Don't act like y'all don't know where we be neither.

Subscribe in a reader

Showing posts with label The Delta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Delta. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Face That Only C Could Love

I was in Glen Allen yesterday..we been there before.

We made a call in a country store and bait shop. There was an older white lady workin' the counter. She got around just fine but she weren't in no hurry. Mostly she sat on a stool, leanin' on the counter..drinkin' [iced] tea. It was a rounded but sprawled a snowman made out of bean bags. She was sweet as she could be.

A real contrast with the noise and energy that was coming from the kitchen...where two voices mingled into a pleasant but indecipherable stream of sound occasionally punctuated by jabs of racket or an "O-Kaaaaaay?"

"Connie!" the old lady hollered back into the kitchen. Well, she tried to holler. I don't think she's got a holler in her. "Y'all, Mrs. P**** here with food." Them girls couldn't hear her no more than they could hear me now if I yelled out the window.

Not one to wait around, Mrs. P just got up and went into the kitchen, through the noise, to fetch Mrs. Connie.

"They carryin' on back there ain't they?" I said to beanbag.

"They're sisters. They go on like that all day long" she drew a slow smile, "I love to listen to em."

There was a pleasing cadence to "conversation"....not that you could pick out a word except for the Oks and the "NO...No she din' " that made it clear they were communicating with one another. It was like a secret language.

"I'm Connie...good to meet you." she held her hand out.

I shook it..."I'm Erik and I'm glad to meet you Mrs. Connie."

She could be in early 30's or late 40's, 50's. Hell, I don't's hard to tell with Black women sometimes. They seem to skip through middle age with the same smooth complexion they had in their 20's. It's not til they get really older that the wrinkles start.

Then her sister came out. She did seem younger. Her hair was longer and she was wearing a wool cap that was stretched up as tall as she could get it. They were fun and complained about how the last time I brought chicken wings one of the customers had eaten them all before they could sample 'em. I promised to leave extra this time and they went back to the kitchen...back to their private chatter.

I listened to them and browsed around the store. Somebody had figured out how to stuff wine bottles with Christmas lights...there was a wall full of neon yellow and blue rubber worms...spam...then I came across this...

That's Ms. Connie...and a fish she caught, not far from Glen Allen, in Steele Bayou around Mayersville. Curious. It's a good sized fish but not a record breaker. Then there's the look on her face. Not exactly the expresson of triumph one would expect when you've caught a fish that's made the local paper....or the Jackson paper for that matter. In fact, she looks like she's tryin' to get somebody to take it from her.

Maybe it has something to do with these...


It's just not safe 'round here y'all...not in the wood, not in the fields and certainly not in the water.

One nightmare for each mangled tooth.

Friday, October 26, 2012



This was my view yesterday as I waited on the fella I was workin' with. We'd already been at one account for an hour. After the third or fourth false departure...I had to make it official. I'm professional sitter...a hall-of-famer but, we weren't sittin'.  We kept gettin' up to leave...only to end up in a different part of the restaurant. A call would come email. It just kept draggin' on. So, I told the rep I'd meet him at the next stop and said my goodbyes to the owner.

The next stop was a curb store...a block over from Church St. Curb stores in places like Indianola aren't just convenience stores. They are designated loitering spots. The dealer stands in front of the store. In this case, a big framed, solid brother, sauntering in front of the ice chests...casually swingin' his arms around his around his belly...hitting a fist against an open palm. Occasionally he'd step off the curb into the parking to meet a walk in customer...or lean into the passenger window of a car. Dirty drive through.

There's always a couple of old fellas holdin' up the wall...drinking from paper bags, lookin' for a dolla to hold. They hungry. A car swerves into the parking so the driver can holler at a friend...maybe one of the people that just seem to appear from nowhere, with no discernible purpose, other than to make a racket before disappearing. Just a lot of browsin'.

