Hipness, Great Food and A Celebration of Sun Ra in Birmingham’s Avondale District

Art, Artists, Arts, Barbecue, Coffee, Coffee Bars, coffee houses, Food, jazz, music, musicians, night club, Pizza, Restaurants, venues

001 Post Office Pies002 Saw's Soul Kitchen003 Saw's Soul Kitchen004 Post Office Pies005 Saturn006 Avondale007 Post Office Pies008 Saw's Soul Kitchen009 Avondale Brewing Company010 Satellite Coffee Bar011 Satellite Coffee Bar012 Satellite Coffee Bar013 41st Street Pub014 Satellite Coffee Bar015 Satellite Coffee Bar
Prior to 2015, I had never heard of the Avondale neighborhood in Birmingham, but on my way to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, I noticed that the Yelp app on my phone was showing a number of restaurants on 41st Street in that area, so I decided to head there for lunch, to a pizza place called Post Office Pies. To my surprise, the area proved to be a district of restaurants and coffee bars, and there were a lot of choices. Despite originally deciding on pizza, I was extremely tempted by the oil drum barbecue in front of Saw’s Soul Kitchen next door, and the weather was so warm that people were sitting at the outdoor tables there. But I ultimately went ahead with my original pizza choice, and was quite pleased with the pepperoni and bacon pizza I enjoyed at Post Office Pies.
After lunch, I spied a coffee bar across the street called Satellite, which was attached to a music venue called Saturn. Inside was the last thing I would have expected- a wall display of Sun Ra album covers, although I finally remembered that Herman “Sonny” Blount was indeed born in Birmingham. The coffee there was great, the atmosphere cheerful, a great place for an after-lunch latte before continuing on my journey. Altogether, Avondale seems to be becoming a hip place for food and fun in Alabama’s largest city.

Post Office Pies
209 41st St S
Birmingham, AL 35222
(205) 599-9900

Saw’s Soul Kitchen
214 41st St S
Birmingham, AL 35222
(205) 591-1409

Saturn Birmingham/Satellite Coffee Bar
200 41st St S
Birmingham, AL 35222
(205) 703-9545

Craig Brewer Does Halloween Big at Earnestine and Hazel’s

alternative, Bands, entertainment, Event, Halloween, Hip Hop, music, musicians, night club, Parties, rap, rock, venues

1992 Craig Brewer Heaven & Hell PartyJPG1995 Jack Oblivian1997 Jack Oblivian1999 Frayser Boy & Craig Brewer2001 Craig Brewer & Tune C
Memphis filmmaker Craig Brewer celebrated the Halloween holiday with an all-star Heaven and Hell bash at the legendary Earnestine and Hazel’s downtown. Music for the night included The Sheiks, Jack Oblivian and Memphis’ rap godfather Al Kapone. By the end of the night, so many people had entered the building that it was nearly impossible to move! It was an epic evening indeed.

New Meets Old at the Plexx

Artists, band, Blues, Drummers, Drums, entertainment, Funk, music, musicians, Neo-Soul, Night Clubs, R & B, soul, southern soul

1981 LA & Otis Logan1989 Otis Logan1983 4 Soul Band1986 Otis Logan1988 Jewel Jones1987 Jewel Jones1990 Otis Logan
Dr. Alfred Brown’s club called The Plexx in an old decrepit shopping center on E. H. Crump Boulevard in Memphis is one of the few places in the city where authentic old-school live blues and soul can be heard, but on the Friday night before Halloween, things took a slightly different turn, as veteran blues singer Jewel Jones was backed by the 4 Soul Band, consisting of some of Memphis’ best young musicians, including Lloyd Anderson on bass and drummer Otis Logan. While it’s common to think of there being something of a musical divide between young and old, the consummate talents of these young musicians enabled them to fit in perfectly with the older blues and soul offerings of Ms. Jones. Veteran Memphis drummer Willie Hall was in the crowd as well, and it was a great night of Memphis music off the beaten path and away from the tourist crowd

