An Afternoon in Biloxi and Ocean Springs, Dinner in Gulfport


My friend and I had visited my cousin in the Handsboro neighborhood of Gulfport, and then we had headed on east into Biloxi. We noticed a festival going on at Point Cadet close to the bridge, but I had intended to go on to Ocean Springs, which has become a charming little artists’ colony since Hurricane Katrina, and to a waterfront bar and grill called Da Bayou Bar and Grill in Gulf Park Estates. Unfortunately, clouds were gathering and rain beginning to fall, so eating at a restaurant that primarily seemed outdoors was not an option, so we headed back to Ocean Springs, where rain was pouring. To our amazement, the heavy rains were continuing throughout Biloxi, where the outdoor festival we had seen was breaking up, and in Gulfport as well. Nevertheless, we had to eat somewhere, so we decided to park in downtown Gulfport and pick a spot for dinner.
Gulfport’s downtown had fallen on hard times long before Hurricane Katrina, emptying out rapidly in the 1970’s due to the opening of Edgewater Gulf Mall on the border between Gulfport and Biloxi. Despite occasional new openings and numerous plans, nothing really made a difference in downtown Gulfport through the early 1990’s, not even the building and opening of a massive Hancock Bank headquarters there. Even the casinos did more harm than good, as their buffets and restaurants brought hard times to other restaurants, including some that had been coastal icons for decades. But finally, during the 12 years since Katrina, downtown Gulfport shows signs of finally turning the corner. The opening of restaurants like the Half Shell Oyster House (where we ate dinner) and live music venues like the Thirteenth Street Jazz Bistro is beginning to make Gulfport’s downtown a destination for food and fun. We were also thrilled to discover an alley of brightly-colored painted murals called Fishbone Alley that runs between a number of the establishments. In fact, the difficulty for us was not finding a place to eat, but rather choosing from a number of downtown places that were available. Despite the rain, we left Gulfport full and contented.

Great Books and Coffee With A View in Pass Christian


My lady friend had never been to the Mississippi Coast even though she is from Mississippi, so during our weekend in New Orleans, I made plans for us to drive over to the coast for the afternoon on Saturday, and we stopped first in Pass Christian, a town that had been almost completely destroyed in Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Progress has been slow, but the community is springing back to life, and nowhere is that more evident than with the opening of a number of restaurants, shops and a hotel in the downtown and harbor areas. Of particular interest is a sleek, modernistic coffee bar called Cat Island Coffeehouse, which is actually attached to an independent bookstore called Pass Christian Books, sitting on the hill in Pass Christian’s downtown with an amazing view of the Gulf of Mexico and the marina and harbor. Coffee, books and waterfront views are three of my favorite things in life, so finding them all in one place is thrilling, to say the least. The mocha latte I ordered was terrific, and the selection of books, particularly those about Mississippi and the Civil Rights Movement, were excellent as well. The coffeehouse also offers wine and small food items, and with comfortable couches and chairs, large picture windows and a breezy, outdoor deck, makes an excellent place to look out over the Gulf or to enjoy an evening sunset. On this particular day, full of clear blues skies, and sunshine, we could see the vague outline of Cat Island on the horizon where the sea and sky met. I could have spent far too much money in Pass Christian Books/Cat Island Coffeehouse, but I limited myself to one book, and we headed on our way toward Gulfport. But this first visit will not be our last.

Cat Island Coffeehouse/Pass Christian Books
300 East Scenic Drive
Pass Christian, MS 39571
(228) 222-4827

