By Clarksdalians for Clarksdalians and lovers of the Mississippi Delta
Delta Business Journal (DBJ) in their October 2016 issue features a Clarksdalian by Clarksdalians for Clarksdalians and those who love this inimitable corner of the universe known as the Mississippi Delta.
When the DBJ hired Clarksdale native Randall Haley, freelance writer and senior managing editor of HottyToddy.com, to do a story on Delta Bohemian® Magical Madge Marley Howell, we were thrilled knowing it would be penned by a local gal, and photographed by Coahoma County Administrator and gifted freelance photographer, Daniel Vassel, a native of Mound Bayou.
In the DBJ Delta Advocate feature article (see below) and in person, one can quickly decipher Madge’s love for the Mississippi Delta accompanied by a manifest desire to connect with as many folks as possible who visit Clarksdale, whether for a few hours, days, or weeks at a time. Those who connect with her or others in town often come back again and again and again…
The Delta Bohemian® deeply appreciates the love shared by Scott Coopwood and the DBJ/Delta Magazine, Haley, and Vassel. We thank God for giving us a desire to share our tiny Delta lens with others and we want to share the love back by encouraging our readers to check out HottyToddy.com, Delta Business Journal, Delta Magazine and if you need a killa photographer, hit up Daniel Vassel. It’s all about the love. Come to Clarksdale! It matters! Chilly Billy
“Only Connect.” — E.M. Forster, epigraph to Howards End
Text for Article DELTA ADVOCATE MADGE HOWELL: DELTA TOUR GUIDE
by Randall Haley for Delta Business Journal (Printed by permission)
She’s been called a free spirit, she’s been called “crazy.” She’s been a traveler, maybe even a gypsy. But of all the places she’s been and the names she’s been called, Magical Madge is most certainly a Delta Bohemian.
A Tallahatchie County native, Madge Howell moved back to the Delta, landing in Clarksdale in 1994.
“Probably in the mid ’90s or the late ’90s I started being called magical,” Howell says. “I had lived a lot of places; I had experienced a lot of different things, and a friend coined me Magical Madge. I guess they thought I was funny and kind of crazy and off the wall. I wasn’t like everybody else, and he just started calling me magical and it just kind of stuck.”
The name hid under the radar for several years. Only close friends knew of the nickname. That was until 2010, when Howell and her husband, Billy, created Delta Bohemian.
With the launch of the website, “Magical Madge” was revived and Billy became “Poor Williams Whims.”
“The reason we started it was basically because… well, Billy really felt like God put those two words on his heart. So, when he told me that that it felt like it was something coming from God, I said well we got to do something with it,” Howell says. “I like the sound of it. ‘Delta Bohemian.’ I mean I love being from the Delta. And I love being bohemian.”
Both being travelers, the couple wanted to tell stories of the place they loved the most. Frequently, the Howells met tourists from all over the world who were interested in the blues, the Southern culture. They decided it was time to offer readers an insider’s perspective of just what it’s like to be from the Mississippi Delta.
“We weren’t telling anyone that this is how it’s supposed to be or should be. We were meeting all these people that loved this area, but didn’t necessarily, totally get it, so we just decided to start telling people about it,” Howell says. “Our tagline initially was celebrating the constancy and diversity of the Mississippi Delta. Now, we call it ‘celebrating the unity and diversity of the Delta.’”
Covered in short stories, fictional stories, YouTube videos, audio recordings and guest columns, Delta Bohemian began growing a large audience around the world. But it would take something rather risqué to grab attention locally.
“It was something we did called ‘Mr. January,’ and it was a spontaneous thing. We got a big snow storm in Clarksdale, and Billy went and got in the snow naked,” Howell says. “I took some pictures of him, not showing anything, but he didn’t have any clothes on. But, it was as if we had put something up of him totally nude because we got kicked out of two churches, he lost his job, and we were told to take our website down. We were like, ‘Sorry, we’re not doing that.’”
Delta Bohemian became part of the spotlight in the Delta after “Mr. January” went viral. With each post Howell added, the viewership grew. She would see 1,000 people watching it at once.
As more people began keeping up with the blog, Howell decided it was time to take the business a step further.
Delta Bohemian added an online retail store, and in 2012, the Howells added a Delta Bohemian guesthouse, which is a historical, 100-year-old house. Last year, they also started the Clarksdale White House for guests to rent while touring the Delta.
But Howell pours most of her time and effort into Delta Bohemian Tours, which was started in 2014.
“One reason we like doing [the Delta Bohemian tours] is because I really do believe people are drawn to Clarksdale for lots of reasons…. our culture, the birthplace of the Blues, just sheer curiosity,” Howell says. “So, it’s important to us that people come and that they’re able to connect with people. We like giving them a real and personal Delta experience.” by Randall Haley for DBJ