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Charlie Patton painting © Copyright 2004 Loz Arkle
Painting © 2004 Loz Arkle

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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



Down the Dirt Road (Part 4) September - October 2005
by Courtland and Hazel Bresner

Arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico following a long tiring journey from Manchester via Chicago. Albuquerque airport must be unique in its features – pseudo New Mexican decor. Crashed out in our hotel. Picked up our rental car, Chrysler, and explored downtown Albuquerque including the historic Route 66. The centre of Albuquerque is very historic and picturesque including a large number of Adobe style buildings. Lots of shops selling Native American turquoise jewellery, dream catchers, etc.  

Travelled north to Taos. Went through Jemez Mountains and Indian Reservations. Strict privacy is required when within the Indian Reservations – no photographs or video. Saw lots of weekend bikers on Harley Davidsons on route. Stopped at Soda Dam and skirted Los Alamos and arrived at Taos. Booked into a Hacienda style hotel.

Looked around Taos, very touristy and commercialised, however, there is a Blues Club in town.  

Headed south to Santa Fe following the Rio Grande gorge, very spectacular, lots of good photo opportunities.  

Next day we explored the centre of Santa Fe, similar to Albuquerque with Adobe buildings and Native American wares. Santa Fe has links with the Wild West and the cattle drives as depicted on many a western film. In order to make the best of the time available we went on a guided tour of the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Trail and saw the rail head which was at the end of the cattle trail.  

Travelled south to Albuquerque through spectacular, semi desert countryside and even saw a number of Buffalo herds. Outside of Albuquerque we went to see the rock petroglyphs. Overnight stay prior to flying to San Antonio, Texas.  We had some great Mexican food during our week in New Mexico.  

San Antonio the city where Robert Johnson first recorded in 1936. Headed to “The Alamo” for a photo shoot. The Alamo has been reconstructed as a tourist attraction within a park. Temperature about 92C and very humid.

The main entertainment area within San Antonio is found on the Riverwalk. The San Antonio river has been diverted into a loop within the city with flood locks, etc., to prevent flooding of the city. The Riverwalk has been developed into a tourist attraction with lots of bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and entertainment. Took a guided boat tour of The Riverwalk which helped to orientate ourselves within the city. Before we left the UK we were told that a Blues Club was near the Alamo but could not find it, even after asking about half a dozen people including the tourist office.

Picked up rental car, Ford, and headed north on Highway 35 skirted Austin and headed for Wortham and found Blind Lemon Jeffersons grave at Wortham Negro Cemetery. This is indicated by a “Historic Site” marker about a mile out of town opposite the road leading to the cemetery. Overnight stay in Fairfield. 

Headed off to Richards and located the Longstreet Cemetery where Texas Alexander is buried. As with most of the grave sites there is no grave marker.  


Next on the agenda was Navasota to find the grave of Mance Lipscomb in the Rest Haven Cemetery. This site has a modern grave marker. Took photos.


When in Navasota we caused quite a stir because most of the people we came into contact with had never met anyone from the UK before. They were surprised that we had heard of Navasota and travelled several thousand miles to visit. They stated that people in Houston, approx 50 miles away, had never heard of Navasota.   

Continued our journey north with an overnight stay in Huntsville. Headed off eastwards on Highway 21 along the trail that the Native American Indians and early white settlers had used when heading to the west. Lots of markers on route indicating Native American villages and burial mounds and one of the locations were Davy Crockett and his troops camped while on route for The Alamo, a park is planned at one of the locations. Passed through some very old, in American terms, towns including Alto, Augusta and Nacogdoches. We were thinking of heading to Shreveport but were told that accommodation would be in short supply as evacuees from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast had been housed there.

Change of plan and headed for Texarkana along 59 North. Overnight stay in Marshall.  

Set off towards Little Rock, Arkansas and finally onto Forrest City our home while attending the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, formerly the King Biscuit Festival.  

It is cotton harvesting time in the Delta with large cotton bales lining the road-side.  These are large cotton bales, about the size of a small house. The Cotton Gins are working to capacity.  

Spent a day in Helena visiting the Delta Cultural Centre and spent some time with Sonny Payne, DJ of the King Biscuit Time radio show. Visited Gist Music Shop and spent about an hour talking with the owner about music, life and everything. Had some great down home cooking for lunch at Bullocks on the corner of Frank Frost and Missouri Street – excellent food. This is the location where John Hammond played Come On In My Kitchen in the documentary The Search for Robert Johnson.

