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Delta Blues Newsletter

July 2011

Note: From the Museum Director

The weather this spring in the Delta was downright Biblical: historic floods, record tornadoes in both number and size, and great big hail. There was high water everywhere, but the Delta Blues Museum was undamaged. The levees kept back the mighty Mississippi, the nearest tornado hit around Friar's Point, a few miles away, and the hail missed our front yard and historic railroad depot building roof.

Despite the bad weather, construction on our new Muddy Waters Addition kept on track-thanks to D. Carroll Construction for all the hard work so far!

Map of the path the new brick walkway will take.  
Our new Muddy Waters Addition going up.
[Photo credit: Kevin Clanton]
Help us build a walkway for the new building: buy a Museum Brick!

We have been busy, hosting receptions for -

Photographer and blues archivist Dick Waterman and his Son House portrait exhibit in our galleries. Thanks to the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi for funding the exhibit and opening reception; to Martha James, friend of the Museum and member of the Clarksdale Garden Club for the flower arrangements; and to Lenora Commer for the beautiful magnolias.

Group of people holding a big check.
Man sitting down playing the Guitar.
Son House Exhibit Opening, June 23, 2011
The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi presents a check for the Son House exhibit and a website feature on Robert Johnson.
Pitcured (from left): Museum Board Chairman Bill Gresham; Tom Pittman, Director, CFNM; Rob Tyner, President, CFNM; Director Shelley Ritter; Museum Board Member Dr. Frank Marascalco; Dick Waterman.
[Photo Credit: Chuck Lamb]
Son House Exhibit Opening, June 23, 2011
Bill Abel plays Son House tunes on a new edition of 1930s model "Style O" National Steel guitar, the type played by House.
Donated to the Museum by National Reso-Phonics Guitars.
[Photo Credit: John Howell]
Table display at the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Master Class reception, June 18, 2011. [Photo Credit: P.J. Walker]

The Pinetop Perkins Foundation Master Class students, instructors, and Foundation board members. Thanks to Patty Johnson for her assistance with the reception and to Martha James for the flower arrangements.

Ken Murphy, photographer, and Scott Barretta, writer, for their book, Mississippi: State of the Blues, and new photography exhibit at the Museum. Thanks to Gold Strike Casino for the delicious refreshments, and to Chuck Lamb of Chuck Lamb Photography, for photographing the Waterman and Murphy-Barretta receptions.

Acoustic Africa: Musicians from Mali, in Clarksdale to present "From Mali to Mississippi," a concert at the Coahoma County Community College.

Reception for the opening of
Mississippi: State of Blues exhibit, April 7, 2011.
Pictured (from left): Gold Strike Casino staff Dewayne Hicks and Wanalisa Pollard; Bill Gresham, Museum Board Chairman; Shelley Ritter, Museum Director; Lorraine Chatman, Gold Strike Casino; Ken Murphy, photographer; Scott Barretta, writer; and Eric Duffy, Gold Strike Casino and President, Diversity Council.
[Photo Credit: Chuck Lamb]
Acoustic Africa musicians visit the Museum, April 13, 2011.
Greeting Malian guitarist Habib Koite (center) are (from left) Robert Canon, Mississippi Festival Foundation Director who coordinated the group's performance at Coahoma Community College; CCC student Fatoumata Diaby of Mali; Dr. Vivian Presley, college president; Shelley Ritter, Museum Director; Patty Johnson; and Yvonne Stanford, DBM Board Member and chair of Coahoma's Lyceum Series, sponsor of the concert, part of CCC's observance of Cultural Awareness Week.
[Photo Credit: Panny Flautt Mayfield]

In between all the storms and receptions, I attended the American Association of Museums annual meeting in Houston May 21-26 where I made many new museum contacts and found several products that could be incorporated into our future exhibits.

Despite the bad weather, we had many visitors from everywhere -

Girma Birru, the Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and his delegation; Scott Coopwood, owner and founder of Coopwood Communications; and leaders from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi including Dr. Will Norton, Dean; Charles Mitchell, Assistant Dean, and others.

Larry Morrissey from the Mississippi Arts Commission

Clashmusic Road Trip Crew with
Museum Tour Group Director Maie Smith
Museum Store Associate P. J.
with Satoru Takahashi

Officials from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Stovall family members from Illinois, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Solid Light of Louisville, KY, the designers for our new, permanent exhibits

In June, we hosted visitors from 39 states and 21 countries

A "Road Trip" crew from Clashmusic visited the Museum, and interviewed Museum Tour Group Director Maie Smith.

Satoru Takahashi, a Japanese businessman and blues fan who plays drums, dropped by.

Our original Museum Facebook page maxed out at 5,000 friends-we ended up with over 1,000 supporters on a waiting list! If you are a friend on the old page, please sign up on our new FB page. The original page is now closed.

