Juke Joint Juggernaut

Juke Joint Festival visitors Barry and Patricia Friedman from NYC

Juke Joint Festival visitors Barry and Patricia Friedman from NYC

The Worm Has Turned for Clarksdale



Whoomp, there it went! Clarksdale’s 11th Annual Juke Joint Festival was insane, rad, gnarly, cool, groovy, boss, far-out, epic, and DA BOMB-ay! I AIN’ LYIN’!

Ask just about anyone who has been to more than one Juke Joint Festival and they might tell you that this year’s extravaganza portended what could eventually become an every weekend feel for Clarksdale. The worm turned this year and word of mouth about this year’s juke joint could serve as a nitro-blast to propel Clarksdale to newer and busier heights and all that augurs, both good and challenging.

What began as really a one-day event now runs for about a week, as the premier spring blues festival is celebrated by blues lovers and tourists from all over the world. Red Paden, proprietor of the renowned juke joint Red’s Lounge, had music, cold beer, and BBQ for a reported 13 straight days. He’s normally open just Friday through Sunday.

The NEW ROXY, the coolest open-air venue any-damn-where, reportedly ran out of beer and had no more room for even one more waif on Saturday night when Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band played. Lightnin’ Malcolm got married at the Shack Up Inn on Friday afternoon and played gigs before and after the wedding during Juke Joint week before catching a flight to Australia just a few hours after playing at the Shacks on Sunday night. Ground Zero Blues Club had non-stop, balls-to-the-wall traffic, as did many other venues, bars, and restaurants.

Blues tourists and Delta lovers started trickling and pouring into our little burg of about 17,500 folks long before the official festival kick-off on Thursday, April 10th, and some stayed past Sunday’s finale at Red’s Lounge for the Sunday night blues jam. In fact, there were several bands still jamming outside on Clarksdale downtown streets Sunday night, and as of today, Thursday, April 17th, there are still some hanger’s-on lingering downtown, just hatin’ to go back to their day jobs in places all over the world. I AIN’ LYIN’!

Lucious Spiller, second place winner at the International Blues Challenge this year in Memphis, who played a mean set at the New Roxy Wednesday, April 9th, along with a prime spot at Red’s Lounge on Saturday night and many a venue in between, was spotted and filmed from the Delta Bohemian Pedicab jamming downtown today in front of Deak Harp’s, while he was waiting on a ride back to Little Rock to play a gig tonight! Gotta love a hardcore blues musician who shows up, plays, and stays—till the last minute!

How does just one Poor William write about such an epic event that flew by like a flock of snow geese heading toward Mr. Lil John’s budding winter wheat field? He can’t do it justice! Too many venues, too many bands, too many acts, all playing at the same time! Lord have mercy; it is like a party that Red Paden’s podna Dingo throws for his annual birthday bash: “Ain’ no party like a Dingo party, ‘cause a Dingo party don’ stop!” I AIN’ LYIN’!

One of my yearly guests at the Clark House Residential Inn broke it right on down when he arrived. Barry said, “I have six bands I want to see on Saturday, who are all playing at the same time.” Well, that’s how Clarksdale rolls during Juke Joint now.

This ain’ Clarksdale’s first blues rodeo, but venues and folks used to high blues traffic ran out of beer and food on several nights. I AIN’ LYIN’!

I will not even try to individually make mention of all the venues, patrons, businesses, vendors, local and visiting volunteers who start at 5:30 am setting up tents and breaking them down in the evening; nor will I offend anyone by forgetting to mention any one of the more than a hundred acts including multiple musicians who make this one of the finest musical and cultural events anywhere.

Suffice it to say that the year-long organizing, fund-raising, sponsor hunting, act-contacting, schedule-making, program-splicing, etc. that Roger Stolle of Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art, Nan Hughes and Goldie Hirshberg do makes for one pretty damn smooth ride. They make it look easy and it ain’t!

From the waiters, waitresses, managers, business men and women and volunteers who work double shifts for days, to the musicians who travel here on their own nickel and sleep in cars and on floors and play for just tips, to the tourists and folks who love the blues and the Mississippi Delta and all that we offer that is beyond the blues, to all the folks who spend their hard earned money and vacation days to join us in a celebration of the past, the present and the future, I salute you; hell, we all salute you, thank you, and bid you adieu, and welcome you back next year for the 12th Annual Juke Joint Festival. Y’all come! The worm has turned! I AIN’ LYIN’!


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