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Delta Blues Newsletter

February 27, 2014

Note: From the Museum Director

It's heating up inside the Delta Blues Museum these days as we work on plans for this year, our 35th anniversary. As Mississippi's oldest music museum, the first dedicated to the Blues, and as the premier showcase for the music and its history, we are privileged to continue to work toward the preservation of the legacy of the Blues and its culture. From our beginnings in 1979 in a back room in the Myrtle Hall Branch of Clarksdale's Carnegie Library to our move in 1999 to the Illinois Central freight depot and the construction of the Muddy Waters Addition in 2012, we have grown along with the growing interest in Delta Blues.

Historic Illinois Central Railroad freight depot, now home of the Delta Blues Museum

The new Muddy Waters Addition

The Delta Blues Museum, 2014

Blues is in the news: Thanks to Charlie Musslewhite for the shout out to the Delta Blues Museum at the Grammys last month. Congratulations to Charlie and Ben Harper for winning the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album for their Get Up! (Order a copy from our Shop).

And congrats to James Cotton who received a Mississippi Arts Commission Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts this month. We were pleased to see and hear DBM Ambassador Jimbo Mathus and band as featured entertainment at the Governor's Awards.

Speaking of awards. . . we received a Partnership Award for continuous support of our programs of service from the Mississippi Delta Chapter of The Links, a national association of professional women of color. Thank you!

One more time: we're still proud of the award we received last year from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. We received the honor from First Lady Michelle Obama in the East Wing of the White House.

Pictured: Travis Calvin, a graduate of our Arts and Education Program; Museum Director Shelley Ritter; First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo Credit: IMLS.

Building on the foundation of the last 35 years, we're working on some special projects for this year-new exhibits and programs, and unique performances, especially for Juke Joint Festival (April 10 -13) and the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival (August 8 - 10). Take a look at the first of our new 35th Anniversary Year exhibits below and watch for more to come. Keep up with us through this Newsletter, and on our Facebook page: join 12,000 of your fellow Museum fans on FB if you haven't yet.

If you haven't visited our home page lately, check out our two most recent Explore and Learn sections, "The New World" and "Robert Johnson". The New World District in Clarksdale was the African American "capital" of the Delta on weekends, from the 1890s to the 1940s. On Saturdays, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Pinetop Perkins, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, and Sonny Boy Williamson played for farm workers who came to shop, socialize, and hear the blues. On Sundays, nearby churches were filled with faithful folks and great gospel music.

As for Robert Johnson all blues fans know about his singular musical style, his influence on generations of contemporary musicians, and yes, the legendary tale of the Crossroads, where he supposedly "sold his soul" to the Devil to play so well.

At these and other Explore and Learn sections on Muddy Waters, Son House, and Charlie Musselwhite, you can view biographies, timelines, and photos, guided by colorful maps. (Note: when you visit the Museum in Clarksdale, you can walk the New World District, which is just across the tracks from our galleries.)

These "virtual" exhibits will be supported by new exhibits in the works. As a special Museum item for our Deeper Roots fundraising campaign, we have a Limited Edition Crossroads Hoodie for sale through our Gift Shop. One half of the $75 dollar price goes to this campaign. You can stay warm, look great, and help support our work by ordering yours here.

Visit our online Store for more DBM goods, like our Crossroads coffee cups. Sales support the Museum!

Visit our Deeper Roots Campaign here to learn how you can help support our mission to preserve Delta blues culture.

Dan Aykroyd, a real "Blues Brother," stopped by the Museum for a visit.

"In the late '60s, In Ottawa, I went to Le Hibou [club] and heard James Cotton, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, and Muddy Waters. I actually jammed behind Muddy Waters. S. P. Leary left the drum kit one night, and Muddy said, 'Anybody out there play drums? I don't have a drummer.' I walked on stage and we started "Little Red Rooster." He said, 'Keep that beat going, you make Muddy feel good.' And I heard Howlin' Wolf - many, many times-and Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee" - Dan Aykroyd.

Thanks to all you who visit, and to our friends and supporters. You make our work possible. Come see us! Starting March 1, our summer hours begin: we open at 9 am.

Thanks for your continued and future 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.


Jessie Mae Hemphill, R.L. Burnside, The North Mississippi Allstars, and Sugar Blue

We now have new exhibits on view for Jessie Mae Hemphill, R.L. Burnside, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Sugar Blue. Sugar Blue is on the list of top living harp players. Burnside, Hemphill, and the Allstars are all associated with hill country blues, but they are our geographical neighbors and musical close cousins. The North Mississippi Allstars were influenced by these hill country artists (their Hill Country Revue album features Burnside), have headlined the annual Sunflower River and Gospel Festival last August, and have donated instruments to the Museum. Thanks to Ginger Johnson and True Value for the use of their forklift to move in the cases.

Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

Upcoming exhibit for Juke Joint Festival (April 10 -13)
"In the Belly of the Blues"

"In the Belly of the Blues" is an exhibit of photographs and a book by Terry Abrahamson, covering his time in Chicago, Boston, and LA, 1969-1983. He wrote songs, travelled with, and photographed Muddy Waters and other blues musicians, and those they influenced, such as George Thorogood and The Rolling Stones. We will offer this show for the Juke Joint Festival-watch for details to come on the opening reception and programming with Terry. Right: Muddy Waters and Keith Richards.

Photo Credit: Terry Abrahamson


"Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1867:
Photographs by George Mitchell"

In December, we hosted Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1867: Photographs by George Mitchell, based on the book of the same name. You can see the photographs we exhibited in the book, on sale from our shop.

Mississippi Hill Country Blues was organized by the Mississippi Museum of Art and supported with funds provided by the Museum's statewide Traveling Exhibition Endowment, a fund made possible through significant private contributions matched by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thanks to all of the above for making this exhibit possible.


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

An exhibit of posters that spans the 26 years of the annual Clarksdale event. Lots of names, lots of color, lots of archival photos-a lot of blues history in a collection of over 40 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-string instruments, bottle-blowing, and banjo to spirituals, hymns, and prison work chants. The book comes with a DVD or rare film of Delta life in the early '70 and a CD of music from the same period. You can buy from our Gift Shop here.

"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" Explore & Learn section of our website: click here.


Greek Musical Instrument Workshop

On February 13th, we hosted a Greek bagpipe exhibition and workshop led by Yannis Pantazis, musician, composer, and instrument artisan, presented by Flute of Culture, to benefit the "One Stone" Tower Raising Campaign. The presentation began with an introduction to the history of La Ponta Santorini, a 13th century Venetian tower, followed by a musical performance featuring various handmade Greek wind instruments, to express the harmony, melody and rhythm of music that is like that of Mississippi's own cane fife tradition. Attendees learned about the development of primitive wind instruments, from the double-flute to the tsabouna (Greek bagpipe). In the photo above, Pantazis plays a tsabouna which he handcrafted himself from reeds, goat skin, and cow horn.

Upcoming 2014 Festivals

* Juke Joint Festival, April 10 -13

* Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, August 8 -10

* King Biscuit Blues Festival, October 8 - 11


We mourn the passing of Willie "Rip" Butler, former member of the Wesley Jefferson Southern Soul and Blues Band. Services were held on Saturday, Feb. 22. Rip will be missed.


The DBM Band's second CD, From Kansas City to Clarksdale, Vol. 2, features classics like "Big Boss Man," "Born Under a Bad Sign," "Key to the Highway," "Stormy Monday," and "Jumper on the Line." Guest artist Kenny Brown leads a group workout on "Kenny Brown Jam," and Bill Abel guides the revival of the diddley bow drone on "Return of the One String Blues." The CD is available from the DBM online Store: just $10! Order here.

The DBM Band was thrilled to be part of two Christmas parades this year, thanks to the City of Clarksdale and Town of Coahoma who invited us to participate. The students and teachers who make up our Arts & Education Program had a blast riding on a float in the parades and playing a mixture of blues and Christmas favorites for the crowds lining the streets. The kids all had Santa hats and glow sticks to bring some holiday cheer, and everyone seemed to have a great time dancing to the music as the band went by! Thanks to Luckett Properties for the use of their generator during the parades. (And thanks to the Town of Jonestown for inviting the band to participate in their parade-hope to make it next year!) The band also paraded and played in Clarksdale in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, sponsored by Family and Youth Opportunities Division, Inc.

Parade, Clarksdale
Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

Christmas Parade, Coahoma
Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, Clarksdale
Photo Credit: Lee Pharr

Bill Abbey donated instruments and equipment to the Arts and Education program via the good folks at Blue Green. Thanks Bill!

Photo Credit: Daddy Rich

Bob Long donated cables to the music class.

Pictured: A&E Program teacher Walt Busby with Long.

Photo Credit: Lee Pharr


Hoodies, Posters, Tees, Signs, Cups, Guitar Picks, Coffee, and more: visit our online Store

Our Shop has a variety of great Delta Blues Museum souvenirs - take a look! All sales help support our programs.


Crossroads Poster
Monster Guitar Picks
MS Blues Musicians Map


Crossroads Hoodie (b/w), with DBM Logo
Muddy Waters coffee
Long Sleeve Crossroads 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
Yvonne Stanford, Secretary
John Levingston
Tom Jones

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