Spent time in Bubbas Blues Corner. Bubba, the owner, is very knowledgeable about the local blues seen and is one of the MCs of the King Biscuit Festival. Met up with one of my email contacts for blues grave research, just by chance. Visited the festival site.  

Thursday 6th to Saturday 8th October the start of the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival prior to arriving at Helena we stopped at Wal-Mart and bought two camping chairs as these would be needed over the weekend for the open air festival.

The festival is free with one main stage and several small stages scattered around the town. Street performers are also along the main street. Due to the nature of the scheduling we couldn’t get to see all the artists over the weekend. The following is a sample of the performers seen over the weekend. The music started at midday and finished at midnight. The stage crew were very efficient with only fifteen to twenty minutes between sets. We saw more performers than those listed below but space and memory of the event do not allow a full listing.

  • John Alex Mason, acoustic blues on a wooden bodied National. Played selection of originals including, Let It Rise and What Are You Hungry For?, and standards including, Kokomo Blues, Walking Blues and Shake Em On Down.
  • AJ and the Two Tone Blues Band. Started with Juke and maintained a consistent quality throughout the set. This band were winners of the Sonny Boy Blues Society competition.
  • Diunna Greenfield with Bob Margolin on bass guitar and John Deltorra Richardson on guitar who has recently won the best unsigned guitarist award. A mixture of original and standards such as If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day and Built For Comfort.
  • Mark Salling and his Band. A very talented multi-instrumentalist – vocals, harp, sax and keyboards. They played a set of original songs.
  • Sam Carr’s Blues Band played a mixture of Chicago and down-home style blues.
  • Bob Margolin & Hubert SumlinBob Margolin with Hubert Sumlin and Mookie Brill. An excellent mixture of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf numbers. Excellent guitar solos from both Bob and Hubert with Bobs Muddy Waters influenced slide guitar making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Diunna Greenfield joined the band for a few numbers including It Hurts Me Too and Built For Comfort. Spent some time with both Hubert and Bob before they went on stage, they both said that they enjoyed playing the Maryport festival and that the event was something special.
  • Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues with Carl Weathersby. An enjoyable set consisting of a mixture of originals and standards – Killing Floor, Stop Breaking Down Going Down Slow.
  • Cedell DavisCedell Davis. A recent stroke has left Cedell incapable of playing guitar however his band provided a competent backing for Cedell who was also having difficulty singing. A young female relative of Cedell got on stage to encourage Cedell into singing and it worked, he would not even stop when his band had packed up to leave.
  • Walter “Wolfman” Washington. The laid back guitarist set comprised of funky New Orleans style blues. In fact he was too laid back and some of the audience were getting restless.
  • Paul GerimiaPaul Gerimia played a set of acoustic blues on six string Gibson and a twelve string Stella guitar. He mixed original material with a range of classics including Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues and Charlie Patton’s Pony Blues.
  • Bobby “Blue” Bland. This excellent singer took us on a journey through his career including such gems as, St. James Infirmary, Ain’t No Sunshine, Further On Up The Road, Everyday I Have The Blues, Stormy Monday, Drifting Blues and Reconsider Baby.
  • James Cotton with Rico McFarland on guitar. Prior to taking the stage James Cotton was awarded the 2005 Sonny Award for services to the blues. Song played included Blow Wind Blow. This harp legend was in fine form.
  • Reba Russell. This strong voiced female singer entertained with mainly original blues songs and ballads plus standards that included Electric Chair Blues.
  • Little Charlie and The Night Cats. Excellent West Coast swing from the masters of the genre. Rick Estrin and Charlie Baty swapped instruments with Rick playing guitar solos and Charlie playing some really fine harp. Dump That Chump had the usual audience participation. The encore included Hideaway merged into a Texas style shuffle, Peter Gunn Theme and the James Bond Theme.
  • Otis Taylor played an eclectic set of original material with Otis playing both guitar and harp.
  • Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets with Sam Myers. An excellent set of Texas style blues including Double Trouble and I’m A Pawnbroker. Sam Myers, resplendent in his red suit, blew some fine harp especially on Who’s Loving You Tonight.
  • Robert Jr LockwoodRobert Jr Lockwood and his Big Band. A jazz influenced set by Robert Jr, excellently played on his twelve string guitar. Songs included The Way You Do The Things You Do, Ain’t Nobody’s Business and Got To Find Me A Woman.
  • Drinks Small from North Carolina produced a set of mainly standard acoustic blues songs on a metal resonator guitar injected with a good sense of humour. Songs included Mojo Hand, I Feel Good and Things That I Used To Do.
  • David "Honeyboy" EdwardsDavid “Honeyboy” Edwards supported by his manager on harp and a Robert Johnson look-alike on guitar. Honeyboy was spellbinding with his anecdotes and songs which included Catfish Blues, West Helena, Standing In The Corner, Who’s Loving You Tonight. However a power failure cut short his set.
  • Mark Hummell the great harp player was joined for most of his set by harp player James Harman. At one time Mark had a total seven harp players on stage at the same time each taking a solo in turn.
  • Irma Thomas the Queen of New Orleans soul entertained with a set of songs spanning her career. Her spellbinding performance included You Can Have My Husband But Please Don’t Mess With My Man, Hip Shaking Mama, Breakaway, Loving Arms, Time On My Side and Simply the Best.
  • Bobby Rush and his band provided a top class chittlin circuit revue complete with dancing girls. A great way to end the festival. Great entertainment but not for the faint hearted or easily offended.

