On the Blues trail, part 2
From Greenville we drive to Merigold to see one of the last juke joints of the delta. The club, in a cotton plantation, is actually closed since last year because the owner died. Even with closed doors the building was worth the little detour.
Tutwiler is another gutted town, where all that remains is a police station and a few churches. It’s where WC Handy, the father of the blues, was inspired to write the original blues song in 1903. He heard a man playing “goin’ where the southern cross’ the dog” on slide guitar with a knife. His adaptation was a 12 bars song with a three-chord progression and AAB verse pattern named “yellow dog blues”. Also in Tutwiler is Sonny Boy Williamson’s grave.
Clarcksdale is at the crossroads of highway 61 and 49, the blues highways. The city has been home to many blues musicians with various juke joints and festivals. There, the Riverside hotel was the place to rest for the musicians including Ike Turner. Before 1944 the building was an hospital, it was where blues singer Bessie Smith died in 1937.
On the other side of the river, Helena (Akansas) was a hot spot for music and nightlife and played a vital role in the blues history. It’s was the birthplace of “King biscuit time”, the radio shoa that began broadcasting blues music to the Arkansas-Mississipi area in 1941.
The final stop of the blues trail is Memphis. We make it there for the evening. Tennessee is the cradle of American music. In Memphis, blues, rock and roll and soul artists would emerge from and get the new music genres to the public’s ears. In Nashville, it’s the country music born in Bristol that would get known to all.
Historical Beale Street in Memphis is the place to be, even if it’s quiet on Monday. The street is where all musicians where, playing in juke joints or on the sidewalk. Today there’s still live music in every buildings and drinks “to go” to wander in the street. Back in the day it was compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.