Episode 3 -
Even Williams bourbon in Reds -
Sean Apple and the All Night Long Blues Band
in Ground Zero - Ivory-billed
Woodpecker in Brinkley - Pabst beer sign in Little Rock
leaving Helena, we scoot back to Clarksdale to enjoy a nite of great
blues music at the Ground Zero Blues club. We first check in at our El
Patel Motel, and then head on over. We arrive at 7 pm, but learn that
the music doesn’t start until 8 pm. I tell Doug, that there is a
historic blues club, called Reds, nearby, and maybe we can catch a beer
there and then return in time for the music at the Ground Zero. Doug,
who is the most agreeable traveling companion I have ever had, simply
replied, “Cool, man!”
Reds Blues Club, Clarksdale, MS ©
Copyright 2008 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
We find the club, but it looks like it has
been condemned and is falling in. Yet, there are a couple of cars parked
out front, so Doug and I carefully made our way to what appeared to be
an entrance door. I pushed on the door which was unlocked, and suddenly
came face to face with four grown ... I said ... grown ... black men.
They were sitting in the middle of the room around a table decorated
with a half-full fifth of Evan Williams. I managed to say a rather weak,
Next thing I know we are sitting with these
guys, one of whom is Red, and listening to and telling more BS than you
will ever hear at a VFW. Technically the club was closed this particular
night, and it was just Red and three of his friends ... relaxing ... and
a more hospitable group I have never encountered. We laughed, talked,
and drank for about an hour in this real live juke joint, with these
black men of the delta. I remember four things in particular that were
said by Red or his friends:
1. “Don’t worry, I run this place, and
nothing is gonna happen to ya while I’m around”. (?? That was real
2. Ya’ll brought some of that good ole
Georgia shine wif ya, didn’t ya?”
3. “I once had Pinetop Perkins play the
piano against Jerry Lee Lewis, and Pinetop smoked ole Jerry Lee. I had
four cameras filming, and none of them could keep up with Pinetops
fingers as he hit up on that ole piano”.
4. Red said that business was a little
slow, but that he had the river to his back (Sunflower River) and the
graveyard to his front (large cemetery in front of Red’s), and that he
had no choice but to make it.
We finally get out of Red’s after promising
him faithfully that we would be back on Friday nite to hear T-Model
Ford, a legendary bluesman, now in his 90’s, who will be performing in
this old juke joint. If you are Internet savvy, you can find lots of
info on T-Model Ford, the bluesman, and also there are videos of blues
being performed at Reds, just look up Reds blues club Clarksdale to pull
up a number of Internet and YouTube entries.
We got back to Ground Zero about the time the band
The band was Sean Apple and the All Night Long Blues Band (you can find
them on the Internet). This band was great, especially the big harmonica
player who couldn’t stop dancing. They also brought up a lot of other
guest performers, including Josh Razorblade Stewart, and a lady singer,
queen of something, and a lot of other people, including three sisters,
age 8, 11 and 13 who sang and played instruments and brought the house
Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, MS ©
Copyright 2008 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
We saw the co-owner of the Ground Zero, a
man called Luckett who co-owns the club with black actor Morgan Freeman.
We left around 1 a.m. and retired for the nite.
Thursday morning, we are up bright and
early and take off for Little Rock, Arkansas. I had purchased a 4ft by
8ft Pabst sign on Ebay, and needed to pick it up in Alexander, a little
place outside Little Rock. We started out cross-country with the
intention of picking up interstate 40 near Brinkley, Arkansas.
Between Helena and Brinkley, we encountered
duck and goose hunting country. Lots of flat grain fields, flooded
fields and flooded woodlands, and thousands of what I think were
Canadian geese flying around and sitting on the ground. We didn’t see
any hunters, and we learn later that the hunting season had just ended
the last of January.
We stop in to drink coffee (it is a cold
and dreary day) in Brinkley at Gene’s BBQ and Family restaurant. There
we discover two things: First, the ivory-billed Woodpecker and Second,
the nice waitress from Romania.
appears that there was a magnificent bird that inhabited the big woods
of Arkansas for ions of years, until the bird became extinct as a result
of logging operations, sometime during the first part of the 20th
century. Then, in 2004, after 60 years, someone saw the ivory-billed
woodpecker near a section of virgin woods outside of Brinkley. The
search was on by naturalists from around the world.
A bird once thought extinct, actually
lives! This restaurant, was the meeting place for a lot of these
scientists, and Gene has decorated its walls with artist’s drawings of
this splendid bird. (You can also order an “ivory-billed
cheeseburger…it’s on the menu). There have been a number of videos and
photos taken, but yet no absolute proof that the bird still lives.
Recently, someone offered $50,000 to anyone who could actually prove
that the bird lives on.
Later, Doug told me that he thought he saw
one of these birds smushed into the grill of a freightliner we met on
the highway, but I think he was kidding.
Our waitress was a lovely young lady with a
strange accent. We inquired, and it turns out she is from Romania, and
was working on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean when she met a
handsome young man from Brinkley. You know the rest of the story.
We boogie on
to Little Rock, retrieve this wonderful sign that will be displayed over
my juke joint at Cooters, and we head back east on I-40 to Memphis. The
IBC is in full swing, and we plan to be on Beale St this night.
To be continued.
Episode 4 - New and Old Daisy Theaters
in Memphis ... 2024 calendar in Abe's diner in Corinth ...
Coon Dog Cemetery in the North Alabama hills ... soul food in Courtland,
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