There were numerous kiosks and stalls selling Deep South cooking – ribs, catfish, tamales, chicken, corndogs, etc. – delicious. There was no trouble or drunks spoiling a great weekend. Loads of Harleys on the Saturday night, lots of chrome. Everyone was there to picnic and enjoy themselves, us included.  

This was probably the best Blues Festival that we have ever attended. Top class blues with no blues-rock in sight.  

Travelled into Mississippi and on to Cleveland for the night. We couldn’t find any accommodation near Helena or Clarkdale during the festival period. If anyone intends to go to Helena during the festival make sure that you book your hotel/motel early.  

Sunday 9th October

Travelled to Clarksdale for the Clarksdale Mini Festival at Cathead Record Store. Artists seen included.

  • Super Chickan. guitar and vocals plus a guest female keyboard player performed a set of original songs, some surprisingly about chickens. Super Chickan plays guitars made from old oil cans.
  • David “Honeyboy” Edwards with his manager on harp. This performance seemed more intimate than the Helena performance and was a treat to witness. After the set I managed to have a conversation with Honeyboy for about twenty minutes discussing his early life, playing juke joints and the 1930s and his association with the early blues performers.
  • Big George BrockBig George Brock. This big, imposing harp player dressed in a sharp cream suit and matching hat played a selection of Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Read songs supported by a small band. Songs included Smokestack Lightnin’, Meet Me At The Bottom, Hoochie Coochie Man, Nine Below Zero and Big Boss Man. During Got My Mojo Working Big George was rolling around the floor singing and blowing harp.


  • Arthur WilliamsArthur Williams harp player support by Bill Perry on guitar. An excellent set of covers including C C Rider, I’m A King Bee, Arkansas Boogie, Bring It On Home To Me and Talk to Your Daughter.  

We couldn’t stay to the end of the Clarksdale Mini Festival as we had been invited to Pinetop Perkins Homecoming Party at Hopsons Plantation.

What a great time we had at Hopsons with Pinetop sitting near the stage grinning from ear to ear. The entertainment was provided by a number of blues players from the Helena event jamming in a free and easy manner. The house band included of Bob Margolin, Mookie Brill, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. They were joined at various times by Mark Hummell, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, Michael Burks and Big George Brock. The audience were treated to mostly the Muddy Waters songbook. An amazing afternoon and evening. As a guitar player I was instructed to put my name on the jamming list but I didn’t get to perform. It would have been an experience.  

Spent a few hours exploring Cleveland and then drove to Leland. The same thing seems to be happening to Leland as with other small Delta towns. People are leaving the towns and the centres are decaying. More buildings are closed than when we were last here just over two years ago.   

Continued to Greenville where we spent the next few nights. Spent some time at the old historic area of Walnut Street. Plaques of famous local bluesmen have been set into the sidewalk in Walnut Street. However, if you are not looking down you probably miss them as they are so unobtrusive. A Blues Club is situated on Walnut Street which has live blues music most weekends. Over the levee and on the Mississippi River are a string of casinos.

More authentic blues clubs are in Greenville on Nelson Street but these are not recommended unless you have a local guide for safety.  

We travelled south to Hollandale to meet up with an old friend. The centre of Hollandale seems to be in decline like a lot of Delta towns with a number of juke joints on the Blue Front demolished and the area left empty.