Remembering Trumpet Black on a Rainy Monday Morning

Art, Artists, Arts, band, brass band, Breakfast, Coffee, Coffee Bars, coffee houses, Food, jazz, music, musicians, Photography, Restaurants, Travel

013 Trumpet Black014 Trumpet Black015 Treme016 Treme017 Treme1971 Darren & Bunny1974 Bunny1979 R. L. Burnside Poster1972 Darren & Bunny1975 French Truck Coffee1976 French Truck Coffee
Monday morning was still overcast and rainy, but at least the rain had breaks in it. My homeboy Darren and I went and picked up Bunny, the tuba player from the TBC Brass Band, and we all headed over to my favorite breakfast place, the Who Dat Coffee Cafe on Burgundy in the Marigny neighborhood. Afterwards, we headed over to the Treme neighborhood, where there was a new mural in honor of the late Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill, the musician who died suddenly in Japan earlier in the year due to complications from a dental procedure. Although the rain was starting back up, we managed to take some pictures there, and then I was trying to pick up a TBC Brass Band t-shirt, but we could not get in touch with the band member who had the shirts. So I dropped Darren and Bunny back off, headed Uptown to a new coffee bar called French Truck Coffee, which was really good, and then hit the road back toward Memphis.

The Crescent City and Yet More Rain

Bands, Brass Bands, Burgers, Coffee, Coffee Bars, coffee houses, entertainment, events, Food, Hamburgers, music, musicians, musicology, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, second-lines

1951 Dis & Dat1954 Maison Bourbon1957 Hot 8 Brass Band1959 Hot 8 Brass Band1961 Hot 8 Brass Band1962 Hot 8 Brass Band1963 Hot 8 Brass Band1964 Hot 8 Brass Band1965 Hot 8 Brass Band1969 Hot 8 Brass Band
When I headed out from Monroe on Sunday morning, it was still raining. Although I had hoped the rain would end, it really did not, and was still going on when I arrived in New Orleans. I stopped and ate lunch at a place called Dis & Dat on Banks Street, a burger concept opened by the same people who started Dat Dog. From there I made my way over to the Treme Coffeehouse, and enjoyed a latte, as the second-line I had hoped to see was not being held due to the rain. Instead, I called my homeboy Darren from the TBC Brass Band, and we ended up riding out to Pizza Domenica with him, and then to the Maison Bourbon for live jazz. Ultimately, we ended up at the Howling Wolf in the Central Business District, where the Hot 8 Brass Band plays every Sunday night.

Grambling Homecoming 2015: And The Rains Came

Black History, Breakfast, events, Food, Football, History, marching bands, Parades, Pizza, Politics, Restaurants, Sports

1948 Lea's of Lecompte1949 Waterfront Grill1950 Waterfront Grill
When I got up early for breakfast on Grambling’s Homecoming Day, the weather was grey, but it wasn’t raining, so I was hopeful as I went to Lea’s of LeCompte in Monroe for breakfast. But no sooner had I left Monroe headed toward Ruston than the rains came down fiercely, and it was a cold and miserable rain at that. Even though I made my way to the area of Grambling where the parade was to begin, I could not find any place to park, and the rains were coming down so heavily that I decided to forego the parade and head to the Lincoln Parish Library in Ruston instead to do some historical research. About noon or so, I left the library, but the rains were continuing, so I headed over to Johnny’s Pizza House on Cooktown Road for a pizza buffet lunch. After that, it was still raining, and evident that the storms were not going to let up enough to let me attend the football game. I had no umbrella, no raincoat and no poncho. So I headed back to West Monroe, visiting the antique malls along Trenton Street, but really not finding much of anything of value. At dinner time, I headed to the Waterfront Grill, my favorite restaurant in Monroe, for a shrimp dinner, and then headed back over to Grambling to briefly hang out with my friend Dr. Reginald Owens, a journalism professor on the faculty at Louisiana Tech. But the rainy day had also been election day, so he had to go and comfort his cousin, who had lost his campaign for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury. Even worse, David Vitter had won the primary for governor, and was attacking his opponent on television as a proxy for Barack Obama. Altogether, it was a thoroughly depressing day.

