the high point of our year, when we welcome the most visitors.
In May, we logged in attendees from 41
states and 24 countries. Those
figures will grow as summer goes on, a clear record of just
how much Clarksdale's Delta blues history
means to so many of you. Thanks for your support, especially
to those who use their vacation time to come see us!
season got a really exciting kickoff in May when the Institute
of Museum and Library Services named the Delta
Blues Museum as a winner of the National
Medal for Museum and Library Service, our nation's
highest honor for museums and libraries. We are one of only
five museums in the country to receive this award this year.
Photo Credit: IMLS
Calvin, a graduate of our Arts and Education Program
and of Delta State University where he majored in music
business, and myself with First Lady Michelle Obama,
who presented the award to us and to four other museums
and five libraries from around the country in a ceremony
at the White House on May 8. It was truly a memorable day
as we got to meet the First Lady and then were served lunch
in the East Wing of the White House. Following
the ceremony local music aficionado/attorney Jon Norris
hosted a reception at the Rock and Roll Hotel
in honor of the National Medal with blues legends The
Nighthawks. (Don't know the Rock and Roll
Hotel, a Washington D.C. club? Their calendar includes
special blues shows such as a Big Blues concert with Reverend
Peyton's Big Damn Band, Jimbo Mathus, and Alvin Youngblood
Hart. See more here.
We received much kind
and generous support from our friends in the D.C. area during
this trip. From the White House to the
Rock n Roll Hotel, it was quite a Delta
day in D.C.!
Photo Credit: IMLS
Photo Credit: IMLS
We have received congratulations
on the award from many of our fans and friends, supporters
and well-wishers, and notably, from our Mississippi
Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker,
and Representative Bennie Thompson. In
these days when "the government" gets so much criticism,
we should take a minute to note the support, financial and
otherwise, that our federal, state, and local governmental
organizations and agencies have offered to us over the years.
Their assistance makes the Museum's programs and operations
possible, and enables us to preserve and present the history
of blues culture and you, our visitors and supporters. For
example, we just received an operating grant from the Mississippi
Arts Commission--thank you! We'd also like to send
congratulations to our community partner recipient, Coahoma
Community College, which received a grant to support
the 2013 Tennessee Williams Festival they
present, held annually in October.
Medal award recognizes the vision and commitment
of all those who have worked so hard to make the Delta Blues
Museum the success story that it is today. That history
is recorded on a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker
that was placed on our grounds on April 11, just before
the annual Juke Joint Festival.
The marker's copy
describes our legacy as "the world's first museum devoted
to blues, founded on January 31, 1979, by Sid Graves,
director of Clarksdale's Carnegie Public Library."
I had the honor of meeting Sid in 1989, and worked with
him both officially and unofficially on a few projects.
His vision for the museum and persistent nurturing of it-often
in the face of adversity-laid the foundation for what is
viewed today as Clarksdale's blues tourism industry. The
marker goes on to say "exhibits here have paid long
overdue tribute to the history of the blues, while the museum's
education program has trained many young musicians to carry
the blues into the future." That's what we do each
and every day here at the Museum: activity made possible
by the commitment of our dedicated staff members and with
the support of our many blues fans around the world. Thank
Left to Right: Lee Pharr,
DBM staff; Bill Gresham, DBM Board Chairman; Shelley
Ritter, DBM Executive Director; Jim Herring, DBM Board
Member; Howard Stovall; Chris Coleman, DBM staff
Left to Right: Lee Pharr, DBM staff; Shelley Ritter, DBM Executive Director; Maie Smith, DBM staff;
Walt Busby, DBM instructor;
Chris Coleman, DBM staff
You can read the full
Blues Marker text about our past and current work here.
Speaking of our great
Museum staff . . . congratulations to Gift
Shop staffers PJ Walker and Travis Calvin
who graduated from Mississippi Valley State and Delta State
University, respectively, and Jesse Grayson,
who is entering Northwest Community College this fall.
There's more blues history at our
new "Explore the New World," a review of
the district of downtown Clarksdale that
was the center of the Delta's African American community,
where on Saturdays, farmworkers filled the streets, shopping,
socializing, drinking in the jukes, and listening to blues
by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Pinetop Perkins,
David "Honeyboy" Edwards, and Sonny Boy Williamson. See
it on our Explore & Learn Page
As if spring didn't
have enough activity and excitement, we promoted April as
"Muddy Waters Month" to honor the blues
master's birthday. The celebration was marked with special
events, such as a "From the Archives" book
signing and lecture led by biographer Robert Gordon
(below, right), author of Can't Be Satisfied:
The Life and Times of Muddy Waters, the definitive
portrait of the blues legend. (Our "From the Archives" program
is made possible by a grant from the Mississippi
Humanities Council, now celebrating its 40th year
Shelley Ritter introducing author Robert Gordon.
