Day 1: December 23, 2006
Down to the Crossroads
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Furry Lewis Grave Furry Lewis Grave I've got Steve Cheeseborough's "Blues Traveling" and Richard Knight's "Blues Highway" along on this trip and both are excellent guidebooks. I also have Tim Steil's "Highway 61 Revisited" in the back though it really isn't a guide book at all. It's more of a coffee table style book with lots of pictures and standalone stories. So many of those pictures were taken by Jim Luning that it seems like his name should be on the cover, too, but it isn't. A while back, in some on-line chatter about road songs, Tim mentioned Joni Mitchell's "Hejira" which prompted me to pick up a copy of the CD. Of course, I already had a perfectly good copy of "Hejira" but those big black vinyl disks aren't easy to listen to in the car. Back when that vinyl disk was new, one of my favorite tracks had been "Furry Sings the Blues". Furry was alive then and the song tells of Joni's visit with the old guitarist. Furry died in 1981 and Cheeseborough's book gives directions to the grave site. See, this paragraph is coherent.

The grave is not far from where I-240 crosses US-60 so seemed a good place to get this trip on the real road. Like they are in so many area cemeteries, the stones in Hollywood Cemetery are more often tilted than not. I assume that's due to the soft ground. Furry Lewis has two tombstones. "Blues Traveling" contains a picture of the horizontal stone. In that picture, it looks like the stone sticks out of the ground a couple of inches. Today it's barely even with the earth's surface and the corners are seriously chipped; Probably by mower blades. Sorry, no points will be awarded for guessing what CD was in my player this morning.

Tunica Riverpark Tunica Riverpark Tunica Riverpark US-61 heads south as a divided 4-lane to hurry people along to the casinos in Tunica. Much of the roadside is lined with billboards, placed barely far enough apart to be read, touting shows, buffets, and games. I don't recall one billboard bragging about the Tunica Riverpark. It includes a museum in a pretty cool looking building, a riverboat for cruises in warmer weather, and something called an "ecotour". Inside the museum are a couple of fair sized aquariums and lots of river history.

Tunica, MS Tunica, MS I had passed Old Route 61 on the way to the Riverpark and turned onto it for a break from the 4-lane and billboards. There wasn't a lot to see so, after it hit several cross streets, I went back to the current Sixty-One. By sheer luck, my turn was on the street that holds the Tunica Police Department where the '57 patrol car was parked. The former Pure station was a few blocks before that.

Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS In Clarksdale, I headed straight for the Delta Blues Museum. Lots of good stuff but no photos allowed so my visual aids are limited to a couple shots of the entrance. My next target is the brick building across the street in the second picture.

Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS This is the Ground Zero Blues Club which is hardly ever mentioned without also mentioning the fact that Morgan Freeman is part owner. I had seen no breakfast opportunities (other than casino buffets) on the drive down and, at 2:00, was ready for my first meal of the day. I forgot my plan to eat at Abe's and accompanied a couple of beers with a pulled pork sandwich. The museum's address is 1 Blues Alley. The GZBC is at 0 Blues Alley.

Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS The W. C. Handy marker is just one street away across from the old Greyhound station. It now houses the Clarksdale Welcome Center. According to the schedule on the door, it should have been open but the door was locked. An off season thing, I'd guess, and it really didn't matter. I felt welcome everywhere else.

Clarksdale, MS Yeah, I know that this isn't a crossroads (US-61 & US-49 join, not cross, here.) and I know that Robert Johnson didn't make a satanic deal to raise his skill level (He practiced.) but the town of Clarksdale knows a good thing and I know a good photo op.

Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn Hopson Plantation, a few miles south of Clarksdale on US-49 is where I'm spending the night. The plantation earned some fame back in 1941 when it became the first place to plant and harvest cotton mechanically. A fellow we now know as Pinetop Perkins once lived and worked here. Today the tastefully decorated commissary is a sometimes juke joint and several sharecropper shacks have been moved here to serve as motel rooms. Even folks who aren't staying here are welcome in the commissary.

James Butler operates the commissary. His wife's family have owned the farm since 1832. After getting settled in my shack, I walked back to have a couple of beers. James was just putting away the butts he had cooked overnight and he and a couple of friends BSed with me as we all had a couple of beers. Maybe they ought to move that Welcome Center sign.

Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn Shack Up Inn James has partners in Shack Up Inn, the lodging side of the operation. Guy checked me in and I met Jim at the same time. Bill is out of town. When I got the key to my shack, I also picked up some ideas on how I might spend the evening.

The shacks are named. The Legends Shack is closest to the commissary with the Pinetop Perkins Shack coming next. My one night home, the Cadillac Shack, is at the far end of the row. That's it, shown outside and in, in the pictures. Note that the accommodations even include covered parking. The absence of phones and a TV that receives only the blues channel are pluses the pictures don't show.

Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale, MS From talking with Guy, I knew that T-Model Ford was playing at Red's and I thought I knew how to find it. I was wrong on that part so went back to GZBC because I knew someone was playing there and I knew where it was. The first two pictures are of Big T at the GZBC. Excellent.

I got directions from a bartender and, part way into Big T's second set, headed over to Red's. It was about where I thought but I don't believe there is any identification outside. At least there was none that I could spot at night from a car. But I had no trouble finding it on foot. I grabbed a seat at the bar and got a greeting from the fellow two stools away. It was Guy. His girlfriend was next to me. About ten feet directly in front of me was T-Model Ford playing through a small Fender amp turned up to eleven. Very good stuff but almost painfully loud. After a few songs, a young (maybe 12!!) boy moved to the drum kit. Nothing fancy but certainly solid enough. Someone hinted that he was T-Model's grandson but I have no idea if that is true. After an hour or so at Red's, I headed back to the shack and ended a long day.

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