Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Soul ramblings in Yazoo City and Memphis

After Clarksdale we thought we would try something different and drove south towards Yazoo City  stopping off to look at blues markers in Tchula and Lexington on the way and nearly getting lost on a seemingly endless dirt road. Yazoo City is much like other delta towns except that its Main Street comprises rows of different coloured buildings known as the Painted Ladies. It was there that the town's free music festival was being held and 99 per cent of those attending were African Americans. Many of the artists were big names in southern soul, but little known outside the South. These included Johnny Rawls who was even better than the day before in Helena. His set this time included two Tyrone Davis songs and Walking The Dog, which got several members of the audience cocking their leg and faking doggy sex. Another great act was Ms Jody, a bouncy singer who has recorded dozens of albums. Her numbers included uptempo items like The Bop, Sugar Daddy and Ms Jody's Thang, a pleading duet with a band member, Don't Give A Damn and Let's Play Hide And Seek. It was raunchy, fun and excellent entertainment. Also popular, especially with the ladies, was the headline act Sir Charles Jones, whose set included popular items such as Friday, Pop That Coochie and Mississippi Boy. He was on late and seemed to lose much of his audience midway through his set and we joined the exodus. Other acts included Gary Lil G Jenkins, who sang and played guitar and had a backing tape rather than a band but was good on Its A Man's World, DanI, a modern R and B singer, and bluesman Jimmy Duck Holmes. An excellent and very hot day.
Next day, Sunday, we drove north towards Memphis, stopping off for an excellent pork lunch at Jake and Rip's in Grenada. We started the evening off in Beale Street, as you do, with a quick look in the Jerry Lee Lewis bar. Then to the Blues City Cafe for a couple of beers and a Memphis Soul Stew where Earl the Pearl was playing his usual enjoyable stuff. The next day was a frustrating one. We found Little Milton's statue, near that of Bobby Bland which we saw last night, and decided to have breakfast at the Arcade Cafe, a famous Memphis landmark. What a mistake. We waited 75 minutes and our food still hadn't come so we left. Last time I go there. We were on a mission to find music graves and found a few in Memorial Park Cemetery: Isaac Hayes, Marshall Grant of the Tennessee Two and Bill Justis, but there are many more there. From there we went to the Galilee Memorial Gardens intent on finding the marker for O V Wright but despite our best efforts and careful study of a video of the ceremony when it was put there, after a fund raising campaign by writer Preston Lauterbach, among others, we couldn't find it. We did find Memphis Slim's grave however. It was a quiet Monday night so after a meal on Westy's we had a couple of beers in the Flying Saucer and called it a day.
Our final full day in Memphis began with us seeking the birthplace of Aretha Franklin in Lucy Ave. It's derelict but there's talk of turning it into a tourist attraction.  They've done something similar with Memphis Slim's former house near Stax which is now some kind of studio. We also had a look around the new Blues Foundation centre. It's quite well done with a lot of interactive stuff but not that many exhibits beyond Eddie Clearwater's headdress and dresses once owned by Denise LaSalle and Mavis Staples. From there we went grave hunting again, to the New Park Cemetery where we found the graves of Rufus Thomas, Johnny Ace, Al Jackson and three of the Barkays. We failed to find, in another cemetery a few miles away, that of James Carr. After a look round the Goner record shop, which had some good but rather pricey records, we had a beer and a game of table football in a nearby bar. We spent our last evening in Memphis in Midtown which has seen a great revival in recent years with loads of bars and restaurants. We had a super meal at the Soul Fish Cafe and some beers at a local bar before, for once, an early night. We are travelling south tomorrow for more adventures. Photos in a week or so.


At 9:55 pm , Blogger Lex Jansen said...

Hey Nick, looks like you are having another great trip - with some hiccups.
Hope to see you next year again with my buddy Lambert.

Cheers, Lex - the Dutch guy.


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