How To Destroy A Town Part 1: Hughes, Arkansas

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

Hughes, Arkansas, the second-largest town in St. Francis County, has by all accounts been a resilient town. It was the home or birthplace of many great blues musicians, including Johnny Shines. It survived the Flood of 1937, an event so severe that it sticks in the memory of the area, and it has survived fires and the decline of agriculture. But it could not survive the decision of the Arkansas State Department of Education last summer to dissolve its school district and forcibly consolidate it with West Memphis, over 26 miles away on poor, two-lane highways. Hughes is merely the latest town to be victimized by a vicious state law that ought to be repealed, which requires the dissolving and merging of school districts whenever a school district falls below 350 students. The law makes no provisions for the wishes of the town’s residents or the students, either with regard to keeping the local school district open, nor with what district they would prefer to attend if their district must be closed. Nor does the law require the receiving district to keep local schools open, even when students would otherwise have to travel long distances, such as the 50-mile roundtrip per day that Hughes students now face, unless their parents decide to relocate to West Memphis, which is why this law is a town-killer. Hughes has lost an estimated 400 residents since 2010, and doubtless are losing many more by the day, largely because of the school situation. The local shopping center, which contained the town’s only food store, is now completely abandoned. Downtown looks even worse, with many old, decrepit and abandoned buildings. Hughes High School is abandoned, including the football field that was renamed for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn with such fanfare just two years ago. And even more shocking is the ruins of Mildred Jackson Elementary School, the campus of what was once the Black high school in Hughes. Not only is it abandoned, but in ruins, as part of the building has collapsed, likely from fire after it was abandoned. It is clear that the building has been vandalized and broken into. Not that the school situation is the cause of everything that has happened in Hughes. There is little industry there, and St. Francis County is not a rich county. Agriculture is not what is was, opportunity is limited, and close proximity to West Memphis and Memphis has encouraged many young people to move away. But the close proximity to Memphis could have been an asset rather than a curse. With proper planning, a better road link to Memphis, and a local school system, Hughes could conceivably have become a bedroom community for those who work in Memphis. It has many historic buildings and homes. But first, the draconian law that caused this kind of destruction needs to be repealed. Local communities that want to retain their own school districts should be allowed to do so. And in areas like many counties in Eastern Arkansas, where declining populations are wreaking havoc on local school districts, the state ought to consider the formation of county-based school systems, such as those in Tennessee and Mississippi, which would allow local high school like the one in Hughes to remain open. Without schools, no town can ever be renewed.

Strike A Home Run At Baseball Rich Clothing In Southaven

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

When visiting the Southaven Towne Center on a recent Sunday, I was somewhat surprised to see a shop called Baseball Rich Clothing. The name suggested an urban clothing store, and Southaven, Mississippi wasn’t exactly the place I would expect to find one. To my surprise, Baseball Rich Clothing turned out not to be merely an urban clothing store, but rather a locally-based urban clothing line, with a considerable number of designs and color schemes. The name springs from the fact that the owner was briefly a minor league baseball player, and the line is one of several new Memphis-based clothing lines that are popping up nowadays (Millionaire Grind and Memphis Mane are two others. Full reviews of them will be forthcoming). I was thrilled with nearly everything I saw, and the only real difficulty was settling on one shirt to purchase, as they had a seemingly-endless variety of designs and color schemes. Their headquarters store is open to the public at the Southaven Towne Center and worth a visit.

Baseball Rich Clothing
6519 Towne Center Drive
Southaven, MS 38671
(662) 772-9600
baseballrichclothing@gmail.com

Celebrating The Juke Joint Legacy In Clarksdale

001 Messengers002 Red's Juke Joint003 Sunflower Avenue004 Ground Zero005 Juke Joint Fest006 Barbecuing007 Stud008 Stud at Blues Alley009 Stud010 The Stud Ford Experience011 Juke Joint Fest012 Delta Amusement Cafe013 Juke Joint Fest014 Juke Joint Fest015 Juke Joint Fest016 Juke Joint Fest062 Juke Joint Fest Merchandise Tent063 Juke Joint Fest064 Juke Joint Fest065 Juke Joint Fest066 Kenny Brown067 Juke Joint Festival068 Juke Joint Fest069 Juke Joint Fest070 Juke Joint Fest071 Juke Joint Fest072 Juke Joint Fest073 Juke Joint Fest074 Juke Joint Fst075 The Bank076 The Bank077 Otis TCB Taylor078 Otis TCB Taylor079 Otis TCB Taylor080 Otis TCB Taylor081 Otis TCB Taylor082 Otis TCB Taylor083 Otis TCB Taylor084 Juke Joint Fest085 Yazoo Pass086 Cedric Burnside & Trenton Ayers087 Trenton Ayers088 Cedric Burnside089 Cedric Burnside090 Trenton Ayers091 Juke Joint Fans092 Juke Joint Fest093 Juke Joint Fest094 Granma's House of Blues095 Our Granma's House of Pancakes112 Juke Joint Fest113 Juke Joint Fest114 Juke Joint Fest115 The Elements Band116 The Elements Band117 The Elements Band118 The Elements Band
119 The Elements Band120 Juke Joint Fest121 Juke Joint Fest122 The Elements Band123 Juke Joint Fest124 Juke Joint Fest125 Sunflower River126 Sunflower127 The Griot Project128 Griot Youth Program129 Griot Youth Program130 Juke Joint Festival174 Juke Joint Fest175 Juke Joint Fest176 Juke Joint Fest183 Juke Joint Fest219 Take Our Picture220 Take Our Picture221 Ground Zero222 Juke Joint Fest223 Delta Amusement Cafe224 Juke Joint Fest225 Judata-flickr-embed=226 Ground Zero227 Juke Joint Fest278 Juke Joint Fest280 Juke Joint Fest297 Yazoo Pass313 Juke Joint Fest315 CSpire317 The Elements Band