I'd sat there for thirty minutes. The dealer eye balled me a couple of times and then moved to the other side of the parking lot. He didn't offer...and nobody had bugged me for a dolla. I was beginning to think something was wrong when this kid came down the alley on a bicycle. He was barely pushin' the peddles fast enough to stay upright. It was comical. He was wearin' shorts, ashy legs, black socks and shower shoes...topped off with a sweatshirt. The hood pulled up over a big flat billed all came to a point about two feet above his eyes. This kid was teetering like he had a road cone on his head.

Then he saw the cigarette hangin' out of my window, pushed a little harder, straightened up and made a bee line for the truck.

"You gotta another cigarette got one for me?"

"Sure thing"

" gotta light."

" ain't got nothin' but a habit do you?" I handed him a lighter.

He was obviously high...his speech was slow and deliberate but, his body was fightin' the control. there was a subtle jerk to his movements. He stared down the cigarette at the lighter...he was focused but, it took a couple of tries to get the square into the fire.

"A habit...oh yeah...people say I gotta gotta watch people around here. They try to lace you. They got me one time...put some crack in my cigarette."

"Tryin' to get you hooked huh?"

" gotta watch these folks. They'll lace you. They all know me 'round...I be hangin' around he-uh all the time. need some weed or some crack."

" I'm here to work. I'm just waitin' on my partner to show up."

"You cool cool."..he thrust his fist through the window for a bump. "Not like these people 'round he-uh...they lace you man."

"Have another one man"...I handed him another cigarette and the fist came back through the window.

He straightened up best he could and went wobblin' back down the alley.

I was still gigglin' when my buddy showed up.  We went in and got down to business. The stores run by and Indian fella that always seems a little frazzled and worn out with it...but, the cook, who must do more than just cook around there, is a real sharp brother who really gets engaged with the business of food. Then there was Forealla. I don't know exactly what this dood's role is in the store but, he got all up in our business...when he was inside.

"You gotta Guy-roo? Oh damn...God is good. We wus juss talkin' bout this last night. Forealla. We was talkin' about the Guy-Roo...We need the Guy-Roo...and here you is. Damn...God is good."

This cat buzzed like a bumble bee on somethin'...he was enthused. He was wearin' a flat billed cap too..shoved over a bale of tight dreads. Ear buds hangin around his neck. He kept goin' smoke. Then he'd jump right back in it...

"The Guy-Roo...we gotta get this foreallla. DAMN!"...and back out he went.

That's when it occurred to me that I'd forgotten something in the truck...before I could get to the door Forealla comes bustin' back in. I kinda shot on out to the sidewalk. There, filling the passenger window of a car, was the caramel coloured face of a maaaaaaaaad black woman.

"Wha' you need to do Motha ***** is Shut the **** Up!" She yells almost right into my face.

I have no idea what transpired between Forealla and this woman but, she was pissed.

Forealla couldn't let that he comes back out and starts hollerin' at her...all the while the cars movin' through the parking lot until it gets parallel to my truck...where I'm laughing so hard I can't remember what I came out for.

Then the car stopped. I didn't here but, evidently Forealla had called this woman a Bitch.

This woman has been shouting the whole time and her voice is starting to strain a little bit but, it's not cracking. She wasn't gettin' hysterical...there was no fear of Forealla. No fear at all when she through the door open and let him know...

"I'mma show you who the Bitch is."

She went back to the trunk of the car. Her friend, who had been cackling through it all, calmly stood by the trunk bobbin' her head...eatin' pork rinds...while the lady flung it open and started diggin' around. The possibility of her comin' out of that trunk with a shotgun...was feasible. Still, me and one those people that just appear in these parking lots, were bent over laughing...what are you gonna do?

It wa'n't a was stick. A head crackin' stick

She was bent on dentin' that boy's skull. He knew it...and disappeared back into the store.

I love The Delta...the most Southern place on Earth.

Those buildings you see there are on Church St....that's where B.B. King (and whole host of others) first plied his trade.

It's forealla...that's all.

Further Reading

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Delta Gold

The work day started in Belzoni (Bellzona)


...Catfish Capital of the world.

Used to be a Turner Drugs on this corner...Easy Pay across the street. Radio stations from Yazoo City and across the Delta used to broadcast live sets from this spot...including sets from Elmore James.

