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One Mississippi!

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Because very little is known about the origin of “the blues” and its early practitioners, particularly in the southeastern United States, Don and I, with a lot of help from CB, have launched a two week campaign to ferret out facts, chase down harmonicas, guitars, flutes, accordions and drums, and learn  a little something about this phenomenon that has transmogrified over the past 150 years from field hollers in the cottonfields to the extraterrestrial guitar licks of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

We begin our story, after driving from Detroit to Cincinnati to Nashville to Loretta Lynn’s Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, and the parking lot of the Scottish Inn (all singles $29.95).


Note this Chevette's three flat tires!


I haven’t seen this since Calabash, North Carolina, where the many seafood restaurants “salt” their parking lots with old wrecks to attract tourists, apparently confident the presence of cars – any cars – in their parking lot will be customer magnets. But a motel? Yep! In Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. All tires are flat (except maybe one) and obviously exhausted, and still, it worked! We pulled right in for the night.

First stop Wednesday morning was Jackson, Tennessee, some 60 miles west/southwest of my hometown of Paris (TN). Jackson bills itself as the birthplace of Rock-a-billy and here the mural on the International Rock-a-Billy Hall of fame to prove it!


105 North Church Street, Jackson TN

Jackson’s native artists include: Carl Perkins, Sonny Boy Williamson (I) (the original), Big MaBell and Big Joe Turner.

Here’s why I never saw the inside of the Rock-a-billy Hall of Fame:

Poor Junior, Jr, forced to peer from afar over the battlements of concrete.


The “accessible” entrance was locked; the attorney owner held the key; the attorney owner was nowhere to be found. Junior, Jr, and I were left outside, impotent, but pissed.

Lunch, however, or I should say dinner, was a different affair. We trucked half a mile over to Herb’s BBQ, for the 2nd year in a row.


Herb's BBQ, 189 Extension Street, Jackson TN


What a soultime. Almost a perfect 10, except I always leave room for improvement. My pig foot, greens, purple-hull beans and cornbread were everything I’d hoped they’d be! What great taste from the little bitty building. Don and CB got pulled pork sandwiches with mac and cheese (Don) and baked beans (CB). Only complaint we heard until after the remains were garbagized was CB’s “I didn’t like the toasted bun.” I hope Herb Miller lives and prospers a hundred years.

John Lee Curtis “Sonny Boy” Williamson, the musician who brought the harmonica to prominence in blues, was born and is buried in Jackson TN. Sadly, his name and reputation, to a great extent, were usurped by Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II), ironically an icon in Helena, Arkansas and the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival.


State Hwy 18 & Caldwell Road in Jackson TN


Don had a helluva time finding Sonny Boy I’s grave site. Thank goodness a good samaritan mowing the new church’s lawn, directed us to the old church site’s cemetery. We couldn’t find it. Went back to our friendly mowerman. He called Sonny Boy I’s cousin who gave fresh directions to Don. Back down the road, through the woods, up a ravine, through the kudzu and Don finally found it!


Sonny Boy I's grave is way beyond this area in the thick brush and trees beyond



Blairs Chapel Church Cemetery, SW of Jackson TN


Then Holly Springs, Mississippi before heading in to West Helena, Arkansas. While we thought both R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough were buried in the Free Springs Church Cemetery, we only found R. L.’s headstone, after first Don had checked every tombstone in the white Free Springs Church graveyard before being directed to the African-American  church by the same name. R. L. is buried next to his wife in Harmontown, Mississippi.


R. l. Burnside



Harmontown MS


An interesting display on the road between Holly Springs and Harmontown. Wonder what it  is?


Beauty or Hoodoo or accident of nature?



Written by frankieleeee

October 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

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