Clarksdale rarely gets mentioned in the same context as South Beach Miami, the Vegas Strip, New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but once a year, in April, people from all over the world flood to the Mississippi Delta for three days of great blues, arts, crafts and food. The Juke Joint Festival has grown from humble beginnings to become the largest festival in Clarksdale, surpassing the older Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, and it is not unusual to hear all kinds of foreign accents along Delta Avenue on the weekend of the festival. Not only is Juke Joint Festival a world of fun, but the overwhelming majority of it is free of charge. The night shows on Saturday require a $10 wristband, which is a real bargain when compared to the price of a ticket to the average American music festival. For the lover of blues and American roots culture, Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival is not to be missed.

Great Coffee, Gourmet Food, Designer Clothes and Art on South Main

1730 Coffee Selection1731 387 Pantry1732 Stock & Belle1733 Stock & Belle1734 Coffee1735 Stock & Belle1736 Stock & Belle1737 387 Pantry1738 Brews1739 Stock & Belle1740 Stock & Belle
I was on South Main downtown one evening because I was to speak at a hip-hop conference at Leadership Memphis, but I wanted a coffee before it started, so I started walking down toward the nearest coffee bar, hoping it would be open. To my surprise, much closer to the Leadership Memphis offices, I came upon a sign that said “387 Pantry- Coffee”, so I ventured inside to discover one of Memphis’ newest retail establishments. It’s hard to say exactly what the space at 387 South Main actually is, as it is a little bit of everything. I suppose the main space is called Stock & Belle. Primarily it is a fashion boutique, with designer clothing, but also some really cool local art for sale on the walls. Upstairs there is a salon. But another section of the space has been walled off to form a small grocery store known as the 387 Pantry. Gourmet foods and rare brands of coffee beans are the draw here, and within it is a small counter called Brews, where cups of coffee are available, made from the amazing $11,000 coffee machine known as a Clover. Clovers reproduce the French Press process in a machine, and have been said to produce a more flavorful cup of coffee. So I had to try one, and I was quite pleased with it. I also could not resist buying boxes of Velo brand Colombian Tierradentro and Guatemalan Waykan coffee beans. The employe informed me that the store’s brands of coffee beans will change monthly, so it’s probably a good idea to buy what you see that you want when you see it.

Stock & Belle/387 Pantry/Brews
387 South Main
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 222-8972
https://instagram.com/stockandbelle/
https://www.facebook.com/StockandBelle

https://instagram.com/387PANTRY
https://www.facebook.com/pages/387-Pantry/507476216072950