I wasn't there for all that though...well, I was but that's not why they're payin' me. I was there to find a restaurant that didn't have a sign. I walked right by it...


Stickin' out of a door was the face of a goodin'...round and jowly with drooping blue eyes. An aloof expression under the bill of a ball cap. He had on, what looked like a dark blue work short and an old pair of jeans. I followed him inside...short fella and round but, spry. Maybe it was the puma racing shoes.
That was the first flare I noticed.

When we got under the lights of the bar I realized his work shirt was actually herringbone. Swanky but, not nearly as swank as his ball cap. The front of it glowed like the end of the rainbow. There was a cotton boll about the size of a child's first above the bill...covered in gold glitter. Delta Gold it said.


That's the Delta. The most Southern Place on flat water wont run. Every town has the same rows of two story buildings. You'd pass right by the whole thing and never give it a second thought. You'd never guess those scruffy store fronts hide some of the best restaurants in the state...posh boutiques, book stores and art galleries.


Little Fred loves the Delta.

According to statistics it's the poorest place in the United States outside of an Indian reservations but, it's got some of the oldest, stinkiest money anywhere. This was the Victorian middle east....the cotton that fueled British textiles. Yazoo City, the southern point of the Delta, was originally called Manchester. When Southerners and Britons "cotton on" they are cottoning on to Delta cotton. It's also the source of nearly every popular music form in the Western World.

And you can get Catfish fish and chips here....



Anyway, that's where I'll be today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Last of the Mississippi Jukes

Yesterday I's in Merigold...north of Cleveland and just south of Mound Bayou. If you're on 61 travelling north...take a left when you see the Dollar General on your right. Almost immediately you'll come to a trailer on your right that's sitting in the middle of a cemetery that hasn't had a burial since the 1880's...there are decaying tombstones in the front yard of this trailer. Take a left down the gravel road...and shortly you'll come to Po Monkey's.


To the delight of American Studies types, it still sits on the edge of a cotton field...where it's been for 50 years.

I've never had the pleasure actually. As much time as I've been spending up here though, we should be able to fix that.

I tell where I have been though...where we had a lot of good nights...The Subway Lounge in Jackson on Pearl St.


Of course, it's gone now. Robert Mugge made a documentary about the place in 2003...Last of the Mississippi Jukes. It pops up on IFC and other cable channels every now and again. I think at the time they were trying to save it had been a death trap for decades.

Some times I hated the place. There could be this smug air, at the long table, of young Democrats slumming so they could tell their kids they used to hang out with black people. Very unfair and really kinda ridiculous on my part...but the loosened ties, awkward head shakes and table taps made it hard not to be a little skeptical.

Mostly I just loved it.

The last time we were and Martha emerged on to Pearl St. with the sun in our eyes. Watched as the drummer was dragged out onto the sidewalk and waited to see him hauled in the back of an ambulance.

The place closed daybreak Sunday morning. They served beer there til around midnight. After that you had two options...bring your own booze or buy cans of Bud from the house next door.

I thought about the place yesterday as I sat in the car across from Po Monkey...and thought about Tom Schweers. He was a good buddy of mine...was a groomsman in my wedding. Until a couple of weeks ago, last I knew he was an officer in the Navy. Now I don't think he's with us any more. I ran into a mutual friend, J, the last time I was in New Orleans and the news wasn't good. Tom's daddy died of Huntington's disease and J said he had been diagnosed too. When they last they spoke he was in bad shape...that was five years ago.

There were no signs of deterioration the last time me and him were in The Subway Lounge...except for that brought on by Irish Whiskey. Man he loved that stuff. I tell you what else he loved, evidently more than life itself...lily white brunettes jittering in short red britches.

The place could really get rowdy after about 2am...really. That night it was laaate and we were standing...propped up...on the back wall when right in front of us, this girl jumps up and starts shaking like she's gettin' paid for it. Tom, high as a Georgia pine, locked in and, completely ignoring the two gigantic brothers that were with her, made a bee line for her. I grabbed him, pulled him back against the wall but...he was on a mission. Her friends I taken notice and after the second lunge, I dragged him up the stairs and out.

