Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Walking into Clarksdale – 2 –

 

Our second day in Clarksdale began with blue skies, and so we decided to explore a little of the surrounding area, heading first out to a  town called Friar’s Point on the banks of the Mississippi.

Initially, we couldn’t see the river for the huge levee that protected the town from possible flooding, and there were signs everywhere telling us that the levee was not a public road and warning us no trespassing, so we drove into town, got out and wandered around for a while.

It was really quite eerie. There was an almost total absence of people, and the shops were full of items, yet closed up, shrouded in dust and cobwebs, almost from another time. Even the museum, with the rusting hulks of farm machinery and an old tank standing silent guard outside, looked abandoned.

The Petrol Station looked like it hadn’t pumped gas since the invasion of Kuwait, yet the town sported a shiny Police station and Post Office.

Some of the houses were lovely, yet there was an air of decay about the place.  A old lady, driving by, slowed and rolled her window down, greeting us warmly.

“Ya’ll visiting  Friar’s Point? Mighty nice to have you here!” – and she proceeded to tell us where to find the church where Conway Twitty would lie in the ditch listening to the gospel music. He was born here apparently, and the lady went on to point out other items of interest, such as the house up by the highway that was destroyed by a recent tornado. This qualifies as an attraction, it seems. I thought it rather more likely to keep people away.

We asked her about the shops. She told us the main shop was closed because the owner had diabetes, and the petrol station closed because the owner had cancer. During this conversation a black guy had wandered up and told the old lady someone had been trying to kill him, gesturing to his head. She took this news with remarkable aplomb, as though he’d been asking her the time. It seemed he was perhaps one bud lite short of a six-pack. We made our excuses, and like the Confederates before us, beat a hasty retreat.

It was telling that no-one had stepped into the breach and re-opened the shop or the petrol station. The town, still bearing the scars of Union shelling from the river, was finally dying.

The lady had told us that we could in fact scale the levee and go on down to the river, so that is what we did, and Miki did a couple of sketches before we left. It was sad to see a town this way, yet moving to talk to someone who was still clearly proud of the place she had lived all her life.

The town had a marker on the blues trail , commemorating Robert Nighthawk, who called this town his home at various times in his life, and also immortalized it in song in 1940. I hope the trail helps to bring visitors back to Friar’s Point and breathes some life back into this proud old town.

We hit the road again and explored a little of Highway 1, discovering a lake off the beaten track and a house where a guy had made a fence around his property entirely out of kiddies’ tricycles!  Being hugely influenced by American horror movies, I couldn’t help but think the guy had abducted about 100 innocently-pedalling children in order to get his free fence! -or perhaps his wife had been inordinately fertile……

We spied a general store by the side of the highway and popped in for a look. We received the warmest of welcomes, enjoying a burger, some complimentary snacks, great coffee and conversation with the locals. Great Southern hospitality!

That evening, after resting up at the motel, it was time to pay a visit to Ground Zero, the club owned by actor Morgan Freeman. As we pulled up outside, it looked like nothing more than a dilapidated old warehouse, with a porch out front sporting a couple of old sofas. The only clue that it was a venue was the glowing neon sign sporting the Ground Zero logo. But walk through the doors and you were stepping into the coolest blues club around. The place had an amazing atmosphere, and graffitti, primarily visitors signatures, covered almost every square inch of the walls, and in some cases, the ceilings. This was Blues Mecca.

Big Dave throws some shapes at Ground Zero

On stage was Big Dave and the Evol Love band, and we ordered a couple of beers and sat down. With BBQ wings and Potato Skins to die for, we were in seventh heaven!

When Dave took to the stage for his third set, he invited me up on stage. And so another ambition was realized, as I sang and played “Spinning Wheel Blues” in downtown Clarksdale Mississippi. Does it get any better than this?

Kev Moore

 

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January 30, 2010 - Posted by | coffee, Entertainment, food, friends, Music, photography, travel, writing | , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I guess it doesn’t get any better than that! I was wondering, how much of this trip was preplanned and how much is spontaneous discovery? I think that even though I’m American I would probably feel like I was in foreign territory on this trip.

    Comment by Susan Cornelis | February 2, 2010

  2. I agree, the tricycles seem a little creepy. How fun that you got to play some blues in Clarksdale!

    Comment by shelleymhouse | February 3, 2010


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