A Rainy Day In Shreveport

Albums, Art, Art Galleries, Artists, Arts, Bands, Books, Breakfast, clothing, Coffee, Coffee Bars, coffee houses, events, Food, Football, Hip Hop, marching bands, Museums, music, musicians, musicology, Parades, Photography, R & B, rap, Record Labels, Record Stores, records, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Schools, soul, Urban Wear

001 The Kitchen, Monroe002 Day Old Blues Records003 Day Old Blues Records004 Rick's Records005 Artspace006 Artspace007 Artspace1928 Stan Lewis Exhibit1930 Stan Lewis Exhibit1932 Stan Lewis Exhibit1934 Stan Lewis Exhibit008 Texas Street011 Big D's Bar-B-Que012 Big D's Bar-B-Que1936 Port-au-Prince1940 Cross Lake1942 Port-au-Prince1944 Port-au-Prince1938 Cross Lake1945 Lakeshore Clothing & Music1946 Cedar Grove Wall of Hoods1947 Rhino Coffee
I usually spend the Friday before Grambling Homecoming shopping, searching for Grambling memorabilia and ephemera, as well as records and books. But this year, rather than spending the day in antique malls in West Monroe, where in recent years the pickings have been slim, I decided to head over to Shreveport and Bossier City instead, which somewhat proved to be a mistake. I had eaten breakfast at a downtown Monroe restaurant called The Kitchen, and had assumed because it wasn’t raining in Monroe that it wouldn’t be raining in Shreveport. Instead, the rain started in rather heavy at Ruston, and got worse the further west I went. As it turned out, I was dealing with heavy downpours almost the entire day in Shreveport. I spent the day visiting several antique malls, book shops, the new Day Old Records store (which hadn’t existed the last time I was in Shreveport) and flea markets. But the rain made things difficult, and I failed to find anything really of interest. Worse, a lot of familiar landmarks that I knew and loved in Shreveport were long gone, including Murrell’s, Joe’s Diner, Garland’s Super Sounds and Lakeshore All Around Sounds. Don’s Steak and Seafood was abandoned and about to be torn down. However, when I learned that there was an exhibit at Artspace downtown that was honoring Stan Lewis, the owner of Stan’s Record Shops and the Jewel/Paula/Ronn family of record labels, I headed over there to check it out. Actually, a museum was a decent place to be on such a wet and rainy day, and I ended up purchasing a Jewel/Paula/Ronn T-shirt from the museum’s gift shop. As I headed down Texas Street, I came past the Louisiana State Fairgrounds, where the State Fair of Louisiana was going on despite the rain, and across the street at Fair Park High School, the marching band was marching around the school building performing, and traffic was temporarily stopped in all directions. I wasn’t sure if it was a special event due to the fair, or whether it was something that happens every Friday at the school. Unfortunately, the nearby Dunn’s Flea Market, where I often used to find Grambling memorabilia, was closed, presumably due to the rain.
One bright spot in an otherwise dull and depressing day was that the former Smith’s Cross Lake Inn had been reopened by new owners under a different name, Port-au-Prince. This had been my favorite restaurant in Shreveport for many years, before it closed abruptly and was boarded up. The new restaurant has a beautiful setting and decor, but the menu is a little more low-end than its predecessors. The emphasis is on catfish, and while a filet mignon remains on the menu, most of the small crowd that was there ordered the catfish, as I did. For the most part, I was pleased with the food. The catfish was excellent, and the strangely sweet french fries, while unusual, grew on me with time. What I didn’t particularly like was the restaurant’s policy of giving everyone hush puppies, bean soup, cole slaw and pickles, whether they want any of those things or not. Still, the overall experience was positive, and the view of the lake cannot be beat. My dinner there cheered me greatly.
Afterwards, I headed by a new place called Lakeshore Clothing and Music, which indeed had a decent selection of rap and blues compact discs as well as clothing, and then I made one last stop at Rhino Coffee, a cheerful coffee bar on Southfield Road that also did not exist the last time I was in Shreveport. The breve latte they made for me was delicious as I headed back east on I-20.
When I got to Grambling, the rain had stopped, at least temporarily, and I stopped at an outdoor stand and bought a couple of Grambling T-shirts and a Grambling jacket. I made a drive around the campus, where there was actually something of a crowd out and about, taking advantage of the lull in the rain. But there didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on, and I could not get in touch with my friend, Dr. Reginald Owens, so I headed on back to Monroe. The rain had started again, and I ended up going to the hotel room and to bed.

