The first guitar was called ‘wire on the wall’ . Workers on the southern plantations took the wire from worn out mops, and strung them between two nails pounded into the wall. They used rocks wedged on either end as bridges to tighten the wire enough. Then someone decided to pull the board off the wall and lay it on their lap, using bottles as slides. This was called a diddley bow. Flip those words and now you know where Bo Diddley got his name… So much history down here…home of the famed ‘crossroads’ where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in return for mastery of the blues guitar…
This day trip was really a history lesson in America’s great indigenous musical genre, the blues. Downtown Clarksdale has retained a lot of its original feel. Lots of old buildings, time worn but dignified.
Started the day learning all I could from Roger Stolle, a devout student of the blues who picked up from Columbus, OH to move to Clarksdale and pursue is passion for the music. In addition to being a walking blues encyclopedia, he books music for Morgan Freeman’s local Ground Zero Blues Club (below), and has launched a fast growing annual Juke Joint Blues festival.
Continued my education with Robert Birdsong and Bubba O’Keefe – long time locals who have all sorts of great stories. Bubba is renovating the WROX museum – a local treasure and birthplace to many ‘firsts’ including Elvis on the radio. Ike Turner was the janitor. Rows of old 45’s and 1/4″ reels, even the original mic still set up in the upstairs control room. This is REALLY where it started.
Lots of names: Big Jack Johnson, Super Chicken, Arthur ‘knees’ Jones, T- Model Ford, Wesley ‘junebug’ Jefferson, many guys still around playing gigs.
Loaded up on CDs from Roger’s Cat Head blues store and headed out as the sun was setting to get to Jackson. Really glad to have spent time here – there’s something about just walking on the ground that holds so much. I think Clarksdale is going to go through a significant revival in the coming years.. mark my words.