Continued on to Rolling Fork where Muddy Waters originated from. A plaque has been erected in the centre of town to commemorate Muddy Waters. A museum is planned but the organisers are lacking funds. We talked to the local newspaper editor who was interested in our trip to Rolling Fork and was surprised to learn that there is a large blues following in the UK. They said that they would write a small article for the newspaper – we’ll never know whether it was published or not.

On the return to Greenville we visited the Bourbon Mall, an old plantation commissary which has been converted into a restaurant, bar and music venue. This place has some interesting decor. 

John Hurt's GraveCalled into Holly Ridge to the New Jerusalem Cemetery to visit the graves of Charlie Patton, Asie Payton, Frank Frost and Willie Foster. Continued on highway 82 towards Greenwood and then north on highway 7 to Avalon and Teoc to find Mississippi John Hurts grave something we’ve been trying to do for years but have been thwarted by number of factors including bad weather. We eventually found the grave well hidden in a secluded grove within a forest. Took some photographs and then headed off to find the Mississippi John Hurt Museum. Eventually found the museum after travelling along a number of unmade roads. How his wife could have raised 14 children in the house is a mystery.  

On the return to we called into Indianola to see the BB King Memorial Marker. A museum is in the process of being constructed and should be open in 2006.  

Belzoni, the Catfish Capital, was our next port of call. The jailhouse, where Charlie Patton spent some time on a vagrancy charge is still standing but derelict. The sheriff who was overseeing the maintenance work being undertaken by convicts told us that Paul “Wine” Jones had died a few days earlier – we saw Paul perform two years ago at Leland, he was a heavy smoker and drinker – he was 59. Walked around the town to try and locate a number of juke joints but most of them have been closed or demolished including the Krazy Korner Cafe.

MoorheadHeaded off to Moorhead to see the location where the “Southern crosses the Dog”. Rail tracks are still in place together with the old railroad depot.

The Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland was our next stop. The museum is dedicated to local blues musicians and contains a small number of exhibits.  

Left Greenville and headed north on Highway 1. Passed through Beulah and Rosedale and stopped at the Stovall Plantation Store for lunch. Drove south to Clarksdale, booked into a motel and headed into downtown Clarksdale parked up near Ground Zero and walked towards Cathead Records. Surprise, surprise Super Chickan was performing outside Cathead Records store. Sat and listened to Super Chickan for a while and continued on our walking tour of Clarksdale.



Ground ZeroIn the evening we headed for Ground Zero for a meal and some blues. Big T and the Family Band were the entertainment for the evening. The band was really good with the guitarist playing blues solos not blues-rock. The set consisted mainly of covers such as Catfish Blues, I’ll Play The Blues For You, The Thrill Is Gone, Sweet Home Chicago and Big Boss Man interspersed with a few soul numbers. A great night.  


The next day headed into Clarksdale for a photoshoot everything was closed being Sunday. Wade Walton’s barber shop has been converted into a blues club.

Headed north on Highway 61 towards Tunica, called at Moon Lake, Lula, Dundee, Crenshaw and Sledge which has a “Charlie Pride Highway”. Headed back to Clarksdale via Lyon.  

Departed Clarksdale and heading north towards Memphis for a few days prior to our journey home. Called into Tunica and at Mhoon Landing saw a large barge navigating along the Mississippi river. Called in at the Tunica Museum, built with Casino money, and was very interesting - describing the development of the area from the time of pre-history and the Native Americans through to the modern casinos.  

We decided to stay in West Memphis rather than Memphis itself near Interstate 40 (Route 66). Our motel was only about fifteen minutes drive from the Memphis Visitors Centre.  

We headed over the Mississippi Bridge and into Memphis. Spent some time walking on Beale Street which has now become a very commercialised area. This will probably be our last visit to Memphis due to the way Beale Street is developing.

Had a tour of the Gibson factory where they manufacture the semi-acoustic line of instruments. Played a few guitars in the factory shop after the tour.  

Had a trip into the countryside around West Memphis and located to grave of Albert King in Paradise Gardens Cemetery.  

All in all a superb adventure considering that we don’t plan ahead, except the King Biscuit Festival. We also had our fill of Southern Cooking especially tamales and catfish.  

Time to save the pennies for our next trip.

Now take a look at Part 5

Or check out....

Down The Dirt Road (Part 1)
Down The Dirt Road (Part 2)
Down The Dirt Road (Part 3)



Article Text & Photographs © Copyright 2006 Courtland & Hazel Bresner. All Rights Reserved.
Website © Copyright 2000-2006 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

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