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Delta Blues Newsletter

December 29, 2017

Note: From the Museum Director

Happy holidays from down in the Delta!

It's been a very busy 2017 at the Delta Blues Museum. We presented new programs and exhibits, hosted distinguished guests, and welcomed 25,000+ visitors who came from all 50 states and all over the world (as they do every year) to experience the authentic history of the Delta blues.

We did all that with support from the City of Clarksdale, many funding sources, and most importantly, from you, our visitors and supporters.

We need your help to continue to preserve and present the history and the legacy of the Delta blues.

Here's how you can contribute:

Highlights of 2017

Our programs received national attention when we hosted a reception honoring National Endowment for the Arts Chair, Jane Chu, who visited the Museum as part of her tour of art programs in Mississippi. Chu endorsed the importance of learning about the blues and continuing the historic traditions of the Clarksdale/Delta area.

Delta Regional Authority Co-Chairman Chris Massengill, Mississippi Arts Commission Director Malcolm White, and NEA Chair Jane Chu

NEA Chair Jane Chu and James "Super Chikan" Johnson

The DBM band played, and James "Super Chikan" Johnson, a recipient of the 2004 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, showed an example of the unique handmade guitars he creates.

Photos Credit: Panny Flautt Mayfield

The DBM Band

DRA Co-Chair Massengill, Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy, Chu, and Bill Crump of Senator Thad Cochran's office.

"Monday Movie Nights", a new, monthly outdoor film series that reflected the state's rich musical heritage, was begun in honor of Mississippi's 2017 Bicentennial. Over the summer, we showcased Cadillac Records, The Last Waltz, Crossroads, Ode to Billie Joe, Jailhouse Rock, and The Blues Brothers. The goal of the series was to show the influence that musicians from our state and the Delta region have had on music and the arts.

This project was made possible by a Bicentennial grant from the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Humanities Council. We appreciate the support!

Thanks to support from Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc., we were able to purchase the projection equipment. This fun series will continue next spring - stay tuned for details!

Barnes Pettey Financial Advisors, Clarksdale Public Utilities, and the Mississippi Arts Commission sponsored a reception for artist/photographer R. Kim Rushing for the opening of Parchman, an exhibit of photographs from the book of the same name about the infamous Mississippi prison. Rushing was allowed long-term access to inmates to create the stories of eighteen volunteer inmates through images and their own words. The book is available from our Gift Shop.

In keeping with our Mississippi-focused year, we hosted a book signing to celebrate the publication of The Mississippi Encyclopedia. It's a huge volume that features essays on many subjects, among them cotton, the Mississippi River, the civil rights movement,fiction, foodways, myths, Native Americans, and, of course, music, including the blues.The book will appeal to anyone who wants to know more about Mississippi and the people who call it home. You can buy signed copies from our Gift Shop.

Speaking of books, longtime Museum supporter and photographer Panny Flautt Mayfield has published Live from the Mississippi Delta, a collection of her photographs and stories about musicians from world-famous celebrities ZZ Top, B.B. King, and Robert Plant to local blues icons Wade Walton, Early Wright, and the Jelly Roll Kings. Panny presents over 200 images from her long career of photographing live music in and around Clarksdale, recording blues festivals, the Delta Blues Museum, and the juke joints where the Delta blues was made and played, such as Smitty's Red Top, Shelby's Dew Drop Inn, Po 'Monkeys, Sarah's Kitchen, and Red's, among others. On December 14, we hosted a book signing at the Museum. Signed copies of Live from the Mississippi Delta are available from our Gift Shop.

Speaking of longtime Museum supporters...Charlie Musselwhite appeared on a panel with Jim O'Neal, co-founder of Living Blues magazine, of the Sunflower River Blues Festival, and research director of Mississippi's Blues Heritage Trail, during the 30th annual Sunflower Festival in August. For this Mississippi Bicentennial program, the two blues veterans swapped stories from their decades of experience with Mississippi music and with Clarksdale's Delta blues pioneers. This free program was supported in part by a grant to the Sunflower River Blues Association from the Mississippi Humanities Council and State Tourism - thanks!

We celebrated Clarksdale/Delta blues legends:

Muddy Waters
(April is "Muddy Month") and

John Lee Hooker
(August is "John Lee Hooker Month")

with special programs and related displays in our Gift Shop.

Among the highlights of Muddy Month was a presentation about Muddy's life and times by his son, musician Joseph Morganfield; Robert Gordon, author of I Can't Be Satisfied, the definitive Muddy Waters biography; and Paul Wilson, owner of WROX radio and Museum board member.

Robert Gordon, Joseph Morganfield and Paul Wilson

Photo Credit: Howard Greenblatt

John Lee Hooker - Explore & Learn Program

For John Lee Hooker Month, we added "Follow John Lee Hooker", a visual biography, to the "Explore and Learn" section of our website.

