Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Treme to Jackson, blues all the way

If anything, the two days since the Stomp ended has been even more remarkable than the event itself. On Sunday New Orleans was in the grip of football fever as the Saints played Dallas Cowboys. This meant that our first intended music venue - the Mother In Law Lounge, now taken over by Kermit Ruffins - was over run by noisy fans. Undeterred we went on to the Ooh Poo Pah  Doo Bar, a neighbourhood lounge in Treme run by Judy Hill, daughter of Jessie Hill. The TV was eventually muted (Saints won in overtime) allowing the band to play, and an excellent band it proved to be. The atmosphere, despite a small, mostly local black, crowd, was electric. Guitar Slim Jr was an impressive guitarist with a good voice, particularly on the Dells' Stand In My Corner, while Judy herself was truly excellent on her dad's big hit, plus Spencer Wiggins' Old Friend, Staggerlee and Fire. DJ Rabbit, New Orleans' oldest disc jockey, did a couple of Ray Charles numbers, keyboard player Bobby Love was excellent on several blues and New Orleans R and B numbers including Blue Monday, while Big Chief Alfred Doucette, soon to celebrate his 75th birthday with a big concert, was entertaining on Hey Pockaway and a couple of other numbers. This was a special evening,as it seemed that the bar is yet to be discovered by the rest of New Orleans. It reminds me of Irma Thomas's Lions Den club in its early days - indeed Bobby Joe, Irma's bass player, was in the band. A wonderful evening I thought.
Next day we headed north, stopping off in Crystal Springs, Ms, hoping to see the Robert Johnson museum. It was shut, just as it had been last time, but the local Mayor, Sally Garland, spotted us and let us in. Not only that, but she then led us way out into the country to the grave of legendary blues man Tommy Johnson, hidden away in the woods, almost impossible to find in the Warm Springs cemetery, a family burial site.  The headstone was lying on its back but was readable and it was quite a magical experience to visit such a remote and significant site.
We continued to Jackson where we took a look at Farish Street, the centre of black music in the post war years. It's as derelict as ever, but at least the AlamoTheatre, where the likes of Dorothy Moore once played, is still operating. In the evening we made a return trip to Hal and Mal's bar for their regular Blue Monday blues jam. I was delighted that J JThames, who I first saw there two years ago, accepted my Facebook request to be there. She was quite brilliant on Wang Dang Doodle and Neither Of Us Wants To BeThe First To Say Goodbye. Other acts, including Abdul Rashid, soul singer Bobby Lewis and The Rock, were also good, but what staggered us was that we bumped into Tommy Johnson's niece, Vera Johnson Collins, the very person who is in charge of the grave site. She has written about her famous forebear and is the keeper of the flame.Was meeting her coincidence, or was it something more in tune with the legend of the man?


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