Woke up this morning is an almost cliche way to start a blues song. And that's exactly what we did when we were in Mobile, AL - we woke up this morning and decided to drive to the heart of Blues - Clarksdale MS.
We had heard a lot about Clarksdale - most particularly we know of the ShackUpInn - a very unusual place to stay and in the spirit of research for this show - we drove 7 hours to spend two days in the hard of the Mississippi Delta.
Clarksdale is right at the top of Ms is a small town (pop about 20,000); it is the birthplace and world capital of the Blues and location of the famous Crossroads intersection of Highway 61 and 49. Now if you don't know what this intersection is then you ain't got no soul--it's where Blues legend Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in return for musical talent. (Eric Clapton called Johnson the most important Blues singer who ever lived). It is also the birthplace of John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke and Ike Turner. Bessie Smith died here after a road accident. Most associated with the place is Muddy Waters--who is rumoured to have been born in a shotgun shack on Stovall Road - there is a plaque commemorating this (an historical Mississippi Blues Trail marker).
In the Delta Blues Museum is a mock up of Muddy Waters' shack. The Museum is small but well stocked and has plenty of videos and memorabilia for any Blues fan. Speaking of blues - Delta Blues is one of the earliest forms of blues -- so named because its in the Mississippi Delta - famous for rich soil and dire poverty. Scholars might argue about exactly what is Delta Blues but they agree it's about the bottleneck slide, rhythm and instrumentation -- and as a non-Blues expert that's all I'm preparaed to say.
We were delighted with our accommodation at the Shack Up Inn. The Inn is a fascinating concept -- the owners have resurrected an old (Hopson) Plantation and turned the cotton gin it into rooms; they have also purchased genuine share cropper (shotgun) shacks and decorated them authentically A little too authentically for my taste and after two nights I was looking forward to 1500 count sheets :) I've uploaded a video on YouTube - unfortunately the pictures are on my now missing Iphone.
Obviously there are plenty of Blues places to visit. Red's is one of the most famous - here's a video of its history.
Red's is a jook joint -- now jook joint has a long and rich cultural history. I remember first reading about them in Zora Neale Hurston's "Characteristics of Negro Expression" -- here is a fuller explanation. There's a Jook Joint Festival in Clarksdale every year. There is nothing like a jook joint for getting into the Blues and for really experiencing the music and the culture.