Time to "Shed the Blues"

December 2, 2012 - Lake Village, Arkansas, United States

Tomorrow I will be leaving my home in Chicot State Park and heading down to Cajun country.   Got things packed up properly and readied for what will be more side roads, and bumpy trails to Lafayette, LA and specifically Breaux Bridge, LA where I will be camping for 12 nights in Poche's RV Park.   Poche's looks great online and in addition to being an RV Park that is located well for me between Lafayette and Baton Rouge .... it is also a fish farm where right from the back of my trailer I can sit and fish without a license and keep and eat all the fish I want.   Sounds too good to be true, but we'll see !!!  

Kind of sad to be leaving the people of "the blues", but equally exciting to get a taste of Zydeco and the Cajun sounds.   (and of course the cajun foods)

Side note:  Couple days ago I went through the small town of Lake Village right near me here and saw this;






This was a CITY park so to see Jesus and Mary in their Christmas scene says a lot about how the locals feel about being politically correct.    I guess when you are in the middle of Arkansas you can get by without the ACLU on ya, eh?

Thought you would enjoy that.

Got a cool shirt that says it all about the Blues.    Never mind that shaggy looking old guy.   In case you can't read it, it says "Feelin Bad Never Sounded So Good"    Good description of this music.





Two days ago I made a pilgrimage up to Clarksdale, MS.   It is considered the hub of the Blues .... where Hwy. 61 crosses Hwy. 49 and brings the music to its epicenter.  A really cool monument made with guitars marks the spot.


Clarksdale's most famous blues joint is the Ground Zero Blues Club.   It is probably most famous because it is now owned by a local businessman jointly with Morgan Freeman who grew up in Mississippi loving the blues.    I would describe it as a "gussied up juke joint" for the masses.





They get the better acts in the area so I had dinner of BBQ and sweet potato fries to wait for the evenings entertainment.    I asked about the local beer and they told me of a local small brewer that made "Magnolia" beer and one of their varieties was actually "Pecan Beer".






It was really, really good and tasted a lot like a light stout.    The evening music was blues of course and was Don Nix playing with Mark "Mule Man" Massey.    You can actually see a live picture online of the stage at Ground Zero at www.groundzerobluesclub.com.   Here is a pic.





I can't even begin to describe the fabulous music I heard.   You have got to hear it for yourself.   The locals were up off their seats and dancing their heart out.   I had a front row seat to some of the best live blues I had ever heard.   Be sure to look up Mule Man and listen to his music.

Stopped over across the street to "Red's Lounge" which is more of an actual real "juke joint" as they were many years ago.    Red is a nice guy who I got to know quite well as we talked about my visit with T Model.   They had just had a birthday party for T Model at Red's a couple weeks ago, but no one knew what year he was born (including T Model) so they guessed it was his 91st.

Red had Robert "Wolf Man" Belfour playing in his joint that night.   Red supports the "old style" and older musicians so it was just Wolf Man and his guitar in the middle of the room surrounded by about 40 folks enjoying his playing and singing.   Wolf Man is probably around 80 or so.   He was less polished of course and played a different style than the upbeat of Mule Man.   He had his own style and was all dressed up for the night.    Classy guy.    Here he is;


Got home a little late that evening, but what a great day in Clarksdale.    The next day I was going by Leland, MS. and very few people know that Jim Henson of The Muppets fame was born and raised there.   It is a tiny town with a river that runs right through the center of town.   I stopped at a small museum they had built there in his honor.   He of course died in 1990.   A very nice older lady (was a friend of Jim's family) gave me a quick tour and talked with me about Jim and of course his first magic .... Kermit.    In the museum was a monument which is the exact display used to film the Muppet Movie (its opening scene was Kermit playing the banjo).   Here it is;





The original Kermit was there.   Built by Jim when he was 17 years old with a few ping pong balls and his mothers old coat.    Learned a lot about Kermit, Miss Piggy and all the other characters.   They are all very proud of their local hero.     I asked her how Jim came up with Kermit.  She explained that he had played much of his boyhood down by the river that ran through town and there were lots of frogs in the river.   In spite of being warned many time .... he brought home frogs all the time.    She showed me where his house was and where the river went right past his home.  This is the little walk bridge by the river;





As you can see Kermie and I are now best buds.