Get A Bird’s-Eye View of Oxford at The Coop

Art, Blues, Books, Breakfast, Burgers, Coffee, Coffee Bars, coffee houses, Food, Hotels, Restaurants

1911 The Coop Sunset1914 Oxford From The Coop1915 Oxford Sunset1917 Sherena Boyce1919 Cabin 821921 Cabin 821924 The Graduate
It was an absolutely gorgeous, warm afternoon, and a lady friend and I decided to head down to Oxford, Mississippi for dinner, a browse in my favorite bookstore and perhaps dessert. It’s not uncommon for us to go to Oxford, but on this evening, we discovered something new, a boutique hotel called the Graduate, which has opened on the site of the old Oxford Inn on North Lamar, a block or so from the square. As a hotel, the Graduate, with about 9 stories or so, looks like something straight out of Miami’s South Beach, but what attracted us was a rooftop bar and grill called The Coop. The Coop is an elegant space, with indoor and outdoor seating, but in warm weather, the outdoor deck is the better choice, with its panoramic view of Oxford. As my friend and I entered, a recording of Junior Kimbrough was playing overhead, a good omen indeed. We were seated on the outdoor deck at a table, while the sun slowly set in the west over the town, an experience that really isn’t even available in Memphis. My friend enjoyed an appetizer and a glass of wine. The big thing at The Coop is sliders, which come 2 to an order. There are 9 types of sliders, including the standard hamburger type. They’re not particularly expensive, either, and delicious. The Coop also has truffle fries, and they come in a cup with parmesan cheese. Also quite delicious. Service proved to be prompt and cheerful, and the food good, despite the somewhat limited menu. And it’s worth it for the unprecedented vistas. From up there, Oxford seems like some romantic resort town. And perhaps that’s the point.
Downstairs, the lobby of the hotel is also decorative and beautiful. The desk simulates bookshelves, with hundreds of bookspines, complete with authors and titles worked into the design. The lamps around the desk are globes of the world, complete with country details. Faulknerian art work hangs on the walls. But off the lobby is another restaurant choice, Cabin 82, which is primarily a coffee bar, despite offering a limited menu of breakfast and chicken biscuits. Their breve lattes are absolutely delicious, and although Oxford does have other coffee bars, it is conveniently located for those who have had dinner at The Coop.

The Tennessee Delta III

Bands, Baseball, Basketball, Black History, Blues, music, musicians, musicology, Parks, Photography, Schools, Sports

