Thursday, October 09, 2014

US road trip - Memphis and Clarksdale

Two days into my latest US road trip and there's already been some good music and more than a little stress. I was prevented from getting onto my flight to Philadelphia en route to Memphis because my camera had no battery in it, the battery being in my luggage which had already been loaded. Apparently under the latest over protective security rules a camera that doesn't work is considered a threat. Fortunately US Airways booked me on another flight via Charlotte. I retrieved my suitcase, reunited my camera with the battery and arrived in Memphis only 20 minutes after my travelling companion Dave Carroll.
We went down to Beale Street and there we came across 76 year old bluesman Earl 'the Pearl' Banks at the Blues City Cafe playing with a band that included Hi Rhythm Section members Archie Turner and Leroy Hodges. Chatting with Archie, who I saw less than two weeks ago at the Take Me To The River show in London, he told me he would be back in London soon with other Hi musicians backing Paul Rodgers, former singer with Free and Bad Company, at the Royal Albert Hall for the launch of a new album recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis.
Next morning we took a look at the newly erected marker at the site of American Studios, where the likes of Elvis, the Box Tops, Wilson Pickett and Bobby Womack recorded. The site is now occupied by a Family Dollar store, but at least its significance has been belatedly recognised. From there it was off to Mississippi to check out various historic blues markers to the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell,, Otha Turner and R L Burnside. We had lunch in Como, where McDowell and Turner lived, and then went to Oxford, a pleasant university town with a delightful square at its centre with a red British phone box. I bought some 45s at The End of All Music vinyl record store just outside town, an excellent shop and the only record store for miles around.
Then it was off to Clarksdale. We met up with Alan Lloyd and his party at the Ground Zero Blues Club where a mediocre blues band was playing. The music was better at Red's juke joint where 87 year old Cadillac John was singing and playing harmonica. Today we are off to day one of the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas. More reports to follow and photos when I get home.
Nick Cobban


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