By Guest Bohemian Andrea Vlonk
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 was a big day for me, the day my whole trip to Clarksdale revolved about with The Tour!
Delta Bohemian Poor William 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.
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!!!
Poor William 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.
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 Poor William 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.
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!!
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, Poor William 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.
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!!
Poor William 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!!
ENJOY THIS PHOTO GALLERY INCLUDING MORE FROM ANDREA AND A FEW FROM POOR WILLIAM.
The Delta Bohemian is forever indebted to Andrea for taking the time to write about her experience on her tour with Poor William and for sharing it with our readers. Her photographs are fantastic too.
Every Delta Bohemian Tour Poor William 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.