Lake Chicot and "The Blues"

November 25, 2012 - Lake Village, Arkansas, United States

 Hi everyone,

When I last left you, I was exiting my home in Missouri and driving down to my next hideaway in Lake Village, Arkansas.   The morning was beautiful and driving was easy.   I guess taxes for roads aren't what they are in Minnesota though, because the roads were not what we are used to up north .... for sure.   My first big test was getting the rig through the Memphis area and on the road over to Hwy. 61 and the "blues trail" of Mississippi.   Diesel prices went down by around 50 cents a gallon once I made my presence in Tennessee and Arkansas.   That was a welcome sight.   My first stop was in Tunica, MS where I stopped at the Gateway to the Blues Museum and welcome center.   Bought a nice t-shirt and got a few guitar picks (one for Danny too).  

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Asked the ladies where good soul food was and they immediately said the Blue and White restaurant just 12 miles down Hwy. 12.   I was really itchin for some good southern food so found a spot to park the rig and went into this fabulous buffett for $6.00 that had fried chicken (of course), catfish nuggets, greens, corn, salads, cornbread and caramel cake dessert with a drink.  The nuggets were outstanding and although I had trouble understanding the waitress' southern accent ..... really enjoyed my lunch. She did give me a "y'all come back now".   Went through Clarksdale (will be back) and on down to Greenville, MS.   Found my way over to my home at Lake Chicot (pronounced Chico) State Park.   The park is right on an "oxbow" lake that is the remainder of what was once the Mississippi before it changed directions.   Very large and very beautiful.   Check in and pretty much had my pick of the place.   Got a nice campsite right on the lake so my mornings are just gorgeous as the sun rises.   Weather is perfect.

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They have theses gigantic cypress trees that seem to grow right out of the water.   It is truly in the south.  The piers can be used to fish from ..... and I will be certain to get out my pole and try my luck later in the week.

Settling in went well and I got some firewood so I can enjoy one of my evenings here next to an outdoor fire.

I was seeing people up and down the lake  .... out picking up something on the ground.   Sort of like blueberry picking I guess.   They were pecans!  It is pecan picking season down here and so when I was out for a walk I availed myself of a few (many few actually ).    They are delicious and easy to find.   These folks have many, many pecan trees all over the place.   Hard part was figuring out how to open them without breaking up the soft nut.   I was just about to go on the internet and find out, when ..... I stepped on one.   Like magic it lay before me in two nice pecan pieces.   Seems if you break them by just stepping on them, it works perfectly.   Now I was really into eating pecans.

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Made plans to head to Greenville toworrow to scope out the Walnut Street Bait Shop (Blues Bar) and find out where the musicians are, etc.

The internet is so helpful when you are unsure, but talking to people certainly helps.   (right Nancy?)

 The first thing I did in entering Greenville was to go down to the levee that protects the city from the Mississippi.   Located there are two casinos and I parked near one of them and was going to watch the locals fish from the shore.   They were using worms and after spending a little time watching I walked up to an older gentleman who had a cooler and asked how he was doing.   He said he has several.   I asked what he was catching .... he said "brim".   I told him I had never seen brim before and wondered if I could see them.   He showed me his cooler of about a dozen fish ...... they were "sunfish" .... they call them brim here.   Very interesting.   Good place to catch a dinner I'd say.  Made a mental note.   Interesting how fisherman can always talk fishing even if complete strangers.

I found the first blues joint I wanted to visit .... the "Walnut Street Bait Shop" which was also pretty close to the levee.   I drove past about three times and really questioned whether I was safe going there.   Decided to have some dinner first and see if I could talk to someone at the restaurant.   Had bbq at the "Shotgun BBQ" down the street.   Wow ..... fabulous bbq with all the fixins.   Beer was $2.   Met a white guy sitting at the counter with me and asked him if I would be safe going into the blues bar.   He seemed to think it was just fine .... just don't go to the bar farther down the street though.