Photo Credit: Lee Pharr
. . . and the day-to-day
recognition we give his legacy by presenting our Muddy Waters
exhibits in our new Muddy Waters Addition.
Photo Credit: John Howell
Signed copies of Lost
Delta Found, a history of Clarksdale in the
1940s when Waters was discovered by Alan Lomax
and John Work, co-edited by Gordon, and
Can't Be Satisfied are available
in our Gift Shop here.
"Gordon and Nemerov have rescued an important study
of black life in rural Mississippi. Work's 160 song transcriptions
of field recordings form the centerpiece of this book; equally
illuminating are insightful essays on plantation folklore
and traditions, already fading at that time as urban influences
permeated the Mississippi Delta."
We'd like to thank
our sponsors: Atmos Energy, Covenant Bank, Shack
Up Inn, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Mississippi
Humanities Council for making events during "Muddy
Waters Month" so successful. Atmos Energy
provided the tent for our Blues Trail Marker
unveiling and the Coahoma County Tourism Commission
provided wine for the reception.
Talking about recognition,
we'd like to give a shout-out to James
Cotton, one of the truly great blues legends who
is still performing, and the subject of a recent feature
article in The Wall Street Journal. The report describes
how Cotton's latest CD, Cotton Mouth Man
tells his life story in song. It features vocals by Keb'
Mo', Gregg Allman, Delbert McClinton, and Ruthie Foster,
and demonstrates his still-dominating gifts on harmonica.
The songs trace Cotton's life and career: his boyhood in
Tunica, MS; his youthful mentoring by Sonny
Boy Williamson II; his sideman work with Howlin'
Wolf and his recordings at Sun Records
in Memphis in the 1950s; his joining up a teenager to join
Muddy Waters in Chicago; and his career
as a bandleader. (He has a Mississippi Blues Trail
Marker, near Tunica.) Cotton is still performing-he
played at this year's Chicago Blues Festival
in the spring-catch him on the road if you can! Order the
CD from our Gift Shop here.
Photo Credit: Kenji Oda/Alligator Records
In other blues news,
our friends at the American Blues Scene
were the first to alert us to True Blues,
an album by a group of all-stars including Taj Mahal,
Corey Harris, Shemekia Copeland, Alvin Youngblood Hart,
Guy Davis, and Phil Wiggins, among others, all
playing traditional country blues, from
its Delta roots to the present day.
and Harris are currently touring together, as a
kind of contemporary acoustic blues "supergroup." This is
your chance to hear songs like "Gallows Pole" or "C.C. Pill
Blues" live, as they might have sounded in the 1940s as
played in Delta juke joints. If you can't
catch these artists out on the road, buy their CD from our
Gift Shop right
here. Don't know American Blues Scene?
For blues music news, interviews, album reviews, and other
blues notes, check them out here.
Cotton Mouth Man and True
Blues show that the classic blues tradition
we preserve and present at the Museum continues to be very
alive and very well these days.
you checked us out on Facebook?
Over 11,000 of our supporters "like"
us. Sign up, "like" us, and join the blues talk that goes on there non-stop.
high point: reconnecting with ZZ Top
in Baltimore, MD:
Left to Right: Dusty
Hill; Marilynn Jones; Frank Beard; Shelley Ritter; Billy Gibbons
has been a longtime, major supporter of the Museum. Their
contributions are spelled out in the text on our Blues
Trail Marker: "The rock band ZZ Top played
a key role in raising funds for the museum in 1988. The
band's guitarist, Billy Gibbons, had some
"Muddywood" guitars constructed from fallen
boards he found at the house where Muddy Waters once lived
on the Stovall plantation. One of the guitars
was displayed at Hard Rock Cafes around
the world and then became a permanent exhibit at the museum.
With the cooperation of the Stovall family, the home was
later disassembled, restored, taken on tour by the House
of Blues nightclub chain, and eventually moved
to the museum."
You can see a Muddywood
Guitar, the Muddy cabin, and many
other Muddy artifacts in our new Muddy Waters Addition.
Thanks again, ZZ Top!
Photo Credit: John Howell
PS: ZZ's Billy
Gibbons also designed our enamel Highway
61 and 49 pins, the roads that meet up in Clarksdale,
the famed "Crossroads". You can order from
our Gift Shop here.
