Wednesday night is becoming more of a night for live music in Memphis. In addition to Jerome Chism’s weekly performance at the Silver Spoon in Hickory Hill, Memphis soul singer Rodney “King” Ellis has started hosting a weekly Grown Folks Wednesday event at Memphis Sounds downtown, featuring the superb Fifth Element Band, and singer Jolynn Diggs. The club is down a flight of stairs underground, which gives it a sort of speakeasy atmosphere, and the band plays great soul and blues music all night long. And there’s no cover charge either. Meanwhile, Ellis is said to be hard at work on his forthcoming new album.
I had heard from Larry Chambers over at Ecko Records that there was now a blues club on Broadway in West Memphis, Arkansas that had blues on Sunday nights. So I had gone out there to check it out, and they weren’t doing blues that particular night because the club had been rented by a motorcycle club, but the next Sunday was the day after Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, and despite a rather cold rain, the small club was packed to overflowing, and great music from the Soul Connection Band and some guest vocalists was already under way. Blues singer Ms. Dierdre came up to sing “Boogie Oogie Oogie”, and then the man of the hour, Big John Cummings, came up. Cummings is an excellent singer and songwriter, perhaps best known for the song “Too Many Mechanics” recorded by Donnie Ray, with which Cummings closed out his set. The club, CJ’s Sports Bar & Blues, has the authentic blues atmosphere that visitors to Memphis are looking for, and Sunday night is not to be missed.
CJ’s Sports Bar & Blues
3110 E Broadway
West Memphis, AR 72301
Pontotoc blues musician Terry “Harmonica” Bean was the last artist I got to see at this year’s Juke Joint Festival before I had to drive back to Memphis to play my own gig. He was playing on the New World Stage in front of the New Roxy Theater with a fairly decent crowd there to here him. As always, the Juke Joint Festival was a full day of fun, the overwhelming majority of it free.
The closure of Madidi and then Rust basically left Clarksdale without an upscale restaurant at all, so the opening of the new Pinkbar is welcome. Located on John Lee Hooker Lane (which is really cool in and of itself), the Pinkbar inhabits an old tin-roof house that has been vacant for several years. Unfortunately, during the Juke Joint Festival, it was closed for a special event, but I will be back down to Clarksdale to try it soon enough.
After Garry Burnside performed, his brother Duwayne Burnside came onto the stage in front of Cat Head Delta Blues to perform his set. Duwayne performs many of his father’s classic Hill Country blues compositions, and frequently performs in and around North Mississippi. He is also the co-owner of Alice Mae’s Cafe just north of the square in Holly Springs on North Center Street.
WHen I made my way back to the Cat Head stage, Garry Burnside (one of the sons of the late R.L. Burnside) was on the stage with his band, and sitting in with him was singer/songwriter Shannon McNally from Holly Springs.