Feeling better I parked right in front of the place and went in to have a beer knowing I was about 3 hours away from any music since it was so early.  Ordered a beer and got to talking with a lady about my age named Sharon.   The place was rough (really rough).   Pee'ed in a trough with no hand washing at all.  I mean no sink or anything ... just a trough.   Glad I just had to pee.   The memorobilia was amazing though with photos of legends that had played there and many, many of there donated instruments.   One showcase was there dedicated entirely to T Model Ford himself.   I and Sharon really got to know each other and before you knew it she explained that she and her husband Danny Peeples were the owners of the place since 2001.   Danny was an insurance agent for 30 years so we talked about that quite a bit too.   Sharon was so nice to me .... she gave me bumper stickers and can cozies and any other free stuff she could find.   Somewhere during the evening she asked me if I knew of T Model Ford and if I would like to meet him?   At first .... it was "you're kidding me", but then she explained that they are personal friends of T Model and his wife Stella and if I were interested she could set up a date for me to meet T Model at his home.  Obviously I jumped at the chance and she was "on the phone" in a jif.   Stella said that T Model was feeling well (he had just returned from the hospital where he had a second stroke) and would love a guest who was a fan.   (T Model is 91 years old)   He is probably the original Mississippi blues musician of all blues musicians.   He didn't make it as big as Muddy Waters or BB King or others, but he is still revered in the inner circle of MS blues men.  I couldn't believe this meeting was all set.   I asked Sharon what I might bring to T Model that would put a smile on his face .... she said "Jack" ..... of course!   T Model is famous for saying "Ooooheeee, It's Jack Daniels time" during his gigs.  After thanking Sharon many, many times, I went out in search of a bottle of Jack.   Got back just in time for "Smiley and The Young Guns as they started a set for the evening.  Met Danny on my return and talked insurance of course, but really got to know him well.   He couldn't be nicer and game a T Model CD and another CD of an up and comer that had played in his establishment.  Fabulous music and an exciting night.

Fast forward to today ...... Sharon had warned me that T Model's home was "in the hood" but what I ended up seeing really shocked me.   Obviously those early blues musicians did not make the big bucks.   It was very rough ... in fact I found out later that T Model's original home in Greenville "fell down" so the city came in and tore it down.   I knocked on the door and introduced myself to his grandson Michael and his wife Stella.   They were nothing but gracious and pointed me into T Model's room where he was sitting on the edge of his bed.   He was recognizable immediately and when he spoke .... oh that beautiful and distinct voice.  My of my.   He looked good and was very "with it".  He had on black pants, black shoes and his signature black hat right next to him in the bed.   He showed me his guitar (Danny, he said something about a razor?) and turned on some of his music.   We chatted and laughed and shared stories for what seemed like a short time but was actually an hour or so.    I gave him the Jack and his eyes lit up and he hollered out his stage phrase " Oooooheeee, It's Jack Daniels Time!"   He actually named one of his CD's that!

He was pouring it into a cup when Stella arrived and pulled it away since he had not had his medicine yet.   He was so funny .... he said he should have kept one of his other 5 wives.   Stella is his sixth.   He is called a "ladies man".   He told me that mostly it is the white women that get him in trouble.   We didn't talk about his jail time, etc. but did talk about how he used to plow with mules.   I explained how we had seen that in Cuba ..... and he said that he had played in Cuba during the early 50's in Havana.    In fact he had been all over the world playing the Blues.   Seemed so ironic that now he is 91, penniless, in a ram shackle house in Greenville.   One day not so long ago he played all over Europe, London ... everywhere.    Asked him if he had a favorite song he wrote ..... he said "like making love to many women ... how do you pick a favorite, they were all good".

He signed my T Model CD I had and I got my picture taken by Stella with can only be described as "A Legend"

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One thing that I will never forget was seeing those huge hands of his and his unbelievably long fingers.   I asked if I could see his fret hand and he said sure ..... it was just incredibly strong and calloused beyond belief.   Certainly I would have loved a song, but did not feel it my place to ask because I didn't know how comfortable he was with that after the strokes and all.    That can be left to be a part of his history and his sweet, sweet recorded music.   What an incredible day and how lucky I was to have met Sharon and Danny and then got invited to meet someone that very few blues fans every get a chance to meet.   Wow.

                                                                                                                                                  


Pictures

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4 Comments

Connie:
November 26, 2012
Hey Dave, what a lucky experience, to meet someone who knows T Model, and then meet the legend himself! Sounds like a mutual fan club, especially after the Jack. Good call asking Sharon what he enjoyed. I have listened to some of T Model's music since you said you would meet with him and he truly has a beautiful sound. Your campground looks fabulous and you get to wake each day to the view of the lake, which I know you love. Sounds like your settling in, meeting lots of interesting folks and having a really good time. Jessi and Joey, Azure and Aurelia say hi. Esme' says a lot but who knows what it is? She is a hoot, a real grown up baby since I saw her last. Have fun and I'll be in touch. Stay safe and lucky.
Don Fluegge:
November 26, 2012
Dave
Belated Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday, your getting to be an old fart like the rest of us!
Sounds like you are fitting in with the southern folk already and enjoying yourself! I hope you were going to have a small shot of Jack when it was time with T Model, we will have to remember his saying....
Take care and be careful
Dan Howard:
November 27, 2012
Hey Davey, What a great adventure! I am going to go through my old blues collections when I get back to MN and play T Model's songs to get a feel for what it must have been like to sit and chat with him. I am so happy you're sharing this traveling journal with us. I was afraid you might get a little lonely on this trip, but it seems you're blending in with the locals just fine. Best of Journeys My Friend,
Dan
Nancy Howard:
November 27, 2012
Glad you are asking questions of the locals. And it sounds like it is working for you! It sounds like you have adjusted to motor home life.
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