Friday, January 29, 2010

Clarksdale, Mississippi

NEWSFLASH! Clarksdale, Mississippi, the birthplace of the Blues. Friday night. 2:00 a.m. Correction: Saturday morning.

After the privilege of teaching on “Rwanda” to two classes at Clarksdale High School, Nathan takes me out on the town of Clarksdale, a surreal ghost town, except for its many “juke joints”, that is, blues clubs, which come to life when the sun has long been down.

The first club: The world famous “Ground Zero”, which is owned by Morgan Freeman, who is from Clarksdale. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, and many other Blues icons are also from Clarksdale. Bessie Smith died in Clarksdale, following an auto accident. Every great Bluesman plays at Ground Zero.

Then on to a secret spot called "Red", which appeared to be closed, but your ears told you otherwise. Open the secret, unmarked door, and you step into a very large garage-looking place, in sore need of a big “Garage Sale”. It was filled with who knows what, decorated with Christmas tree lights (year ‘round), and the T.V. was blaring,… but you could hear it only between songs. A great Bluesman was playing with his blues harp player, but no drummer. After another beer (on top of the beer and whiskey consumed at Ground Zero), Nathan called out to the band: “You need a drummer?", and the blues guitarist inquired: “You a drummer?”. Nathan responded in his newly acquired dialect: “No. I ain’t no drummer, but I think I kin make it hap’n”,… and Nathan took his seat at the drum kit and he really DID make it happen! He was introduced by the front man, and the well lubricated crowd cheered him. Nathan was great! WHERE does he get this from?!?

After that,… on to Annie Bell’s, where we were the only white faces in a large crowd of Friday night (Saturday morning) celebrants. Should I be concerned that so many there seemed to be so fond of Nathan?

It has been very, very fun to see Nathan “in his element”, and Clarksdale, Mississippi is a very, very unique place. There is so much more to describe, but it is time to sign off and get some sleep.