Since neither of us were in any shape to drive there was nothing to do but walk back to his place in Belhaven...after buying another six pack, of course. You'd really have to know Jackson to know just how extremely dangerous that walk was but...not as dangerous as the certain clobbering we were facing inside. We left a trail of freezing beer cans all the way home. I'm not even sure if we opened any of 'em. Fools and drunks...his sister never spoke to me again. I always got the blame.

I hate it that we got separated. I hate it that the Subway's gone. I reckon that's just how it goes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Radio Grown Folks - Dockery Farms

We're gonna take a break from April...I don't think the blog can take it.



I'm in The Delta this week and it always deserves some attention.


About halfway between Ruleville and Cleveland on 8 you come to Dockery Farms.


If you were looking for the beginning of the Blues...the birthplace...this is about as close as you can get. Charley Patton worked here and played his guitar.

There are speakers planted all around these buildings. You push a button and you can hear Patton and others as you walk around the grounds.

Patton's a fascinating character. He embodies all the complicated murky issues that surround the music and it's origins...race, identity, proprietorship. He was black, white, and Cherokee...he played what we'd call country music too. He weren't born in The Delta...he was born down in Hinds county between Edwards and Bolton.

BUT...everybody from Robert Johnson to John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters came to hear Charley play.

Did somebody say Muddy Waters?

Un******touchable! Makes me want to kungfu chop the desk in two.

Hopefully I'll Rolling Fork today.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Be Jealous - Cheese Straws and Black Coffee

I'm having cheese straws and black coffee for breakfast...and not doing much else.


A coworker made 'em. He got his Grandma's recipes when she passed. There's some pecan fudge in there and something that taste like a homemade Rollo...but it's the Cheese Straws.

These are sharp ones with heat you can taste. The coffee's bitter and cuts the tang. Like a piece of candy made with cheese grits and heavy cream. I've had bites of filet that weren't this satisfying.

A frigid Cokecola would be even better...but what can't be improved on is the music.

The fella that wrote the bio can be forgiven for referring to R.L. Burnside as an American musician...the writer doesn't seem to be from the U.S...when he is quite obviously a Southern musician. Show me connecticut's or minnesota's answer to Burnside and I'll eat my words like a cheese straw.

What can't be forgiven is the insistence that he is a Delta Bluesman...or has any special connection to The Delta whatsoever. He didn't...full stop. He was from the Hill Country and he played Hill Country Blues.

Aside from the usual brilliance (check that blossoming ring toward the end...the trance he's inducing is only a set up, preparing your mind for a look behind the curtains, for a whiff of transcendence)...this is a bit of a put on too. Before Robert Palmer and Fat Possum...the few folks that came down to record RL Burnside and some of the others wanted the acoustic guitar. Matthew Johnson was very clear when they got Fat Possum together about presenting these players as they were on Sunday nights in Mississippi...plugged in and lewd.

"The Blues ain't nothin' but dance music," R. L. Burnside.

The ethnologists often have a very specific, preconceived idea about the Blues and the people that play it...a very Delta idea (*&^% Delta). This is the same bunch that had a litter of kittens when Mississippi Fred McDowell picked up and electric guitar and...THE VAPORS!!!...brought on a white bass player. The American Studies Department at Yale had to shut down for a week.

Look at the pictures and the difference between the staged photos and how he presented himself on stage. It's the same issue I have with the concept of "folk art"...the suggestion that these people don't have a sophisticated aesthetic understanding of what they are doing...that it really boils down to dumb expression brought on by material pressures.

And cheese straws are just a poor man's attempt at cheezits.

Kiss My Grits!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hard at Work - Part 2. On the Frayed Edges.

This week's Fight for Right..."against Psychos and the uf-O's"...ended in Friar's Point.


North of Clarkesdale, up against the Mississippi River, at the scruffy edges of the state, you'll find Friar's Point.


It was after five Friday evening when I followed my colleague into town on what can barely be described as a lane. On one side over hanging tree limbs threaten to completely obscure the forward view...on the other, the fields grow menacingly close to the Purple, Baby Blue, Black and Maroon clapboard shacks.