We have some new neighbors
in our blues tourism community: The Delta Bohemian
Guest House is a "historical two-story, cypress
wood, cook's home, located three blocks from downtown Clarksdale
and the Museum. The DBGH is a one-of-a-kind lodging, infusing
the house with a real sense of the old Mississippi Delta.
It's the perfect dwelling for the traveler interested in
the blues and Delta culture." The owners/founders are Billy
and Madge Marley Howell, Clarksdale natives. Contact them
This summer we are
saying a special "thank you" to active duty military
families by participating in the Blue Star
Museums program. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration
among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue
Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more
than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission
to all active duty military personnel including National
Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day,
May 27, through Labor Day, September 2, 2013. We are proud
to be part of Blue Star Museums, which gives us a chance
all summer long to thank our military families for their
service and share with them America's cultural treasures.
One final note: we
are raising funds to expand current exhibits and
develop new ones for this Addition. Please
visit our Deeper Roots Campaign here
to learn more about how you can help support our mission
to preserve blues culture.
It's been a great spring run-up to a great summer season-come visit us!
Thanks for your continued and future support!
This newsletter is supported in part
by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state
in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal
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
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 over two dozen
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. 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.
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:
26th Annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel
Festival, August 9-10-11, 2013
The main event
around here every summer is the annual Sunflower
River Blues and Gospel Festival. This year's
Festival, the 26th annual edition, features Bobby
Rush and the North Mississippi Allstars
as headliners, and 40 more bands over three days.
This year's festival is dedicated to the late Melville
Tillis, owner of the Rivermount Lounge (a
frequent venue for the likes of Rush, Ike Turner,
and Little Milton), blues historian, festival co-chairman,
and friend to the Delta Blues Museum. As always, the
annual celebration is free and open to the public.
June 13th: We hosted a reception
for the participants in this year's Pinetop
Perkins Foundation Workshop. Museum supporters
and the public dropped by to meet this talented up-and-coming
group of future blues musicians.
June 5th: As part of our ongoing
"From the Archive Series", we hosted
a lecture and book signing by Dr. Bruce Conforth,
ethnomusicologist, musician, and formerly the first
curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His new book, African American Folksong
and American Cultural Politics: The Lawrence Gellert
Story, describes one of the most unusual
collections of African-American folk music
ever amassed, and the remarkable story of the man
who produced it. A decade before America's best-known
song collectors, John and Alan Lomax, began recording
music for the Library of Congress, Gellert made the
first disc field recordings of African Americans.
by adapting an old Edison phonograph. He captured
hundreds of folksongs, blues, spirituals, and work
songs throughout North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,
and Mississippi. His collection has been kept private
for over 80 years, but is now explored in this new
book. Signed copies are available from our Gift Shop
"Gasman" Jones, 65, passed away May 22 at
his home in Clarksdale's Riverton section. Jones was
a blues harp master and leader of the Stone
Gas Band that performed frequently throughout
the Delta and in Memphis. His performances with guitarist
Terry "Big T" Williams at the Sunflower
River Blues and Gospel Festival drew large
crowds for both the music and his personal commentary.
Photo Credit: Panny Flautt Mayfield
"Blue" Bland, 83. "His vocals, punctuated
by the occasional squalling shout, were restrained,
exhibiting a crooner's delicacy of phrasing and a
kind of intimate pleading. He influenced everyone
from soul singers Otis Redding and
Wilson Pickett to rock groups like
the Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead,
and The Band. The rapper Jay-Z
sampled Bland's single "Ain't No Love in the Heart
of the City" on his album, "Blueprint"--The
New York Times. Bland was inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and
received a Grammy Award for lifetime
achievement in 1997. You can read his life story in
Soul of the Man: Bobby Blue Bland
by Charles Farley. Buy it, and the two CD collections
of his best work at our Gift Shop here.
Lewis Carter a.k.a. "T-Model Ford", 89. Ford
taught himself to play blues at age 58, when a departing
wife left him a guitar. Ford toured Delta juke joints
(including many nights at Clarksdale's Red's
Lounge) and other venues; for a while, he
opened for Buddy Guy. He recorded
seven albums, including three with Fat Possum
Records of Oxford, MS. Ford lived an outsized
version of a bluesman's life. He was also an inventive
musician with a distinctive style, and a consummate
showman and entertainer who had an international following.
