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Delta Blues Newsletter

December 2010

Note: From the Museum Director

On the eve of the holiday season, there's a lot of blues news that makes us grateful for our many blessings here at the Delta Blues Museum.

Mississippi: State of the Blues, a new book with photographs by Ken Murphy and text by Scott Barretta, shows that the contemporary blues scene throughout Mississippi is alive and thriving. The book includes many colorful, full-page photos of blues scenes in and around Clarksdale, from performances at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival and Red's to portraits of Super Chikan and Jimbo Mathus. Could I just hint that it would make a perfect holiday season gift for that blues-loving friend who has just about everything else? Click here to order a signed copy.

Speaking of gifts, if you haven't gotten or given a blues brick, this is a good time to do it. We're getting very close to starting construction on the new building expansion: bids from contractors have been received and shortly, the groundbreaking will begin. Personalized Museum bricks will be placed in the walkway to the renovated building. Bricks with the names of donors and/or those who donors want to memorialize are $50, and can be ordered here.

We have many new friends of the Museum - over 5,000 of them to be exact, on the Delta Blues Museum FaceBook page that was started last summer. That's the size limit that FaceBook allows! Our thanks and apologies if you are one of the people on the waiting list. Thanks to Joe Sunseri who administers the page.

In October, between the King Biscuit Festival and the Tennessee Williams Festival, I attended the annual Southeastern Museum Conference in Baton Rouge. I sat in on a workshop, "Art Concept + Design Team = Interactive Gallery," that provided much useful information for our upcoming exhibit redesign.

The Sonny Boy Club has been started by Jon Gindick on behalf of blues harp players world-wide to raise money for the Tutwiler Medical Clinic and the Tutwiler Community Education Center. Funds will go toward medical services and to create a music program. Sonny Boy Williamson is buried in Tutwiler, which is 15 miles from Clarksdale. Jon teaches the harmonica "Jam Camp" every summer in Clarksdale. Donate and get more info at

One of this fall's visitor highlights was spotting Tom Waits in our gallery. Sugar Blue, Charlie Musselwhite, and Michael Feinstein were visitors, too!

I hope to see you in the gallery soon!

A special thanks to the Mississippi Arts Commission for helping fund this newsletter.

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.



The Museum has installed an exhibit in honor of "Tater, the Music Maker" (Foster Wiley), who died in September. "Mr. Tater" as he was affectionately known, was a longtime living landmark in Clarksdale, whose ever-present smile and flavorful blues entertained visitors

and residents alike. On display are one of his guitars and the bicycle on which the Music Maker got around town and a photograph taken by Panny Flautt Mayfield of Mr. Tater grooving on the dance floor at Margaret's Blue Diamond Lounge. Many thanks to John Ruskey for his assistance with the exhibit.

Sarah Baker donated the flash cowgirl boots worn by the late, great, one-of-a-kind Jesse Mae Hemphill.

A National Steel guitar of the type played by Son House and other classic bluesmen

of the '30s ("Type O," National's "flagship" guitar-it's still in production!) was donated by National Reso-Phonic Guitars. Thanks to Don and Shanon at Reso-Phonic for making this gift happen.

Sugar Blue, the Grammy-Award winning harmonica player, best known for his harp playing on the Rolling Stones' "Miss You," has given the Museum two iconic artifacts, his signature blue "newsboy" cap and one of his Hohner C64 chromatic harmonicas.

The Museum has acquired a 1930s-era Wurlitzer jukebox. It is the model that sat in many a juke joint during the pre-war blues heyday. After cleaning and refurbishing, it will go on display in the gallery. Thanks to Shirley Shive and her family for this generous donation.

John Allison donated a set of photographs of various blues artists.

The latest addition to the Explore and Learn sectionof the Museum Web site, "Follow Charlie Musselwhite," is in-progress, thanks to the generous support of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Previous Explore and Learn units have featured Muddy Waters and Son House. You can see "Follow Muddy" and "Follow Son House" here. We are also in process of getting permissions to add Son House music to "Follow Son House." Thanks to Bug Music.



The Blues Booze and Bar-B-Q exhibit will travel around France in coming months. Here's the schedule:
Rouen le 106 Feb 1 - Mar 26
Lille Apr 4 - June 25
Vannes Jazz Festival July 4 - 30
Rennes Sept 19 - Oct 30

We are looking forward to "Lighting the Blues," a photography workshop April 11-18, to be led by David Alan Harvey. The sessions will focus on using artificial light to develop photographic stories. It's a serious technical skills workshop using the Delta and blues as subject matter. BBBQ photographer Michael Loyd Young, a Mississippi native and former student of David Alan Harvey, will be on hand for the class. For more info, contact Michelle Smith, workshop coordinator/producer.

Red's Christmas party was held on December 19th. Donations were collected to help with Big Jack Johnson's medical expenses. Contributions are still needed, and can be sent to Red's, 395 Sunflower, Clarksdale, MS 38614.



Thanks to the Community Heritage Grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, our classroom is sporting a new paint job and a new floor. The fresh paint will help preserve the historic depot building we call home and will spiff up the looks of the room-a lot! To enhance our new look, additional Patterson and Barnes paintings of blues greats were hung on the walls and in the hallway. These incredible works add colorful atmosphere to this room where so much learning about the blues takes place.

The Delta Blues Museum band is featured in "Passing Down the Blues Through the Ages," a six-minute video by producer Carolyn Presutti made for the Voice of America. The clip shows students in class and in performance at the Ground Zero Blues Club. See it here.

The Band also performed in the Jonestown and Clarksdale holiday parades.

We expect to get finished copies of From Clarksdale to Kansas City, Vol. 1, the CD recorded by the Band any day. The debut CD features musicians and instructors from the Museum classes, as well as guest appearances by Charlie Musselwhite, Bill Abel, and other local musicians. Thanks to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Mississippi Arts Commission for supporting this project.



The A new book, Mississippi: State of the Blues, is now on sale (see Director's Note, above). The beautiful photographs by Ken Murphy and the insightful text by Scott Barretta show that the blues are rollin' on in and around Clarksdale. Signed copies are available for $60 here.

A rare photograph of Ike Turner and John Lee Hooker, both Clarksdale natives, by legendary blues photographer Dick Waterman, is now available through the Museum. Printed in a limited edition, size 12" x 16," on archival paper. The price per print is $75. Order here.

Prints from Blues, Booze, and BBQ are for sale in a signed, limited edition of nine each, printed on inket, 300-year archival paper. They come in two sizes, 12" x 18" for $500, 16" x 20" for $600 (both unframed). Copies of the BBBBQ book are also on sale, at $40. ALL proceeds are donated to the Museum. Order here.


Rhythm Rockin' Blues: Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm. Sessions recorded in the repair shop of the Clarksdale Greyhound Bus Station, where Turner set up a makeshift studio in 1954, the year he refined his classic band lineup. Includes "Rocket 88" and other songs with other singers-Dennis Binder, Little Johnny Burton, Lonnie "The Cat," and "Lover Boy" (Turner under an alias).

Risin' with the Blues Turner's 2006 Grammy-award winning effort, featuring covers (Fats Domino), classic jump blues ("Caldonia"), and several Turner originals, including instrumentals that really move.

Gift Shop


Delta Blues Museum Board of Directors
William H. Gresham, President
Yvonne Stanford, Secretary
Johnny Lewis
Dr. Frank Marascalco
Jim Herring

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