Record Store Day in Memphis

001 Goner Records Record Store Day002 Goner Records003 Record Store Day, Goner Records004 Goner Records005 Goner Records006 The BlackBerries007 The BlackBerries009 The BlackBerries010 The BlackBerries011 Shangri-La Records012 Shangri-La Records013 Shangri-La Records014 Beale Street015 Beale Street016 Beale Street017 Memphis Music019 Beale Street020 Memphis Music021 Artistik Approach022 Artistik Approach023 Beale Street024 Beale Street025 Beale Street026 Beale Street027 Beale Street028 Beale Street029 Beale Street
Record Store Day is a worldwide holiday held in April to call attention to an endangered species, the neighborhood record store. Record companies release all kinds of cool limited-edition vinyl LP’s and singles, and local stores often sponsor live performances on the day, and with vinyl sales picking up all the time, the future of independent stores doesn’t seem quite as bleak as it did a few years ago. In Memphis, three stores were official Record Store Day participants, and the first one I visited was Goner Records in the hip Cooper-Young neighborhood. Goner is a record label as well as a store, and not surprisingly they made a big deal of the day, with live bands such as the Blackberries out under the gazebo at Cooper and Young, and a store literally full of customers.
Things seemed more subdued at Shangri-La Records on Madison Avenue, although they had opened an hour earlier than Goner. They had decided to have their live music the next day on Sunday, when they were having Son of Mudboy play for an album release party for the reissue of Jim Dickinson’s legendary Beale Street Saturday Night compilation, but there were still a number of crate diggers enjoying their Saturday afternoon by browsing.
The third and final store participating in Record Store Day was Memphis Music, the blues-oriented record store on Beale Street, where the Memphis Music Commission had decided to sponsor live performances. Unfortunately, things were quite hectic on Beale, with a Corvette competition, and the annual Africa In April festival at Church Park, but small crowds gathered to enjoy Memphis singer-songwriter Michael Joyner and the a cappella vocal group Artistik Approach. It needs to also be pointed out that Memphis Music has greatly increased its vinyl selection over the last year or so, and is not just a store for tourists, but is worth a visit from local music lovers as well. It’s selection of import CD”s, particularly those with a Memphis connection, is also worth browsing.

Goner Records
2152 Young Av
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 722-0095
https://www.goner-records.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Goner-Records/73295355242


http://goner-records.tumblr.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/GonerRecords

Shangri-La Records
1916 Madison Av
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 274-1916
http://shangri.com
https://www.facebook.com/ShangriLaRecords
http://www.shangrilaprojects.com

Memphis Music
149 Beale St
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 526-5047
http://memphismusicstore.com

Having Fun in Columbia, South Carolina's Vista District

001 Liberty Tap Room003 Blue Marlin004 Blue Marlin005 Longhorn Steakhouse006 Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt007 Cupcake Down South008 Cupcake Down South009 Blue Marlin010 Wild Hare Sports Cafe011 Carolina Strip Club012 Carolina Strip Club013 World of Beer014 World of Beer
On Friday June 27, I flew into Columbia, South Carolina to be a panelist at the Vocalis Music Industry Conference which was being held over the weekend. With no conference activities scheduled for the the Friday night, I headed downtown to the city’s entertainment district called the Vista. Unlike Memphis’ Beale Street, the Vista District is a large neighborhood, about three blocks wide and perhaps six blocks long along the Broad River, and differs from other entertainment districts in that it has an equal number of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. While there are certainly plenty of live music venues, and liquor is available, there are also plenty of ordinary, family-friendly restaurants, frozen yogurt and dessert shops and boutiques. The place is also extremely attractive, and has little of the rowdy, drunken behavior that other cities often have in their entertainment districts. I decided to eat dinner at the Liberty Tap House, as I remember enjoying it in Myrtle Beach some years ago, and I have to say that I was quite pleased.

Checking Out The New Louisiana Music Factory @LMFNews on @FrenchmenStreet

Louisiana Music Factory 032Decatur Street 033Young Avenue Deli R. L. Burnside Poster034
Since the last time I had been in New Orleans, the great Louisiana Music Factory record store had moved from their longtime location on Decatur Street to new digs on the ground level of the building where Offbeat Magazine is headquartered at the foot of Frenchmen Street. While the new location is smaller (there’s no upstairs), there’s still plenty of selection. I can usually expect to spend about $100 in this store, and this trip was no exception. While vinyl and CD’s are the main attractions, don’t overlook the amazing book department, which is for the most part restricted to books about music or books about New Orleans (I’m especially partial to books that are about both). There’s also a fairly decent selection of DVD’s (mostly about Louisiana), some T-shirts, and an assortment of concert poster replicas. Don’t miss it.

Louisiana Music Factory
421 Frenchmen Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 586-1094
http://www.louisianamusicfactory.com

Book and Record Shopping in St. Louis


Although I was in St. Louis for a Recording Academy event, the event wasn’t until the evening, so I had the better part of the day to go around to local book stores and record stores, and St. Louis is really a dream come true to anyone who collects books or records. As the day progressed, I made my way around to Left Bank Books, the Book House, STL Books, Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records, the last of which was only a couple of doors down from where our event was being held.