Monday, April 21, 2008

The birth of the blues

Graceland is not for the faint hearted, or the connoisseur. It's a rather tacky tribute to Elvis, but a must do visit if you have never been to Memphis before, as is the case with my lovely girlfriend. Since I last went there in 1989 they have extended the exhibits and introduced a few innovations such as individual audio commentaries, but the tone remains the same. The King could do no wrong. He lives on in our hearts and will never really die.
After Graceland we tried to see the Stax Museum, but it was closed, and the Civil Rights Museum, which appears to be rarely open. Indeed most of Memphis seems to be closed. It still looks run down and depressed. In the evening we went out to the suburbs to Wild Bill's' Blues Club. The Soul Survivors is the regular band and I had heard that it's a genuine black club well off the beaten track. And so it is and the band was excellent. Definitely worth a visit if you're visiting Memphis.
After Memphis we drove to Clarksdale, Mississippi, for the Juke Joint Blues Festival. We're staying at the Hopson Plantation - an original plantation complex which is now a shrine to the blues, with regular live music and shacks to stay in, although we stayed in the newly opened Cotton Gin. The blues festival in town was good, although most of the acts were little known, but in the evening jet lag closed in and we missed the evening acts, apart from the band playing in the Cotton Gin which we could hear from our room.
Today we headed off with some of the other Stompers to Tutwiler, where W C Handy first heard a slide guitar being played and the blues was born. There is a mural there by the railroad track depicting the scene, but like everywhere else in the Delta the place was near derelict. Nearby we found the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson and paid our respects. From there we went to Oxford, where one of the group, Alan, had arranged for us to visit the home of Dick Waterman, one of the pioneers of blues recording and management. We spent a fascinating couple of hours looking at his photographs of Son House, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt (who he managed for 20 years), the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and many more taken over the last 45 years. Dick is a great storyteller and seems a happy man, newly married as he is to Cindy at the age of 73. A fascinating man with so much to tell, and boy did he tell it. More on his fascinating memoirs in a later blog.


At 3:06 pm , Blogger timatstax said...

Hi Nick - Sorry you missed the Stax Museum. We are open Mon-Sat 9-4 p.m. and Sun 1-4 p.m. Come back and see us when you can!

At 5:49 am , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for the comment. I have been to the Stax Museum before and can vouch for the fact that it's excellent. Just a shame that it closes so early.


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