Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Traveling: Searching for Muddy Waters

So we rolled into Clarksdale after 4 and were hungry. We unloaded the car and headed right back out, and I had the idea that we could sneak one of my 'must see' sights in before supper. A friendly, young man who worked at the hotel asked us what we were up to, so I told him that I wanted to see the cabin that Muddy  Waters lived in when he worked on a plantation before he made music his business. He said that's easy- yield right, go past yonder, turn left and drive into the fields. Easy. Well, maybe in Chicago that was designed on a grid and whose infrastructure is such that street signs are maintained and landmarks or places of interest are heavily signed. But I was in the heart of the delta and I found the yield, but not much other than a high school footbal team practicing in one hundred degree heat. Have I mentioned that I am dragging a 79 year old mother along on my magical mystery tour? And she was hungry, so I had to bale. I was disappointed and would have kept looking, but she is my mom. I defer to her.

As it was Monday, the city was shuttered up. We drove way out of town on advice of a travel web site. It was a queer little place in the truest sense of that word. It was a 'boutique hotel' made from grain silos. It was rustily futuristic. And not a tree was in sight. The restaurant turned out to be closed, but a woman directed us to a fine place to eat in town. I had a local beer and all was good. One of the things that I really wanted to do was hear some music. But the town was pretty dead. 

After dinner we took a walk down the street and a man came up to me and asked me where I was from and got into conversating. As it happens, he was standing in front of a little juke joint and my wish came true. Mom and I ordered a beer and we settled in. Most people there seemed to know each other. One group of old ladies, yes! old ladies, all wore red hats. Halfway into one set, the waitress jumped up on stage to show the red hats her new bass playing skills. It was a good time. And the dude could play some gee-tar.

But I still had Muddy on my mind. After breakfast and goodbyes with our new friend at the Hampton Inn, we had one more stop before we had to move on to next in order to make it to our final destination. Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art. As soon as we walked in, the owner started talking and I met him right there. This guy from Ohio took to the blues, moved to the delta and has become its trusted advisor, confidante and historian. The store could have used a dust up, but it was wonderful to talk to someone who believed in the blues. He invited me back for the juke joint festival in April, which attracts thousands of people from across the world, particularly Australia. He told me that so many Australians come to the fest that they put up a welcome Aussies tent. He also gave me a map to Muddy. 

The map was easiest enough to follow, but the lack of signage on the roads made it impossible to find. We went down the wrong road, and I knew it. I put the map down, opened my mind, and went down the road that seemed like it. I made it. But the shack wasn't there, only the plaque. The actual structure was moved to the Delta Blues Museum. No where in any of the literature that I had come across did it say that. So I took a picture of the tree that is there. And I am wondering if I shouldn't stay at the Crossroads to help the folk of Clarkesdale, home of the blues, make it a more comfortable home to visit.

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