Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Walking into Clarksdale – 1 –

We headed back across the Mississippi from Helena and continued south on Highway 61, until we reached Clarksdale, immortalized by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on their post-Zeppelin project.  We pulled into town, and there, at the junction between Highways 61 and 49, there stands a guitar monument. For this is the Crossroads – given legendary status in blues folklore by arguably the greatest bluesman of them all, Robert Johnson. But more about the Crossroads, and Mr. Johnson in a later post.

We checked into our motel and went for a wander through the streets of this old town, epicentre of the blues. Birthplace of Sam Cooke, and the town where Bessie Smith died after an automobile accident out on Highway 61. She died in what became the Riverside Hotel, it had previously been a Negroes-only hospital, and legend has it that she died due to being turmed away from the better equipped white hospital. The sad reality however, is that an ambulance wouldn’t have prioritized her in the first place, regardless of which hospital she was taken.

The Riverside...Bessie Smith's last stop

We found the site of the house where WC Handy lived for some two years, cataloging blues music, and we found a beautifully restored Greyhound bus station, which now housed the Clarksdale visitor centre. We met a jovial pair of guys in there, who gave us the lowdown on the town, and where to head that evening.

So later that night, at their suggestion, we set off for the Hambone gallery, where artist and musician Sam Street exhibited and created his paintings. Tonight it was playing host to a young lady who had just been up in Memphis taking part in the Blues challenge as a solo performer. The gallery had a lovely ambience, helped no doubt by the wood burning stove and big comfy sofas! Miki and I settled down with a couple of beers and enjoyed a great evening of music.

Accompanying herself on guitar, she had a great voice, reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt, and lovely soft touch when playing lead. Courtesy of a small sampling box, she was able to cleverly play a verse into it, then seemlessly press it to play back in time, so she could solo over the top. Simple, but very effective. I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t catch her name. If anyone reads this who was there, please let me know!

Heading back to the motel, we were well pleased with our first afternoon and evening in Clarksdale, and looked forward to the following day.


Kev Moore


January 29, 2010 - Posted by | Art, travel, writing | , , ,

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