I’m talkin’ about Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Mississippi Delta. The Most Southern Place on Earth.
In this little town, about 18,000 residents, I met people from Michigan, Maine, Ireland and Germany. The guest book was signed by folks from Spain, Italy, France and the UK. What brings them here? [geo_mashup_map]
It’s All About the Music
We were completely unaware of Clarksdale’s draw. For us, it was a good midway stop. But, when we stumbled upon the Shack Up Inn,
we just had to stop. One owner explained, it was “in this exact spot that Delta Blues took hold.” We came to understand this place is practically holy. A destination to make a music pilgrimage. People from all over the world come here to touch the roots of blues, jazz and rock and roll.
Accommodations at the Shack Up Inn are on the former Hopson Plantation. You could choose from old sharecropper shotgun shacks, a houseboat, grain bins or a cotton gin.
Cotton Pickin’ Blues
This Mississippi Delta region has a horrific history. Let me provide a rough outline:
- The “removal” of Indians in 1837 (Trail of Tears,)
- Slavery in the name of the almighty King Cotton 1845-65.
- After the Civil War treacherous sharecropping terms allowed former slaves to tend plantation land.
- By 1920 those that could get out, did.
- In the 1940’s there was a surge known as the great migration. Essentially African Americans were outsourced by machinery, and most would move to northern cities like DC & Chicago.
By 1944 soil could be prep’d, seeded, picked and bailed entirely by machines.
On top of all that, throw in the Jim Crow crap and the climate of racial hatred. It’s no wonder if any music could come out of this, it would just have to be the blues.
BBQ, Juke Joints and Musicians
We were a bit out of our element – it seemed everyone could just pick up a guitar, harmonica or belt out a lamented rap. We, on the other hand, could only tap our toes, or clap for more.
Even though, we didn’t feel awkward. The Bar-B-Que was on the sweet side. . . and the names they have for the musicians were on the spicy side: Josh “Razorblade” Stewart, Dixie Street, RL Superbad. . .
After two and a half days in Clarksdale we moved on. I bet you can’t tell by the looks of it, but it was a bit of a splurge staying here. Prices kept bumping up as the weekend drew near.
Throw Off the Bowlines
Onward we head along Route 61 which follows the Mississippi River. We wanted to see the quaint town of Hannibal, Missouri. Samuel Clemens’, aka Mark Twain, boyhood home is here. All things Tom Sawyer come to life.
In the Mark Twain Museum we were reminded of Tom Sawyer antidotes. There’s something timeless about his stories. The diorama above captures Tom being “forced” to sit with the girls. Sly dog that he is, knew this would happen. Wanted it to happen. The only seat left was right next to the darling Becky Thatcher.
We toured the caves depicted in Tom Sawyer stories. As a young kid, Mark Twain would “never tire of exploring the caves.” And I could understand. They were huge! Much bigger than the ones I explored as a kid in Hollister, CA. It was, of course, a guided tour. But, I couldn’t help imagine the adventures I would’ve had in such a great web of darkness.
Now We Head WEST
Not sure our exact route to Colorado. Thor has been a bit unpredictable the last couple days. It has been chillier than we’ve become accustomed, and are hoping that may be part of the issue. We’ll see. . .
Here’s to Adventure!