"His music would take you right back to the heart
and soul of the Delta," said Clarksdale Mayor
Bill Luckett, co-owner of Ground
Zero Blues Club, in USA Today. T-Model's
last performance was September 2012 at the Highway
61 Blues Festival in Leland. Festival founder
and Highway 61 museum director Billy Johnson
said, "All of the great Mississippi bluesmen, though
they may vary in style, have one thing in common:
can't anybody play their style or music like they
can. That's what made T-Model special. He was a little
Delta, a little North Mississippi hill country, with
a taste of bop." The Highway 61 Blues
Museum has an impressive display on Ford that includes
instruments, awards, and photographs. Services for
Ford will be on July 27 in Greenville. Redmon Funeral
Home has charge.
The Arts and
Education Program was named one of only 50 finalists
nationally for a National Arts and Humanities Youth
We caught up "Daddy
Rich" on his way out of the DBM classroom,
where he teaches in our Arts and Education Program, to talk
a bit about his musical background and his work with the
students to keep blues culture alive and jammin.'
What's your interest/background in the blues, and how did
you earn the nickname Daddy Rich?
My interest developed naturally from growing up here in
the home of the blues: I was exposed to it firsthand rather
than listening to recordings. I didn't even know who I was
listening to, but I'm sure they were playing some originals
and covering the greats. I wasn't seriously interested until
I was probably 20. I started working at the DBM in 2003,
putting out my album in 2005. Terry "Big T" Williams
gave me the name Daddy Rich after he hired me to play my
first real blues gig with him. He promised to give me $20.
Apparently, most newbies on the blues scene don't actually
expect to get paid, but I kept after him and he finally
paid me after six months. He called me Daddy Rich then 'cuz
I was so persistent.
DBM: What's your interest in teaching
in the DBM Arts & Education Program? How'd you get your
start here? What keeps you going?
DR: When I was 21, I worked
a variety of manual labor jobs, construction and welding,
and I was working in a music shop. I taught private music
lessons on the side, so I had some experience teaching.
When my friend Marshall Drew decided to leave town to go
to college, a position opened up at the museum. He put in
a good word for me, and the rest is history. I didn't know
how much I would end up enjoying the experience, but I've
been here for almost ten years now. Some of my students
have graduated and become friends and contemporaries. It's
been very fulfilling to see someone come in and not be able
to play a single note, and then go on to be very successful,
whether following music as a hobby or even, in some cases,
DBM: Why do students join the program? How much
do they know about the blues when they join?
DR: A lot of
the kids join up not knowing anything about the blues. They
don't even know what instrument they want to play, or they
think they do and then change their minds several times.
Most of the adults who join are already blues fans or at
least have one particular instrument they want to learn.
The kids though, they might not know anything about the
blues, but then they'll realize that one of their favorite
artists traces his roots straight to the blues, and they
start to love it and want to learn more. Sometimes the parents
want their kids to learn the music and its history, and
sometimes they just need a good afterschool program to keep
the kids in a safe and productive environment-those kids
quickly learn that it's not a babysitting program, they
have to work and they are here to learn.
DBM: What do you
hope to get across to the students regarding blues culture
DR: I just want them to have an understanding
of the amount of hard work, dedication and time it takes
to be a serious entertainer and musician. Even if it never
becomes more than a hobby, I want them to have an appreciation
of the place they have grown up. I want them to recognize
that they live where America's music started. All the music
they listen to today can trace its roots to the blues, and
the blues got its start right here in the Delta.
who seems to be the students' favorite artist to play and
DR: They like all the Kings-Albert,B.B.,Freddie-Elmore
James, and of course, Muddy Waters!
DBM: What do
you hope to accomplish with the program in the future?
Currently, we are in the progress of expanding our history
program and working to teach the kids even more about the
artists than we have in the past. Musically, I want
to continue as we have and keep teaching in the traditional
style, by playing! We are constantly utilizing new
technology too, though, because we have to keep up with
the times and evolve as we go. Online resources can save
us time by providing lyrics and other information so that
we can spend even more time playing. We want to keep the
blues alive, and want the program graduates to follow in
the footsteps of the many blues legends we have lost recently.
DBM Band's first CD, From Kansas City
to Clarksdale, Vol. 1, is available
from the DBM online Store--just $10! Order your copy
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
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.
also have Highways 61 and 49 pins
back in stock. Our last shipment sold out, so order
now! These metal pins, designed by ZZ
Top's Billy Gibbons, 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.
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
is a 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
Be sure to visit the Delta Blues Museum
Shop for additional items and memorabilia.
|Delta Blues Museum
Board of Directors
William H. Gresham, President
Yvonne Stanford, Secretary
Return to the Delta Blues Museum
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