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Delta Blues Newsletter

April 06, 2013


Note: From the Museum Director

April means one thing at the Delta Blues Museum: it's "Muddy Month!" It's the 100th anniversary of the great blues master (b. April 4, 1915) who grew up on Stovall Farm, near Clarksdale, and created the music now heard around the world. We've got a lot going on at the Museum to celebrate this milestone, thanks to generous support from Covenant Bank, Shack Up Inn, Atmos Energy, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Mississippi Humanities Council . . .

but first, an important announcement: the Delta Blues Museum has been named as a finalist for the 19th annual National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

The National Medal is the nation's highest honor given to museums and libraries by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for service to the community and for making a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. We're honored to be named a finalist; winners will be named later this month. Check our Facebook page, Twitter (@DBMClarksdale), and our website for the results. Thanks for your support in helping make the DBM "the winner" we already are!

Now, about Muddy Month: On April 4 we celebrated his 100th birthday at the Museum. Visitors enjoyed cupcakes and toured our newly constructed Muddy Waters Addition, including the cabin in which he grew up; a replica of the car that folklorist Alan Lomax drove to make the first recordings of his music; the "Muddywood" guitar made from wood from the cabin and donated by ZZ Top; and numerous photos, guitars, and other exhibits related to Muddy Waters' life and music. In the evening, the DBM Band played at the Pinnacle as part of Coahoma Community College's Cultural Awareness Concert in conjunction with their Cultural Awareness Week."

Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

Photo Credit: Christopher Coleman

Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

On April 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm, Robert Gordon will talk in our classroom on the life and times of the legendary Muddy Waters as the latest speaker in our "From the Archives" series. Gordon authored "Can't Be Satisfied", the definitive Muddy Waters biography. The talk will be followed by a book signing.

You can learn more at the "Follow Muddy" section of our website: click here.

We have new Muddy tees in stock, with great photo images by noted music photographer Bob Gruen and a "Hoochie Coochie Man"/DBM logo on front pocket area.

Whether viewing our online Store or visiting our Gift Shop in person, check out these new tees and our other "Muddy merch": a biography, classic CDs and DVDs of live performances, Muddy "Blues Blend" Coffee, and a Muddy poster. To order, click here. Sales of these products support our mission to preserve the history of blues culture.

Have you checked us out on Facebook? Over 8,000 of our supporters have. Sign up, "like" us, and join the blues talk that goes on there non-stop.

There's a whole lot of activity planned for this year's 10th Annual Juke Joint Festival on April 13th (see schedule below). We're starting early by being honored with a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker, to be dedicated on April 11th at 5:00 pm, followed by a reception with music by the DBM Band. We'll present blues by Big Jon Short at 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm in our classroom on Friday, April 12th, and music all day on our stage on Saturday, April 13th; our DBM Band plays at 3:00 pm. We'll also be open on Sunday, April 14, with special hours, from 1 to 5 pm. Come on down!

Have you bought a DBM Blues Brick yet? The bricks are set into the walkway between our new Muddy Waters Addition and the Museum's main entrance. These Blues Bricks are a literal foundation for our mission, with the dollars from the donations of $50 per brick and by making a special path on our grounds to honor our many supporters. To those who are already included on this blues pathway, thanks! Order here. (Note: all bricks purchased prior to April 1, 2013 have been installed into the walkway.)


Photos Credit: Lee Pharr

A personal note: I received a "Keeping the Blues Alive" Award from the Blues Foundation at an event in Memphis on February 1st. Along with 14 other individuals and organizations (including Clarksdale's Stan Street) KBA Awards were presented to "individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to blues music." The KBA Award is a tribute to what we do every day here at the Museum: serve the blues culture and the musical artists who created it and who carry on the tradition.