Check out all of our "Explore and Learn" series of illustrated biographies and histories on our website. Besides John Lee Hooker, subjects include Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Son House, Charlie Musselwhite, The Blues and the Great Migration, and Clarksdale's New World. You're guaranteed to learn something you didn't know-and get a colorful look at blues history.

The DBM Youth docent program wrapped up a successful inaugural series of activities under the direction of PJ Walker. Our 27 high school student-docents assisted in our Gift Shop, helped present receptions, and promoted the Museum during Juke Joint and Sunflower River festivals. We look forward to building on this success with our new docents for 2018.

We are very grateful to all who helped us raise $30,000 to complete our Museums for America grant. Thanks to you and to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we have completed our designs for new permanent exhibits. We will be sharing more about the implementation of these exhibits after the holidays.

Many funding sources make our programs possible. Our latest award comes from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a two-year grant for general operations. Many thanks to MAC, and to those in Congress and the Mississippi Legislature who keep this important state agency funded.

As Mississippi's oldest museum dedicated to music (founded 1979), we're looking forward to our 39th year with renewed excitement. To keep up with the Museum's news and events, join the 28,385 blues fans who follow us on Facebook.

Come visit us-we're always glad to meet our visitors who come from all over the world. We appreciate your support!


Shelley Ritter, Executive 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.

2013 IMLS Award

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Panny Flautt Mayfield: Live From the Mississippi Delta

Photos by Panny Flautt Mayfield from her new book, Live from the Mississippi Delta, a collection of musicians from world-famous celebrities Charlie Musselwhite, ZZ Top, B.B. King, and Robert Plant to local blues icons Wade Walton, Early Wright, and the Jelly Roll Kings.


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

An exhibit of posters that spans the entire 30 years of the annual Clarksdale event. Lots of names, lots of color, lots of archival photos, lots of memories - an eyeful of blues history in a collection of Festival ephemera that are now a valuable record of blues performers and performances.

"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 60's and 70's, 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-string instruments, bottle-blowing, and banjo to spirituals, hymns, and prison work chants.



Robert "Bilbo" Walker, 80. Born near Clarksdale, Walker began his interest in music as a boy when introduced to Ike Turner. He was self-taught, learning to play guitar, piano, and drums. Walker said he stopped learning new songs in 1965, so his repertory was Delta blues classics, linking him to earlier blues legends such as Muddy Waters and Magic Sam. Known for his flamboyant showmanship and Chuck Berry "duck walk" imitations, Walker played many venues throughout California, Chicago, and Clarksdale. He appeared in the documentary, I Am the Blues.

Leo "Bud" Welch, 85. Welch began his music career playing blues and R&B before becoming a longtime gospel performer in Bruce, MS. Rediscovered in 2014, Welch recorded two albums, performed across North America and Europe, and was the subject of a documentary film, Late Blossom Blues. He returned to the blues in 2015 with I Don't Prefer No Blues, a hard-driving collection that cemented his reputation as a traditional-style Delta blues musician.

In addition to members of our blues community, two key figures in Clarksdale's tourism industry passed away:

Thomas Shockley Ely, Jr., 78, husband of Beverly Morris Ely, the owners and operators of Ramon's Restaurant for over 50 years. During his younger years, Ely was a free spirit in his early days - he spent time riding bulls in rodeos in Texas. He was an avid music lover and followed the Red Tops to many of their performances. He valued family, holidays and all events with his grandchildren; he loved gathering with family near and far, and welcoming diners at Ramon's, which continues to serve both locals and tourists.

Chafik A. Chamoun, 85, owner of Rest Haven Restaurant. Chamoun came from Lebanon to America through Ellis Island in 1953, and followed his grandfather to the Mississippi Delta in 1954. After opening a grocery store on Friars Point Road in Clarksdale, he took over Rest Haven from his cousins in 1990 and began serving Lebanese, American, and Italian favorites. Visitors to Clarksdale will recall his warm hospitality as well as his multi-cultural menu.



The Delta Blues Museum Band played in holiday parades in Clarksdale and Friars Point.

The band also appeared at the 30th Annual Sunflower Blues and Gospel Festival.


The Delta Blues Museum's Band CD, From Kansas City to Clarksdale, Vol. 2,
is available from our Gift Shop: Order here.


Muddy Merch!

When you buy from our Shop, you support the Museum. Thanks!

Shop for these items and other blues stuff here.

Muddy Waters CD
The Complete Plantation Recordings
Can't be Satisfied, The Life and Times of Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
The Definitive Collection CD

Muddy Waters Coffee
Muddy Waters Poster
Muddy Waters Tee

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

Delta Blues Museum Board of Directors
Jim Herring, President
Lera Kinnard, Secretary
Tom Jones
Ralph Simpson
Paul Wilson

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