The closeness breaks at the first intersection on an abandoned building that takes up almost an entire block. Through the vine choked cyclone fence you can see into shattered windows vegetation steadily at work reclaiming the plot...across the street, in a dirt yard sits an old black man in a rocking chair staring through a lazy eye at his fence. A six foot tall fence made of old vehicle and engine parts.

It shouldn't come as any great surprise that those desperate, threatening and disturbingly seductive sounds have roots in a place like Friar's Point.


The place isn't dead. Just before I took that photo a fresh-faced black teenage couple zoomed by on a four wheeler but, the constant presence of the levy reminds you that the town literally sits on the edge of disaster. The place is a material expression of fatalism...


Of course....


...every natural and unholy disaster from yankees to tornadoes have taken their shots at the town.

On the way out I passed two youngish black males having a lively discussion with a tiny southeast Asian woman sitting on a milk crate.

That's Friars Point...that's The Delta.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hard at Work


I meant to post Adam's Georgia Bulldog thread last night and I've got a compelling argument why ISBW should take South Carolina but....I was so busy and loaded down with work yesterday, obviously, that I was just too pooped when I got in last night. That's just how it is in The Delta.

Started in the lovely village of Satartia but spent most of the day in Rolling Fork...Home of this fella...

We'll get back to it...once I catch my breath.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Disease Ridden Southern Spectres...Dusty, Organic and Psychic

Indianola 042
(Indian Mounds, Pocahontas)

Indianola 035
(Yazoo City)

(Perverted By Language is the greatest record ever recorded and I am unanimous in is the pink album with the Link Wray reference.)

You would be forgiven for assuming that as I trailed through The Delta I'd have some sorta blues in the car but, you'd be wrong. That player has been jammed with Fall Cds for a month now...and last week was no exception.

Indianola 025

Indianola 026

Indianola 023
I can't decide whether it's odd or not but they seem right at home on 49.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Naw I Don't Need No Drugs

Hanna Ave, Indianola, MS

In the universal sign for "let me hold a dollar" a lanky black man lunges up to the car making a circular motion with his right hand. I roll the window down...

"You got a couple of dollars I can hold?"

I reached in my front pocket and pulled out a folded dollar bill that had been in there days.

"That's all I got...You gettin' my last dollar brother."

"You got 35 more cents?"

I laughed and dug it out for him.

"Man you ain't got another dolla?"

"I told you that was my last dollar...I need to get movin' brother. The poleese see my white face stopped on the street like this and they're gonna think one thing."

"You need some drugs man?"

"Naw I don't need no Drugs. I can't be monkeyin' around up here I gotta get back to Jackson."

"You goin' to Jackson? Today?...Oh hold on a second. Wait right here.."

Then he started off toward a house...

"Brother I gotta go. I'm workin'."


What on Earth he wanted me to transport down to Jackson we'll never know but, in my experience it could have been anything from nickle bag of dope to his Grandmama.

Indianola 019

I was down there yesterday morning because the night before I couldn't get any pictures...there must have been 10 cops down there and at least that many people lined up on the sidewalk.

I've seen Blues Travel sites nonchalantly explain how easy it is to fly into Memphis, rent a car and drive down into The Delta...Clarkesdale, Leland, Indianolo are "just a two and a half hour drive." I'd like to hear how that's worked out for some of these folks in sandals, baggy short-pants, and Robert Johnson T-Shirts. I imagine being berated with shouts of "you ain't on Beale St. now" isn't the worst of it.

indianola 016

Church St.

Every town in The South, of any size, has a Church St. In Jackson it's Farish St...Memphis has Beale St. The old Black business district. Not just Jukes but, grocery stores, taylors, cobblers, ice cream shops, they had everything. What Church St. had that none of the others did was B.B. King.

indianola 017

I love B.B. King...who doesn't. It's not my favorite brand of Blues (though he's certainly my favorite Urban players and his voice...geeeeze.) but, it's the first I heard and knew. As a little kid I appropriated my Daddy's cassette of 16 Greatest Hits and carried it around in an old tape recorder...even to bed at night.