Photo Credit: Kaati Gaggney, Blues Festival Guide

The latest media to notice our efforts is the Huffington Post. In a comprehensive and insightful series of articles, Debra Devi describes the history and current state of the blues throughout the Delta and especially in Clarksdale. Devi is the author of "The Language of the Blues", "one of the wittiest, bawdiest, most fascinating dictionaries ever." We hosted her during last fall's King Biscuit Festival, and are pleased to see her comments about the Museum in HuffPo: "At my book signing at the beautiful Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale -- which is the state's oldest music museum and the pioneering heartbeat of Clarksdale's blues tourism business -- I ran into many tourists from around the world thrilled to be tracing their musical heroes' footsteps." You can read here. To order "The Language of the Blues", (we have signed copies!), click here.

Get your mojo workin' and come visit us during Muddy Month. Experience for yourself the magic of Clarksdale's Delta blues history in our galleries.


Thanks for your continued and future support!

Shelley Ritter, Director

This newsletter is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and,
in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


"True Delta"

This photography exhibit features photos by Michael Scanlan taken from the film of the same name. Prints of these photos are available for sale. A portion of the sales proceeds go to support the DBM Arts & Education program. Check with the DBM Gift Shop for details.

"25 Years of the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival"

An exhibit of posters that spans the 25 years of the annual Clarksdale event. Lots of names, lots of color, lots of archival photos - a lot of blues history in two dozen posters.

"Give My Poor Heart Ease"

This exhibit features photos from the book of the same name by pioneering southern folklorist William Ferris who toured Mississippi in the 60s and 70s, documenting African Americans as they spoke about and performed the diverse musical traditions that form the authentic roots of the blues. Here are the stories of blues musicians who represent a wide range of musical traditions--from one-strand instruments, bottle-blowing, and banjo to spirituals, hymns, and prison work chants.

"Portraits of Son House" by Dick Waterman

The music photographer who helped rediscover House in the '60s and who managed his concerts during that era's blues revival. For more on House, see our "Follow Son House" web feature section of our website: click here.


Tenth Annual Juke Joint Festival, April 11 - 14, 2013

April 11th at 5:00 pm: DBM MS Blues Trail Marker Dedication unveiling followed by reception with DBM Band

April 12th 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm: Hill Country Blues and Delta Blues, Big Jon Short, Arts & Education Classroom

April 13th:

All Day: Music on DBM Stage
11:30 am and 1:00 pm: Jugglers
2:00 pm: W.A. Higgins Rock Ensemble
3:00 pm: Delta Blues Museum Band
4:00 pm: Stax Music Academy
5:00 pm: Delta Roxx
6:00 pm: Ol' Skool Revue

April 14th: DBM special Sunday hours, 1:00 pm. - 5:00 p.m

April 18th: Retirement party for Dr. Vivian Presley, President, Coahoma Community College. Open to public

April 26th 4:00 pm: In our latest "From the Archives" speakers series, Robert Gordon, author of "Can't Be Satisfied", the definitive Muddy Waters biography, speaks on the life and musical times of the legendary musician, followed by a book signing.

The annual Delta Literary Tour visited Clarksdale on March 20th to experience Clarksdale's blues culture and the related world of playwright Tennessee Williams. Visitors took a "Clarksdale Stroll" including a visit to the Museum; toured St. George's Episcopal Church former rectory where Tom Williams lived with his grandparents; and viewed scenes from A Streetcar Named Desire performed on the porch of the Clark House, home of the playwright's childhood friend. The annual event was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. The 2013 Tennessee Williams Festival, sponsored by Coahoma Community College, is scheduled for October 4 - 5, 2013.

Susan Puckett, author of "Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler's Journey Through the Soul of the South" stopped by to visit and Museum on March 15th and signed copies of her book. Part travel guide, part cookbook, and part photographic essay (photos by Langdon Clay), "Eat Drink Delta" offers dozens of tested recipes, including the Memphis barbecue pizza beloved by Elvis and a lemon icebox pie inspired by Tennessee Williams. It also "reveals a region shaped by slavery, civil rights, amazing wealth, abject deprivation, the Civil War, a flood of biblical proportions, and-above all-an overarching urge to get down and party with a full table and an open bar."

