THE TOUR – My Mississippi Delta Excursion with Poor William

By Guest Bohemian Andrea Vlonk - PW is also known as Chilly Billy

Me during my Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Billy Howell

Me during my Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Billy Howell

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 was a big day for me, the day my whole trip to Clarksdale revolved about with The Tour!

Delta Bohemian Chilly Billy picked me up at 10am and we headed off to the Crossroads-sign in Clarksdale. Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’ has always been symbolic to me, so the sign didn’t raise goosebumps, but you simply can’t leave Clarksdale without having been there.

The first thing that was really on my list was Sonny Boy Williamson ll‘s grave in Tutwiler. You would think that this burial site is the main reason for tourists to visit Tutwiler, and is therefore clearly marked by The Mississippi Blues Commission….but they mysteriously missed out on this one. It took us quite some time to find the place and when we did, it turned out to be a completely neglected cemetary by the side of a road, just outside Tutwiler.

This is the resting place of a man who basically influenced every (Delta) musician that came after him -he has been credited by both fellow blues players and people like B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and Robbie Robertson. There seems to be no actual CREDIT to keep his grave clean and pay hommage to this great man. I think that is really, really sad and wrong.

Tutwiler Cemetery grave of Sonny Boy Williamson ll seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Tutwiler Cemetery grave of Sonny Boy Williamson ll seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Tutwiler Cemetery seen seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Tutwiler Cemetery seen seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

On we went, via Parchman Farm to Dockery Farms, another place I just had to visit! Being at the site where famous bluesmen like Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson used to play is an incredible experience. By pushing a button you can hear music of Charley Patton coming out of hidden speakers all over the place, which gives it a magical touch. I kept on filming and I’m tempted to post a video here, but–no. Go and see, feel it yourselves!!!

Dockery Farms as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Dockery Farms as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Dockery Farms as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Dockery Farms as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Chilly Billy insisted that I should see Po’ Monkey’s jukejoint near Merigold; I had read about it and thought it was some kind of a tourist trap… shame on me!! It’s a great little shack where all music lovers, locals and tourists alike, go to have a real good time with an authentic Delta twist. A local farmer stopped by and filled us in about Po’ Monkey, growing cotton and the Mississippi levee.

Po' Monkey's jukejoint as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Po’ Monkey’s jukejoint as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Then another highlight at the other side of Clarksdale: the place where Muddy Waters used to live, on Stovall grounds. The cabin itself has been moved to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, so you have to use your imagination, but there’s a simular shack down the road and the door is open!

After this, my personal quest was fulfilled and I left it to Billy to show me other places he reckoned I should see. We drove on through Friars Point and enjoyed a spectacular sunset at the Mississippi River!!! We rushed to another place on the river to enjoy that scene once more, after which we went to Moon Lake.

Original home site of Muddy Water's as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Original home site of Muddy Water’s as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Shack close to Muddy Water's home site as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Shack close to Muddy Water’s home site as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Are there any words to describe Moon Lake?! So much beauty, it’s inconceivable!! The cypress trees in the tranquil water silhouetted against the sunset (that was almost BLUE by this time) – it looked like an abstract painting!!

Moon Lake as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Moon Lake as seen on Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

A short stop in Lula, once home to Charley Patton and Son House, and that was the end of the tour. Or so I thought….

While driving back to Clarksdale, CBilly Billy suggested a stop at a close friend of his, land owner/cotton farmer John McKee. As we approached the house, it appeared that Mr. McKee was still working on the land and we drove straight into the cotton fields to see what was going on. That’s when I got to see how cotton pickin’ works these days: an awesome experience!!!

A huge 6-row cotton picker collects the plants and separates the cotton, which is then stored in an enormous ‘cage’, the Mule Boy. The cage is emptied in another gigantic machine, the module builder, that compresses the cotton into one big, solid block. This block will eventually be transported to the cotton gin, where it’s further processed.

Farmer John McKee's cotton picker as seen on a Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Farmer John McKee’s cotton picker as seen on a Delta Bohemian Tour. Photo by Andrea Vlonk

Ending a tour at this spot was incredible. The Delta and its history are all about cotton, and there I was, right in the middle of it!! Mr. McKee kindly invited us to his place after the last stack was compressed, and we were even asked to stay for dinner. Southern hospitality is not a cliché. It’s very much alive, and there’s nothing like it!!

Chilly Billy dropped me off at about 11pm. I was so heavily impressed, and HAPPY, that I couldn’t sleep: I kept on looking at the photos and the videos I’d shot.

THANK YOU, BILLY!!!!!!!!!! This was a day I’ll never ever forget!!

Andrea Vlonk

ENJOY THIS PHOTO GALLERY INCLUDING MORE FROM ANDREA AND A FEW FROM CHILLY BILLY.

The Delta Bohemian is forever indebted to Andrea for taking the time to write about her experience on her tour with Chilly Billy and for sharing it with our readers. Her photographs are fantastic too. 

Every Delta Bohemian Tour Chilly Billy gives is organic and one never knows who or what they will encounter with the Mississippi Delta, Clarksdale and it’s characters as the catalyst and Billy Howell as the entertaining tour guide. Although Billy and Andrea enjoyed a lengthy thirteen hour tour, they still have places they want to visit together during her next journey here and we hope that is sooner than later. We feel a kindred spirit with you, Andrea. We miss you.

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Comments

  1. It was nice to read and see the follow-up photos of Andrea’s Delta tour. Billy obviously enjoys sharing his home with interested travelers. Good work!!

  2. Yamo, your comments bless us!! Thank you so much! Love you! ??

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