Exploring The Delta and on to the Biscuit
Over the last few days the four intrepid road trippers (Alan Lloyd, Dave Carroll, Lee Wilkinson and myself) have been exploring the Blues in the Delta, looking at blues markers commemorating the artists, and yesterday we went to day one of the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas.
On Tuesday we started in Canton, a sleepy town with a square at its centre which has been featured in several movies. We breakfasted in a tiny place on a red rose (red smoked sausage), egg and cheese sandwich and checked out Hickory Street, once the centre of black life in the town. From there we went to the Mississippi Petrified Forest, which wasn't that impressive, and checked out the Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia (featured in a new movie) and markers in Belzoni (Denise Lasalle),Inverness (Little Milton) and Moorhead, where the Southern meets the Yellow Dog (railroads). A look at the now derelict Bryants Grocery in Money, where Emmett Til allegedly whistled at a white woman, costing hm his life and sparking the Civil Rights movement, was followed by a stop at Dockery Farm, where many singers once worked. We stayed the night in Cleveland and went to a symposium at Delta State University, where Bobby Rush and Super Chikan were reminiscing about blues men and, in Bobby's case, women. Funny and bawdy, even though I've heard many of the stories before.
Next day we continued our tour of the Delta, taking in Greenville, Indianola, home of B B King, Holly Ridge, where Charley Patton is buried, and Leland, home town of Tyrone Davis and James Son Thomas. We came across Pat Thomas, his son, outside the museum there, and he complained about dental work he had had. From there, it was a quick look at Po Monkeys juke joint in Merigold and then Clarksdale where we are now staying. In the evening we caught the excellent Big Al Sherrod and Space Cowboy at Club 2000.
Yesterday was day one of the King Biscuit and a beautiful day weather wise. We caught a bit of Zac Harmon, who is good in a Robert Cray sort of way, and the Kentucky Headhunters. They are very popular locally but more rock than blues. Numbers included Big Boss Man, Strawberry Hill, Let's Go Stumbling and Little Queenie, from a recent album with Johnny Johnson. Next on were the Cate Brothers, who proved to be a melodic blue eyed soul band a little similar to The Band, with numbers including Yield NotTo Temptation, There Goes The Neighborhood, The Weight and Am I Losing You. Headlining on the main stage (where the sight lines are appalling because of a big VIP area right in front) was the Bobby Rush Revue. Featuring his two usual dancing girls he was his usual bawdy, sexist, non PC and very funny self, on numbers such as Big Fat Woman, I Ain't Scared Of You and I'm Crazy AboutYou. Finally we went to the New Roxy in Clarksdale to see Lucious Spiller. The place has been tarted up a bit but still has no roof. Great venue though.