Being Thankful for the Blues

December 2, 2008
Larry Liddell

I trust your Thanksgiving was a happy occasion surrounded by family and turkey (not necessarily in that order).

As usual, we as Americans have more to be thankful for than people from other countries around the world. We have no war being fought on our soil, nor on our continent or any continent close to us. We are the land of plenty and we should be grateful for that.

We should be thankful that we live in Mississippi, which has the beach at the southern tip where we can sunbathe for free in warm weather and fish to our heart’s content in any kind of weather. And, when the weather is too bad for both, we can visit the casinos until the good weather returns.

We should be thankful that Mississippi has a river separating us from Arkansas and hills to the east to warn us that we are approaching Alabama. We should be thankful that to our North is the rest of the nation with its breathtaking beauty and bountiful history.

We should be thankful that we live in the Delta region, where the land provides ample opportunities for us to grow crops that provide food for our table and crops that can be manufactured into clothes and other necessities of life.

Finally, we should be thankful for The Blues, a standard of music that provides the Delta with just about the only reason for tourists to come visit, thus providing us with a large economic opportunity. Yes, there is the Viking Range Company in Greenwood, Baxter in Cleveland, Delta Wire in Clarksdale and various other manufacturing companies located in the Delta, but basically, tourism is the largest revenue-producing industry we have in the Delta.

Clarksdale has done a pretty good job of capitalizing on The Blues as a tourist draw. The Delta Blues Museum brings people from all over the world to the city, although I dare say that there are local citizens who have never been inside, which is sad as it is, indeed, the crown jewel of Clarksdale. Also bringing tourists to the city, of course, is Ground Zero, the Blues club that is owned by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman and attorney Bill Luckett.

Ground Zero has really put Clarksdale on the world map, having been featured many times on various television programs broadcast worldwide. Its location adjacent to the Delta Blues Museum has no doubt helped fuel the population of both.

And we shouldn’t forget Delta Amusement and Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Arts, both located just a stone’s throw from both the Delta Blues Museum and Ground Zero. Both play a large part in the big picture of the blues business in Clarksdale. I can see someone coming in and creating a Branson-like community in Clarksdale, Greenwood or maybe even Cleveland in the near future. The Blues is a very popular phenomenon and some entrepreneur might be lured to the Mississippi Delta to invest in something like that. After all, Dockery Farms, located between Cleveland and Ruleville, is said to have been a big factor in the birth of the Blues.

Both Clarksdale and Cleveland have a claim to W.C. Handy, the musical genius who made the Delta his home for awhile. Even Tutwiler claims a connection to Handy and his development of the Blues. I used to believe that a big manufacturing company, like Toyota, Nissan or Honda would located a plant somewhere in the Delta. The Mississippi Legislature finally realized the Delta was a part of the state and persuaded the Mississippi Department of Transportation to four lane some highways and overlay others to provide better means of getting people and products in and out of the region.

One thing that hurt, however, was the removal of the railroads in the Delta. But, the fact that we now have four-laned U.S. 61 makes the Memphis airport an easy shot should have helped draw a big company to the area.

But, I guess the absence of a large-enough work force offset the transportation issue.

But, the future looks bright ahead as with the economy of today hopefully at rock bottom, the only way to go is up.

We should be thankful for that, too!

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