on this theory later…..

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The Mississippi Music Museum. Ho ho!

Already we are experiencing just how poor these neighbourhoods are.  Hardly surprising given their history of slavery and cotton plantations.  Naturally things are a lot better know.  However make no mistake, if anyone is rich around here they are doing a very good job of hiding it.

Apologies to anyone who feels that I’m going into too much detail.  There are two reasons for this 1. As I said at the beginning this blog (the blues bit up until Chicago) is primarily an aid memoir for me when I get old (no cheap retorts please!!). 2. One or two friends following this are making the pilgrimage themselves.  And I hope it will be helpful and possibly save then some time.

Farewell to New Orleans…….

We departed from N.O. yesterday after 3 fun packed days.  The weather has been nice and warm but overcast which was perfect given all the walking we did.  The previous night was one to remember, centered around Bourbon Street – naturally.  Three highlights:

  1. Managed to pursued the best fish restaurant in town (G W Finns) to give us a table even though they said they were full.  I haven’t lost it!
  2. Met two world leaders in Bourbon Street and persuaded them to have a photo with us.
  3. Enjoyed our favourite band ‘Dysfuntional’ (they are anything but) until the early hours.
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The obligatory holding up the glasses shot!
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Catfish wings – sounds horrible but delicious cooked this way
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Photoing food is a first for me, but we Bloggies have a duty I’m told.

After dinner we walked down Bourbon Street to our favourite bar and bumped into these chaps.  Fortunately we broke through security for this photo.

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Notice I kept Linda well away from the Trump fumble.  We had a good chat which seemed to go down a bomb!
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A poor photo of just part of ‘Dysfunctional’ playing Honky Tonk Woman.  Unfortunately the video wouldn’t down load

And so to bed………..

It’s been a bad I.T. day…..

Anyone who knows me understands that if I had to make a living as an IT techie I would have starved by now.  It’s all double Dutch to me.  Nevertheless I try to learn the dark art and to this end have wasted around 2 hours today trying to import photos from my Mac file to the Blog file.  In desperation I contacted Richard Smith, said retired lawyer and now my chief IT assistant.  Sadly he was as useful as a chocolate tee pot (I will be suing) and so I turned in desperation to the concierge at the hotel for names of local computer shops to help me out.  “I’ll have a go” says Arielle (my new best friend) and within 2 minutes had solved the problem.  What a gal….  And all it cost me was a letter of praise to her manager.

We have just returned (Friday) from a trip on the last River Steam Boat on the Mississippi (there are only two left in the USA).  Its something you have to do of course but at $50 each including an inedible lunch, I couldn’t really recommend it.  We should have learned by now.

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Yesterday was spent getting our bearings in N.O. and in particular the renowned French Quarter.  We arrived fairly early (jet-lag) for breakfast to the world famous Bourbon Street.  In many ways this was a mistake.  Bourbon Street is all about night life.  We therefore left the area wondering what all the fuss was about and returned later that night for dinner.  WOW!!!!! fantastic!  My photos will not do it justice. All I will say is that its amazing and unique in our experience.  Everyone should visit this street at least once.  The quality of bands playing in various venues (no charge to enter) was nothing short of brilliant.  Anyone of them would win The X Factor. (which I think is a compliment?)

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Bourbon Street by day.  Rather drab and smelling of stale fish from the previous nights entertainment.
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Bourbon Street at night.  Another wonderful exciting world.  Not sure who the blond is?
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Great venue for R&B music
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Fantastic music venue.  Apologies for the angle of photo, it looked fine when I took it at midnight!

By way of a reminder, the first two weeks of this adventure is to travel along Route 61 aka the Blues Trail.  This starts in earnest tomorrow when we leave N.O. and travel north into Mississippi state.  N.O. is really about Jazz music rather than the blues.  This said the bands we enjoyed last night ranged from Soul to R&B.  Nevertheless, this is a blues tour and the best I can offer you for now was to be found at Hard Rock Cafe where we had lunch.  See below.  The real Delta blues goodies will commence tomorrow.

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Peter Frampton is probably best know for his collaboration with Steve Marriot in Humble Pie.  He is also a very good blues guitarist.  The Guitar is a 1971 Gibson Les Paul Custom.
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This is Delta Blues gold.  I have never seen John Lee Hooker playing an acoustic on Youtube so it was a pleasure to find this on display.  Although in poor general condition, This Gibson Country & Western is probably worth around $100k?

PS.  My buddy Cark has asked for more pictures as he struggles with reading!!!!!  Hope this helps my friend?

PPS.  Just getting ready for a second evening on Bourbon Street.  Wish us luck!

We’ve arrived!

So folks, with a hop, skip and a jump we arrived safely in New Orleans (N.O.).  Having left London in driving rain and 8 degrees it was a pleasure to alight from the airport at dusk to a warm breeze, 22 degrees and mild humidity.  We were given the traditional ever rude USA welcome by our taxi driver – NOT, he was Indian, very helpful and pleasant.  We spent the half hour ride to our hotel chatting about India and where to find the best Indian restaurants in N O.  At the hotel check-in we were greeted by your typical over confident and positive American receptionist – NOT, she was a delightful shy young lady from India.  It turns out that she had only just joined the company and was having difficulty operating the computer.  Her accent was so strong I couldn’t understand a word she said, so Linda acted as interpreter.  Turns out she had us listed for an easy access disabled room!  Many years ago I read a book about the power of words.  One useful tip was on how to get upgraded at an airport, hotel, car hire company etc. It suggested the non offensive phrase “would it be possible to have a courtesy upgrade please?”.  Despite my temporary hearing difficulties, I understand her load and clear on this occasion…..she said no!  Nevertheless do try it, as it often works, and true to the book no one is ever offended by it.
Having checked in and anxious to delay bedtime for as long as possible (we are 6 hours behind the UK which means we were in danger of going to bed almost exactly at the time our body clocks were telling us to get up) we set of for dinner at the hotels sports bar.  Our waiter enthusiastically approached our table,crouched down on his haunches in that patronising way they do over here, and said “howdy sir, ma’am, my name is Randy and I’ll be your host for tonight” – NOT.  Are you following this theme?  He looked a lot like Imran Khan (yes I know he’s Pakistani), was charming and very helpful.  Yet another member of the sub continent brigade.  As many of you will know, further north in America all the waiters seem to be from eastern Europe, much like the UK.  Not so here.  So far it seems this area has been claimed by the Indians and I don’t mean Running Bulls clan!
Joy of joys we can receive Radio 4 on my BBC radio App.  This means that Linda won’t miss a single episode of The Archers.  And I can continue shouting at the politically biased John Humphries on BBC Radio 4 Today.  Bliss!
Fear not, I won’t witter on like this every day.  Jet lag wrecked my nights sleep so I am sitting in bed a 5.30am killing time until breakfast is served.
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First sight of the mighty Mississippi river

Here we go (well nearly!)

We have set up this blog as a convenient memoir of our travels.  However, you are more than welcome to dip in whenever you wish (feel free to subscribe to the blog in the usual way to ensure that you don’t miss even one exciting and tantalising morsel).  Our first trip recored here will start early May 2018 when we embark upon our road trip around the USA.  Starting in New Orleans it will end several weeks later in L.A.  You will be subjected to lots of exciting photos and information about the history of The Blues in the Mississippi Delta (Linda cannot wait!) and later on from Chicago to L.A.  Watch this space……….