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.


The Pandora Team

26 thoughts on “Clarksdale

  1. hi
    im a musician in india and i have my demo on – im wondering if you would be inerested in it.

  2. Dear Tim,
    I have followed your trip for a couple of weeks now, and it sounds like a journey of dreams come true. I can only imagine how astonishing it must be to stand on the same street corners as american music icons. Needless to say I am green with envy. I am sorry I missed you when you were in New Orleans, my town, but it looked like you had fun. Keep taking pictures of the old control rooms and sound boards those are my favorite. Thanks Genevieve

  3. First off I would like to say that I love your site. No annoying pop-ups – no cheesie graphics – nothing to DL…awsome.
    I was wondering how come there isn’t any Jungle music in your gynormas music library? You have Drum&Bass – HipHpo – Reggae – Electronic…so why not Jungle?
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Great photos. This is my first comment so let me start off by saying Pandora is fantastic. I’m hooked on it. I have a wide variety of musical interests and Pandora is really letting me learn more about genres of music that I enjoy but don’t know much about.
    If I had one suggestion for this incredible service, it would be to normalize the music (i.e. make it all the same volume). This should be possible on the Flash end of things to avoid having to do it to all of your material. Some of the songs that play – especially some of the older material that lacks an album cover – is extremely quiet.
    Have a great trip and best of luck with this stellar startup company.

  5. Hand in hand with P2P… this completes my need for audio satisfaction. By introducing me to “new Artists” (ones I am not already familiar with)I have expanded my “Libraries” by at least two fold… y`all have been unexpected blessing. My thanks for the effort applied towards this project, I will reccommend much and often.

  6. Glad you guys could visit Clarksdale. I’m from Mississippi, and there is much to learn from the Delta. I’ve really enjoyed your site and your mission!
    Keep up the good work

  7. I have a hard time believing there wasn’t any guitars before the “wire in the wall”… I mean, it’s the same concept/shape as any fundamental acoustic instrument. No old school lutes, etc?

  8. You removed Asheville from the map!!! You cant miss out now!! We are less than 2 weeks away from, arguably, the greatest festival in the country: the Lake Eden Arts Festival,
    So, turn that thing around and come own to cackelacky!!

  9. You’re right. Really meant to say the first guitar among the southern plantation community that grew into the blues movement… thanks for pointing this out. I also learned that “shotgun shack” was an allusion to the worker connected row houses with adjoining doors – you could fire a shotgun through a row of houses without hitting anything if the doors were open. Not sure if this actually happened, but locals claim so…

  10. i just want to say that pandora is amazing, it is acually a dream come true. i give you all mad props for having the patience to sift through that much music. thank you so much for introducing me to so many new artists so similar to the ones i love.

  11. Hi! Great service…I love it so far. Just one suggestion. I think it would be great if a person could enter a music genre instead of just an artist name or song name. Keep up the great work and enjoy the rest of your trip!

  12. Hey you should come to Yukon, Oklahoma because it’s a small town with good local musicians and an awesome community.

  13. I enjoy Pandora so very much. I listen to it whenever I get on the internet. Keep up the good work. I just noticed you were traveling. Why don’t you come to California? I would love to see you.

  14. Hiya,
    I love the blues but I’m not sure that the first guitar came from the the southern states, the guitar is a descendant of a very ancient arab instrument, but i suppose that’s not a very politically correct thing to say. African string instruments are also pretty much as old as that.
    America did’nt invent music or intruments.
    Better than that !
    America REinvented music and instruments !
    Where would music be without it ?
    But please remember that roots are not 200 years old but more that 2000
    Ciao Ciao
    Some stupid european rambler

  15. I just stumbled upon PANDORA tonight and it’s great. I travel internationl to 3rd world countries quite often and have no music except what I take…… from now on, as long as I have the net….I can rock out! Thanks

  16. Tim,
    Please tell me you’re coming to Pittsburgh. There’s gonna be a cool concert later this summer to celebrate the Superbowl win before the season starts.

  17. I am for work in China (on the country)and our radio only recieves Chinese music. I am very glad I have discovered pandora so I can listen to good music. Thanks
    When are you coming to europe to discover new music?
    I have already one tip, a very nice group from amsterdam. Check it out on
    Muriel (belgium)

  18. A friend just told me about Pandora and I love it! I sent it off to a bunch of friends and they are loving it too!! Good work guys. I can’t get over music and new technology. I remember when I was a kid and I would have to drive an hour and a half to Detroit or to London Ontario to find kool music and pay a fortune..ahh, the days of analogue.
    Love you!!
    We are from Canada..Toronto to be exact.

  19. I just read about Pandora in PC Magazine and I thought I would check it out. I have tried other music services and I have been really disappointed in the results. One of my favorite artists is Harry Chapin and when I listen at other sites I get lots of folk music. Of course, Harry was not a folk singer…he was a story teller and he had a unique sound. Pandora introduces me to artists and songs that have the same “feel” as Harry’s songs. Some are stories and others just have the right “sound”. I am pleased and impressed with this service. I am planning on spreading the word. I am also going to create a new station for “David Allen Coe” and I am quite curious what it is that the Music Gnome Project has in store for me!

  20. I am from north Mississippi and I use the site all the time, thanks for stopping in our neck of the woods!

  21. I see that you have been to the larger cities in Tennessee. Jackson, Tennessee was the home of Carl Perkins. This weekend people from all over the country will be gathering in Jackson for the Rock-a-billy Festival. This festival is an annual event that is held to listen to rock-a-billy music with good food, fellowship and live music. You might be interested in visiting this event sometime.

  22. Im from Clarksdale live in Memphis now but i love comeing to Clarksdale and hereing you play at Ground Zero,my cousin Casey is a bar tender there.I love the birth place of the blues!!!!