Face Book Screen Shot
Also, we want to encourage our FB members to post blues-related news and events. If you haven't seen what's going on in our online blues community on Facebook, you're missing the party! Join us to support and enjoy the blues music and culture we work for at the Delta Blues Museum.

Breaking news: We are pleased to announce a grant of $17,800 from the Mississippi Arts Commission for general operating support-thank you!

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.


Collection of portraits made by Dick Waterman.
Son House portraits by Dick Waterman

New: 13 photographic portraits of Son House taken by Dick Waterman. Waterman, the famed music photographer and Oxford, MS resident, helped rediscover House in the '60s and managed his concerts during that era's blues revival. For more on House, see our "Follow Son House" Web Feature.

"Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale" by Ken Murphy

On view: Mississippi: State of Blues, photographs by noted photographer Ken Murphy taken from the book of the same name. The display features 30 large-format 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. The book, which includes an essay by Mississippian blues historian and writer Scott Barretta, is for sale in our online Store.

A Kalamazoo guitar was donated by Mick Kolassa of Oxford, who writes: "The guitar is a 1937 Kalamazoo KG-11, typical of the 'parlor guitars' of its day, slightly smaller but with a very big sound. It was the first step up after a Stella, and made for those who liked the Gibson style and sound, but couldn't afford a true Gibson. Gibson was founded and based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, so they gave that name to their entry level guitar. Robert Johnson was known to play a Kalamazoo KG-14, which is a slightly larger version of this guitar."

Mick Kolassa with 1937 Kalamazoo guitar donated to the Museum
R. L. Burnside guitar
"Dr. Mike's" guitar

The guitar of R. L. Burnside, hill country blues boogie master, is now part of our collection. Many thanks to MDX Guitars and Hillgrass Bluebilly Music for their assistance with this acquisition.

The Museum has also acquired the guitar of Michael James, "Dr. Mike," who taught in our Arts and Education program.

African instruments were donated by Acoustic Africa.

African Instruments


August 12-14 , The 24th Annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival will take place on four stages in downtown Clarksdale. This year's event honors late, local musicians and supporters who enriched local blues culture for over 20 years: Big Jack Johnson, Sarah Moore, Wesley Jefferson, Foster "Tater" Wiley, James Alford, and Michael James. "Dr. Mike" taught in our Arts and Education Program.

1990 Photo courtesy of Howard Stovall

Blast from the Past. We recently received this photographic "flashback" from Howard Stovall which shows "the Sunflower Festival on the loading dock, August 8, 1990." How far the Festival has come in the last 21 years!

October 6-8
The King Biscuit Blues Festival presents its 26th annual event in Helena, Arkansas (just across the river from Clarksdale). This year's edition features Buddy Guy, Delbert McClinton, and Keb 'Mo, along with many local acts.

George Winston presented a solo harmonica concert on our stage on May 6. He also conducted a free workshop session before the concert; the first 15 participants who signed up received a free Hohner harmonica.

April's 8th Annual Juke Joint Festival was bigger and better than ever. We hosted a packed crowd in our classroom to hear David "Honeyboy" Edwards talk about his life and times as a Delta bluesman, traveling and playing with Robert Johnson, Big Joe Williams, Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, and Johnny Shines. "Honeyboy" turned 96 last month-a belated "happy birthday!" On our stage, we hosted the Ole Skool Review from Delta State University as well as two performances during the weekend by our own DBM Band.

DBM Band, Juke Joint Festival

Tyrannosaurus Chicken (Bob Lewis and Rachel Ammons), one of many regional bands playing on Clarksdale streets for Juke Joint Festival
Cigar box guitars for sale at Juke Joint Festival


The DBM Band has been playing around! The Band celebrated its first CD, From Kansas City to Clarksdale, Vol. 1, on June 2 with a party and concert at Ground Zero Blues Club. The CD is available from the online Store.

The DBM Band also played two concerts during Juke Joint Festival weekend, and another gig at Harrah's in Tunica, on July 20. The Band will appear at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival on Friday, August 12.

Shelley Ritter with Scott Ainslie.
Director Shelley Ritter with Scott Ainslie,
who arranged the donation of instructional DVDs

Scott Ainslie, a guitarist who specializes in Robert Johnson's music and who taught a slide guitar workshop at the Museum in February, organized the donation of more than one hundred instructional DVDs from Stefan Grossman and Happy Traum to the Arts and Education Program for use in our teaching programs. Thanks Scott, Happy, and Stefan!



The Gift Shop has been re-merchandised!


Plan time to shop with us when you visit the Museum for CDs, DVDs, books, tee-shirts, posters, and special Son House merchandise (tees, postcards).

We have also started a "Learn to Play the Blues" section in the Shop.

Stay tuned as we add guitar strings and picks, drum sticks, and other items to our selection of instructional DVDs, CDs, and books.

Mississippi: State of Blues features beautiful photographs by Ken Murphy and insightful text by Scott Barretta that show the blues are alive and well in and around Clarksdale. Signed copies are available for $60 here.



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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