Photo Credit: Christopher Coleman

Rest in Peace

Johnnie Billington, 77, blues musician and educator. Billington started the Arts and Education program at the Museum, and went on to found the Delta Blues Education Program. He received several honors for his work in educating Delta youth, including The Blues Foundation's "Keeping the Blues Alive" Education Award, the Sunflower River Blues Association's Early Wright Award (for preservation of the blues), the Mississippi Arts Commission's Folk Arts Fellowship, and the Artist Achievement Award from the Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts.

Photo Credit:

Frank "Rat" Ratliff, 70 owner-proprietor of the historic Riverside Hotel where Bessie Smith died (when the building was a hospital), and where a "Who's Who of blues musicians have stayed and played, including Ike Turner, Robert Nighthawk, Sonny Boy Williamson II, John Lee Hooker, Pop Staples, Sam Cooke, the Original Blind Boys, and many, many others. Blues musicians found lodging-and a home at the Riverside. Many recent visitors to the Museum have received the full Clarksdale blues experience by lodging at the Riverside, down on Sunflower Avenue, with commentary on all things blues by the welcoming "Rat."

Photo Credit: Roger Stolle

Magic Slim, 75, born Morris Holt, one of the last in a long line of musicians who grew up in the Deep South and then moved to Chicago. He was known not just for his musicianship but also for the intensity of his live performances. His music has been described as "the in-your-face variety" of blues.

Photo Credit: John M. Sheppard

Melville Tillis, 83, longtime co-chairman of the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, avid supporter of the Delta Blues Museum, and friend. Tillis co-founded the Sunflower River Gospel Association with the late Julius Guy, and was acquainted with many musicians including Bobby Rush, Little Milton Campbell, Clayton Love, and others who played often at his business, the Rivermount Club. He played trumpet with many of Clarksdale's early musicians including Ike Turner's first hometown band. When asked about the experience, he said with a smile, "Actually, Ike played with us." Community leader, educator, businessman, athlete, coach, historian, and chairman of the Clarksdale Public Utilities Commission for 15 years, he will be missed. To honor his contributions to the community, the Delta Blues Museum Stage was dedicated to him on March 11, 2013.

Photo Credit: Panny Mayfield


The Delta Blues Museum Band performed in a parade on January 5, 2013 in honor of Martin Luther King Day. Our float was made possible by assistance from Lenora Commer, David and Leah Carr, and Commissioner Buster Moton. The event was co-sponsored by the Isle of Capri Hotel/Casino in Lula.

Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

The DBM Band also performed on January 31, 2013 for Thacker Mountain Radio, a live radio show featuring music and author's readings broadcast from Oxford, then distributed on Mississippi Public Radio.

Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

The DBM Band's first CD, From Kansas City to Clarksdale, Vol. 1, is available from the DBM online Store--just $10! Order your copy here.



We are in full Muddy mode at the Gift Shop. Check out our new Muddy tees, with great images of the blues legend in performance by noted music photographer Bob Gruen, and a distinctive "Hoochie Coochie Man"/DBM logo on the front pocket area. Make your "Muddy Month" statement by wearing one of these new tees. Order yours today.


Check out the other "Muddy Merch" we offer: The Original Plantation Recordings (CD); Classic Concerts (DVD); Can't Be Satisfied, the definitive biography; Muddy "Deep Blues Blend" coffee; and a portrait/poster. View the "Muddy Merch" section in the on-line store.

We also have Highways 61 and 49 pins back in stock. Our last shipment sold out, so order now! These metal pins mark the highways that meet in Clarksdale at "The Crossroads". And they mark the wearer as a solid blues supporter. Sold only as a set.


And now for something really new: a silver and blue metal Crossroads pin that adds a guitar to the Crossroads' Highway 61/49 signs. These pins will be collector's items, so order yours today.

Mississippi: State of Blues is another book that makes a perfect gift. With 100 large color photos of blues sites and events in and around Clarksdale, and an essay by blues historian Scott Barretta, it shows that the blues are alive and well in the Delta.

All items available through our online Store.

Be sure to visit the Delta Blues Museum Gift Shop for additional items and memorabilia.

Delta Blues Museum Board of Directors
William H. Gresham, President
Yvonne Stanford, Secretary
Johnny Lewis
Jim Herring
Tom Jones

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