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 Fest226 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.

Delta Easter and Dinner at the Blue Biscuit in Indianola @BlueBiscuit1

Easter Sunday afternoon after church proved to be an absolutely beautiful day, so I headed first down to the Blue Note on Beale Street in Memphis where my homeboy Tune had started working to try the food there, and had a bacon cheeseburger, which I can truly say is the best burger on Beale Street. Then, with nothing else to do for the day, I decided to head down into the Mississippi Delta with my camera, taking pictures and finally ending up at The Blue Biscuit, Trish Berry’s excellent restaurant in Indianola. Two things stood out about my trip overall that afternoon, one of them the extent to which many of the Delta towns’ business district are basically ghost towns, all too many of them collapsed into absolute ruins, even though the towns themselves are still inhabited. The other thing that I noticed was the groups of young people walking in many of these places, still dressed in their finest clothes. In a few of the towns, family reunions and gatherings were going on either in private yards or parks. At Drew, for the first time, I saw walls and makeshift shrines commemorating young people who had been murdered, yet Ruleville looked cleaner and more prosperous, and families had gathered in its park to enjoy the afternoon. Nearby, on the stretch of Front Street traditionally nicknamed “Greasy Street”, two clubs were jumping, the venerable Club Black Castle which I remember from WCLE radio broadcasts back in the day, and the more grown folks-oriented Main Event next door. But at the next town of Sunflower, something else was going on altogether. The town seemed abuzz with young people the moment I entered it. They seemed to be in yards, in parks and on every corner, in what seemed to be a festive mood, so I gave little thought to them as I headed downtown to start photographing old and historic buildings. Sunflower, which was an historic battleground in the Civil Rights Movement (the legendary Fannie Lou Hamer was from nearby Ruleville), is home to a Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee offshoot called the Sunflower County Freedom Project, which has taken over the row of historic buildings along the railroad downtown. However, I noticed almost immediately that Gangster Disciples graffiti had been spray-painted on the back of a stop sign, and not long thereafter, I heard police sirens heading into the downtown area. Apparently a brawl had broken out between two young women, in which bystanders had soon joined in. I parked my car outside a juke joint called Club Wide Open, as people gathered on the corner to see what was going on. “Oh, boy! Look at them run”, said a man from the club as a group of young men came running from the neighborhoods to the north toward the corner of Quiver and Martin Luther King where the fight had broken out. As I walked in that direction, I noticed pieces of hair weave strewn along the street, presumably from the fight, but as I got to the corner, I realized that the town police had sprayed pepper spray, and I caught some of it, so I prudently made my way back to my car. The remaining crowd seemed reluctant to disperse. “I want to know who jumped my muthafuckin cousin!” one young man kept yelling repeatedly, and I realized that the problems stirred up by the fight were likely to persist all night, so I got back to my car and headed on to Indianola.
It was nearly sundown when I reach Indianola, but there was just time for me to get some beautiful shots of the sun going down over Indian Bayou. The B. B. King Museum was closed, as was Club Ebony and 308 Blues Club (whose owner had been found dead earlier in the month), but the Blue Biscuit was open, and there was a decent crowd inside although there was no live music on Easter Sunday. I ordered my favorite meal there, biscuits and barbecue, which is exactly what it says it is, pulled pork placed between the halves of four buttermilk biscuits. It is truly incredible, and something that has to be tried to be believed. Afterwards, I made a drive around Indianola, but found very little going on, and called my DJ partner Bigg V to see if he knew where things were jumping off, but I couldn’t reach him either, so I started the drive back to Memphis. I considered stopping off at the Black Castle in Ruleville, but having to work in the morning, I thought better of it, and drove on into Memphis.

Vance, MS: Birthplace of John Lee Hooker

As I was driving down Highway 3 into the Mississippi Delta, I happened upon this small town called Vance, and immediately noticed a historic marker for the great bluesman John Lee Hooker, as well as what looked like an abandoned commissary store. I had to double back and take some photos of the place before I headed on further south to Indianola.

Juke Joint Fest 2013 Schedule, April 11-14, 2013 Clarksdale

jukebanner The Juke Joint Festival is one of Clarksdale’s two big music-related events each year, and the one I find the most enjoyable. The weather is perfect, many of the daytime events are free, and there’s no tents or roped-off areas to spoil your view of the performers on stage. It’s likely too late to get a room in Clarksdale, but it’s not too late to get a room in Tunica, Memphis, Cleveland, Indianola, Batesville etc. and drive over, and it’s definitely worth it. If you’ve never been, think of Juke Joint Festival as a South By Southwest of the blues and you’ve got the picture. A schedule of official and unofficial events can be found at http://www.jukejointfestival.com/fest_events.php. See you there.

Mississippi Highlights the Blues @SXSW 2013

#039 Mississippi Blues @ SXSW Like Memphis, Mississippi has increasingly tried to leverage its musical heritage into increased tourism and/or film production, so they also had a trade show exhibit highlighting the blues. Festivals that feature blues drive a considerable amount of the state’s tourism, particularly in the Delta region.