Also in Leland (home of Rufus "Son" Thomas) was a small blues museum.    I stopped in since I was close by and was welcomed by a young black man who introduced himself as Pat "Cathead" Thomas who is actually the grandson of Rufus.    As I toured the museum he actually got out his guitar and played a little blues just for me.    I gave him a small donation and he gave me a "domino" chip with the drawing of a Cathead on one side and his signature on the other.   He said it was his moniker.    Found out later that his Dad and Grandad had done much the same years ago and there is even a blues store in Clarksdale named Cathead.   Great guy and great conversation.

Another place I wanted to visit was just up Hwy. 61 from Leland so I swung in to see if I could find Po Monkeys out in the fields.    It was very difficult to find since it is basically just a small shack out in the middle of the cotton fields.  (pretty much why it was there originally .... to serve the black cotton pickers)    I got lucky and after a lot of driving around .... there it was.





Po Monkeys still has music but only on Thursday nights and it is of course very small inside.   Still an active "original Juke Joint".   An iconic image of the old blues days.

Yesterday I got down to Indianola, MS to see the BB King Museum, Hopson Plantation and other sites.   Indianola is also a pretty small town but is surrounded by what must have been some of the larger Plantations of the era.   Hopson Plantation was one of those places.   Most of the buildings are still there and now they are fixing them up and renting them out as cabins for tourists to stay in.   They plant cotton right up to your back door so you get the "whole experience".    They do have live blues at times.    Here are some of the "shacks" ... they call them the "Shack Up Inn" ..... Dan and Nancy were going to stay there a while back but didn't make it.





In town I ate at the Gin Mill and visited both the Blue Biscuit and Club Ebony.    Club Ebony was in the hood and was in much worse shape than I had envisioned.    I was told by a local to park my truck close to the front door !!!   Had a whiskey there and visited with a gal who showed me pics of BB King's annual visit.   Mr. King nows owns the place.   Got to see his famous stage and hear about the history of a well known juke joint.    Again, the music was great.   Annie Crowley and Ted Lange sang and played very well at the Blue Biscuit.   I think they were locals that were trying to get a start.   Very enjoyable.

It was again, back to my camper and spent today getting it readied for the next big adventure.   Visiting the Blues was an amazing experience and one I will not soon forget.   I was both amazed, shocked and entertained in many different ways.   Amazed at the quality of the music.  Shocked at the poverty that exists both at the local level and still very much for the musicians.   Entertained by people who went out of their way to make me feel welcome and never hesitated to take the time to teach me about their music and their heritage.   And ohhhhh, the beautiful music.

Thank you people of the Blues!   It is truly America's First Music and Native Music.




Dan Howard:
December 3, 2012
Hey Dave, Nice job of sharing your adventure. Damn, wish I was there, but I'll settle for your stories for now. Straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Have a safe travel south and we'll wait to catch the next installment of "Man on the Move". Cheers!
December 3, 2012
Some day we will do this Dan. Thanks for your support!
Don Fluegge:
December 3, 2012
Sounds as much as a history tour as well as a music tour. We will want to hear some of that Blues at the camp fire when you get back.

Have fun and stay safe
December 3, 2012
Great pictures Dave. Thanks! They really show the flavor of the places you visit. It's almost like a foreign country down there. Have fun movin' on down the road.

Kermit Christmas? Really Dave? :o)
Jim Miller:
December 3, 2012
Hey Brother
Finally have time to send a comment. Sounds like you're having a great winter adventure whilst I work my fingers to the bone. Missed you at Turkey Day but I ate your share. I didn't know my brother was that into the old blues men. Its really cool you get to visit those areas and actually meet a few as well. Shared the pic of you and T Model with the guys at work and we all had a good laugh (all jealous too). Have a safe trip and be nice to the Cajuns.
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