Anyway that's Idianola. So is this...

indianola 008

Before I let you go. We need to slip back to Leland. I mentioned that there were a few players from around there...and indeed there are and indeed they deserve mentioning.

Son Thomas...not only a Blues player but a renowned artist. They call him a "folk" artist but that's always seemed condescending to me.

You gonna tell me this fella was just ignorantly making sculptures without any sophisticated understanding of what he was doing...bah.

What about Johnny Winters?

Man...Kiss My Grits..that is good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Booger Loves Sissy

delta 039

I want our resident expert on the anthropology of emotions to explain this expression of Love as anything but Mystery and Truth.

Satartia, Mississippi is a collection of houses around a cotton gin in the Delta. There's a couple of churches and a Grocery...

delta 041
(These are the places that The Shed with it's Christmas lights and license plates is trying to emulate. You can buy some staples and honeybuns, bait, and cokecolas in these places but, they're more like social halls. They serve meals and coffee...local musicians will play outside or in if there's a dance floor...pool tables, etc. .)

The place is owned by a woman that seemed perfectly sane but run by two young women who are crazy as outhouse rats (they insisted that they were Booger and Sissy)...I barely got out of that place without a mark.

It was one of the funnest calls I've been on in a long time.

Before you get to Satartia, comin' from Jackson, you gotta pass by Bentonia...

delta 029

Home of the Blue Front Cafe and Skip James...

I wish I'd gotten a picture of the two convicts being hauled up to the top of a flag pole to change light the bucket of an excavator.

I spent the rest of the day gettin' further into The Delta...

more art 002
(Allan II)

Holly Bluff, Delta Grocery...where the owner has a cast iron cross from a Confederate grave that must be almost 150 years old. It was surrounded by rattlers that had been taken off snakes he'd killed.

A Grocery in Mayerville with a shag Budweiser rug nailed to wall over the dance floor.

Glen Allen on Lake Washington...where things are slow goin'.

delta 044

My last stop was in Leland. It's home to it's share of Blues players but, it's also the birthplace of...

delta 047

Time to start day two...Greenwood, Ita Bena, Morehead, Indianola, etc.

The Title has been ISBW keenly observed "who calls themselves bogger?" :)

At first I thought it was a typo...but I did it twice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Month's Travels - The Delta

The Delta


Greenwood, Mississippi home of Bobby Gentry...

(Hey Martha...sounds like she's eatin' dinner at could that be?)

among the fella playin' guitar on this..

Hubert Sumlin playin one of the greatest lines of g'itar in the history of electricity.* It's also the home of Guitar Slim, and if you've never heard The Things That I Used To can find it on this blog. Flimsy Cups has ranked it at #9 on the all time list of Blues Songs.

You reckon anybody still plays the g'itar in Greenwood?
Of course, when people think of the Delta...Clarkesdale is probably the first place that comes to mind. It's the home of the Delta Blues...the Blues that most people are familiar with. Robert Johnson and all that...the Crossroads are at Clarkesdale.

More importantly, to me, it's the home of Cat Head Records...maybe the best record store in the state.


There was nothing 12 bar about the rythmic clang he was beating out of that old guitar. Cat Head has much more of Hill Country feel to it than Delta...afterall Hill Country blues is still alive and kicking. Besides Clarkesdale has always been more than Delta Blues...Sam Cooke's from there, Ike Turner, and John Lee Hooker. He learned to play from his uncle that had a one chord style very similar to what you find in the Hills.

Can't forget Tunica.**


And we can't leave the Delta without some of this...


These are the same fields that fed Liverpool when textiles were employing around 4 million Britons. If Eric Hobsbawm is to be believed (always a cautious proposition...even when he's not going out on a limb) this was the fuel for the engine that ran the British Empire in it's first phases.

Or this...


* Howlin' Wolfe is actually from around West Point in the Columbus area...south of Tupelo and not far from where Tennessee Williams was born.

**The pictures of Cat Head and Tunica were taken last year, but better than anything I got on my last trip.