001 Gainsville002 Gainsville003 Gainsville004 Gainsville005 Gainsville006 Gainsville007 Gus's Fried Chicken008 Gus's Fried Chicken009 Gus's Fried Chicken010 Gus's Fried Chicken011 Beech Chapel CME012 Beech Chapel CME013 Beech Chapel CME014 Trinity In The Fields015 Trinity In The Fields016 Trinity In The Fields017 Trinity In The Fields018 Trinity In The Fields019 Cotton Fields020 Stanton Masonic Lodge021 Stanton Baptist Church022 Stanton Masonic Lodge & School023 Stanton024 Stanton025 Suga's Diner026 Suga's Diner027 Suga's Diner028 Stanton029 Stanton030 Stanton031 Stanton032 Stanton033 Stanton034 Stanton035 Stanton036 Stanton037 Stanton038 Stanton039 Zodiac Park040 Zodiac Park041 Zodiac Park042 Zodiac Park043 Zodiac Park044 Zodiac Park045 Zodiac Park046 Zodiac Park047 Zodiac Park048 Zodiac Park049 Zodiac Park050 Zodiac Park051 Zodiac Park052 Zodiac Park053 Zodiac Park054 Zodiac Park055 Zodiac Park056 Zodiac Park057 Zodiac Park058 Zodiac Park
For my third photographic journey documenting the blues country of West Tennessee, I stayed mostly in Tipton and Haywood Counties, photographing the historic store in Gainsville, old churches out on the Mason-Charleston Road, and historic buildings in the Haywood County community of Stanton. Perhaps my best find though was a large private ball field out north of Mason, where a Black community baseball team called the Zodiacs once played. Such community ball parks used to be common in Black communities across the South, and were occasionally the sites of Fourth-of-July picnics where fife-and-drum bands or blues musicians played. One such ballfield used to be on Germantown Road near Ellis Road in the Oak Grove community outside of Bartlett when I was a teenager. It has now sadly been torn down.
The Zodiacs Park is in poor condition, and almost looks abandoned, but teenagers from Mason use its basketball courts on warm afternoons, and the fact that some new equipment can be seen on the premises, such as a gas barbecue grill, suggests that the complex is at least still occasionally used. Still, with the park completely empty on a late fall afternoon, it seemed a sad and lonely place indeed.

The Tennessee Delta II

Black History, History, Photography

001 Abandoned Store003 Abandoned Store004 Abandoned Store005 Williston006 Williston007 Williston008 Williston009 McFerren's Grocery010 McFerren's Grocery011 McFerren's Grocery012 McFerren's Grocery013 Somerville014 Somerville015 McFerren&#data-flickr-embed=016 Somerville017 Somerville018 Somerville019 Somerville020 Fayette Civic and Welfare League021 Macon022 Macon023 Macon024 Macon025 Macon026 Macon027 Macon028 Macon029 Macon030 Macon031 Alexander Place032 Alexander Place033 Macon Community Center035 Abandoned Mansion036 Macon037 Abandoned Mansion038 Abandoned Mansion039 Abandoned Mansion040 Abandoned Mansion041 Abandoned Guest House042 Macon School Site043 Macon School Site044 Macon School Site045 Macon School Site046 Abandoned Gas Station047 Abandoned Gas Station048 Oakland TN049 Oakland TN050 Oakland TN
On my second photographic journey into Fayette County, I stayed mostly in the southeast quadrant of the county, in the areas between Rossville, Moscow, Oakland, Williston and Somerville. I didn’t find as much evidence of the county’s blues culture as I had hoped, but I did find some old and historic buildings. At Somerville, I took pictures of John McFerren’s store, which is no longer open, but which was the headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement in Fayette County. An old classic car has been parked in front of it, possibly McFerren’s car, and the site almost looks as if it is being prepared to be a museum. Sadly, the Fayette County Civic and Welfare League Community Center where I had met Viola McFerren, John McFerren’s ex-wife and a leader in the county’s struggle for civil rights, is now abandoned and chained off on the road toward Macon. But at Macon, I found a number of historic buildings, including an abandoned mansion tucked back into the woods north of the road. Next door was a mysterious crosswork of sidewalks, a fountain and a flagpole. I couldn’t imagine what they had belonged to until I noticed the flagpole, and suddenly I realized that this was probably the site of Macon’s elementary school. However, no other trace of the building remained. The nearby Town of Oakland has grown significantly over the last several years as it is becoming a suburb of Memphis. But its Main Street has remained largely the way it was when I first saw it in the 1980’s, except that the railroad tracks are long gone. The right of way would actually make a great biking and hiking trail.