Review : Blues loving dentists visit the USA – Part 2

Posted on: Saturday, May 6, 2006

Trip to Memphis and Mississippi by Pete Evans and Paul Taylor of Hooker Blues Club and Worthenbury Juke Joint, Wrexham

Whilst based in Memphis we took in a couple of gigs out of town travelling along with Doug McMinn who was our contact there. He is Mojo Buford’s manager and drummed for him on his last UK tour. We visited Holly Springs (home of the Burnside and Kimbrough families) to see a put together band play a real rebel redneck bar. A good Memphis guitarist Buddy Davis (a pal of Jeff Beck who gave Beck his ’54 Sunburst Strat) led the band through a selection of blues and rock covers with a couple of compulsory country numbers. Bit like the film “Roadhouse”!!
A band we saw in a place called Cordova and again later at a festival on Beale street really knocked us out. Reba Russell is arguably the best white female blues singer I’ve ever heard. She leads a really tight band with a prodigy on guitar, the just turned 18 Josh Roberts. On keys and harp is Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms who played at Hookers with Blind Mississippi Morris in 2001 – great to meet up with him again – a real character who looks more like an eccentric old English public school teacher.
From Memphis we moved down into the Delta basing ourselves in Clarksdale for a few days. First port of call was The Cathead Store owned by Mr Blues, Roger Stolle. I am hoping to bring over to the Worthenbury Festival on July 1st, Big George Brock, and Roger is his manager and recorded his excellent cd last year. Roger knows most of what is happening and after a few phone calls we found that T Model Ford was playing at Greenville at The Walnut Street Blues Bar, 75 miles away. So after a quick sh.., shave, shower and shampoo we set off and had an amazing night in the company of this quite remarkable old guy who is anything between 82 and 85, served time on the Parchman Farm chain gang for cutting a man’s throat, and drove off in his 84 Lincoln after drinking a whole bottle of Jack Daniels!! He also played some wonderful raw blues for 3 hours. The amiable bar owner Danny Peeples said that is not unusual for him to play for 6-7 hours and also finish a bottle of moonshine!
Around Greenwood we did the full anorak works and have now been promoted to Championship level – not quite in the Courtland Bresner league yet – he’s Premiership.
Found various crossroads and plantations and Juke joints and hunted down the graves of Charley Patton, Mississippi John Hurt and the latest Robert Johnson site which is thought to be the most likely having been substantiated by the 94 year old wife of the gravedigger who buried him. This was all very interesting and a good enough reason for why our wives didn’t want to come!
However, it was not without incident and we should have realised that whilst at Robert Johnson’s grave, the reason why the sky was getting darker, the wind getting stronger and the lightning striking in the distance was nothing to do with Hellhounds on our Trail or selling our soul to the devil, but was due to the imminent arrival of a rather serious tornado!
We were driving from Greenwood towards Greenville when the radio cut in to say that the tornado was travelling from Greenville towards Greenwood!! A quick U turn across the freeway saw us tear back to Greenwood and seek shelter in a steak house. Luckily at the last moment it veered north of the town so a potentially dangerous situation was averted. However, sheltering at the same bar was a very pleasant man who turned out to be the Director of The BB King Foundation and who later on took us to his office to show us the plans for the new $5 million BB King museum in Indianola plus the hitherto unseen new BB King DVD of his life.
There is a great deal to see and do in the Delta if you are keen on blues but it is a poor area. However, with the arrival of casinos based on paddle boats moored in the Mississippi river, things are predicted to change and a contrast was experienced in Greenville where adjacent to the casino is the lovely new Marriott Hotel but one block away is the notorious Nelson Street once full of great blues bars where all the legends played. Now it is a dangerous no go area with drugs gangs with shooters. However 100 yards on the other side of the hotel is the afore mentioned Walnut Street Blues Bar now displaying a Hooker Blues Club T shirt on it’s wall.

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