Whether We Listen To It or Not – an unconventional book review and video interview – Hidden History of Mississippi Blues

An unconventional Book Review and Video Interview of Roger Stolle and his Hidden History of Mississippi Blues

Whether We Listen To It or Not

Whether We Admit It or Not

Whether We Know It or Not

An unconventional Book Review and Video Interview of Roger Stolle and his Hidden History of Mississippi Blues

By Magical Madge and Poor William

→VIDEO INTERVIEW and MORE PHOTOS at bottom of post←


Jeff Kokle, Lou Bopp and Roger Stolle signing HIDDEN HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI BLUES at Cat Head. Photo by DELTA BOHEMIAN

Jeff Kokle, Lou Bopp and Roger Stolle signing HIDDEN HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI BLUES at Cat Head. Photo by DELTA BOHEMIAN

The following video interview was conducted in one of the elegant rooms in the Clark House Residential Inn in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi—heart of the Mississippi Delta. The focus of this interview is Roger Stolle’s recently released book, Hidden History of Mississippi Blues. The interview is 27 minutes long broken into two parts.

For the stone-cold blues lover, Stolle’s concise, articulate answers relative to Mississippi blues ring true, and for the blues-appreciating neophyte, like the interviewer, Stolle’s encyclopedic knowledge expressed in layman’s terms provides the beginnings of an understanding of the musician’s lives often centered around travails, and how they persevered in spite of difficult social and financial hurdles. Also, one can garner from Stolle some specificity regarding his move to the birthplace of the blues and the who’s and why’s of the music and the men and women who shaped it. 


The following is an unconventional book review of Roger’s Stolle Hidden History of Mississippi Blues, published by The History Press, with images by Lou Bopp and Foreward by Jeff Konkel of Broke & Hungry Records. Compliments of MAGICAL MADGE 😎

I’ve known him for X number of years. Hmmm. Maybe 8 or 9, I’m guessing, but I’ve never really known him.

Roger Stolle standing next to some artwork for sale in his CAT HEAD store in Clarksdale. Photo by Guest Bohemian Eric Stone

Being someone who likes to do new things, I liked him right away because we obviously shared that same desire. Yet, I still didn’t know him.

I’d see him at events, I’d go into his store, occasionally, I’d read about him, I’d read about projects he was doing and I’d wonder, who is he? Who is Roger Stolle?

What in the world made Roger want to pack up his bags, leave his life and job in Ohio, his home and where he was educated, and move to the Mississippi Delta? More specifically, Clarksdale!

Roger Stolle loves the blues. More than that, he loves the individual souls of the blues. No, let me change that. He wanted to personally get to know and tell the stories of the individual souls of the living men who ARE the Mississippi Blues.

I have observed Roger, who is usually on the periphery, not my usual place to be, in different environments…blues clubs, festivals, stores, award shows, even my home. Often, he almost fades into the background, into the wall, into his chair, taking in his world and all that is around him. Quietly.

I like that. I believe we don’t do that enough today…truly live in the present with eyes wide open.

I guess it’s that nature of his that has enabled him to move, what appears to be seamlessly, into the deep recesses of the Mississippi blues and it’s very soul.

I’m no blues expert. Hell, half the time I don’t even know what or who I am listening to when I am tuned to the Bluesville station or my Pandora blues station or while sitting anywhere when a blues tune is played. But when I do hear the music, I feel my gut stop, take ahold, and listen. The music moves me. Literally. Always has. Always will.

Maybe that is what Roger and I share? Maybe we share a lot more? My guess is, we do. But for now, I want to tell you, in a few words, what his most recent project, and he has many, all of which WILL get done…he’s not just a talker but a doer…., meant to me.

Hidden History of Mississippi Blues looks good. It feels good in my hand. That’s important to me regarding a book. And, for a title that sounds like a textbook, yet with a hint of mystery, I was drawn to read it. One, because I like Stolle and am growing to know him more and more, and two, I thought it’s high time I read and learned about this music I love so much…this music I am surrounded by daily, living here in the same town as Roger Stolle, Clarksdale—the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The place I was born.

Roger makes it simple and easy to read about the hidden history of the music with its roots here. The book is uncomplicated, straightforward, with personal stories about real people, real blues people, that will keep your interest, teach you a few facts, but mostly, it will summon you into a fascinating world.

When I first started reading Hidden History of Mississippi Blues, I was compelled to write to Roger and let him know what was on my heart as I read the words that I’m certain, because he is a precise man, were carefully thought out and typed up and fleshed out before they ever made the printed page from which I read.

Just before writing to Roger, I had read these words of Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson’s “Meet Me in the Cotton Field” as they are taken out of Roger’s book:

“Meet Me In The Cottonfield”

My father was a sharecropper, farmed 10 acres of land

All me and my brothers and sisters, we had to be there, too

We had to chop the cotton, sometimes plant it

But we was there, to help my father out

When I was the age of four,

I used to ride my mama’s sack, down through the cotton field

She picked the cotton, and I rode the sack

I used to play with all them worms, crawling on the sack


Well now, meet me in the cotton field, that’s where you’re gonna find me at

You know, my father, he doing the best he can

Now, you know we run around, without any shoes on

If you looked at my back, I didn’t have no clothes on

I’m the son of a sharecropper

I’m going to leave here one day, and I won’t be back

Meet me in the cotton field, that’s where it all started

I was at the age of four, I learned how to ride my mama’s sack

She said, “Hang on, ‘cause I’m moving on”

From sun up to sundown, from sun up to sundown.

“Meet Me in the Cotton Field” by Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson

Here is what I sent to Roger when his book reached out and seized my heart and carried me back to another place and time in my life. I was somewhere around page 31 in the chapter entitled “Cotton Lives.”


“I’m really enjoying your Hidden History. I’m reliving my hours spent with my childhood black friends on my daddy’s farm in Tallahatchie county…barefooted, playin’ in water-filled mud ditches, sittin’ on long cotton sacks draped from the shoulders of souls forever camped in my heart. So many memories! One minute I’m elated reading, the next overwhelmed with a feeling of stupidity and shortsightedness. The records I’ve let slip away that I’d give anything to have back! One in particular is the crayon artwork of a “simple” man, that’s how they described him, named Carl Lucas, who created his drawings on notebook paper, or anything he could find, depicting his world, rich with images we both shared. My mother recognized his gift; encouraged him, supplied him with crayons and paper, even a sketchbook. Where are those drawings?! It hurts.”


Hidden History of Mississippi Blues has no hidden agendas. It is straight out – straight shootin’ – the truth. My daddy always said to “Seek the Truth.” Roger tells the history, the hidden stories behind the history, of this musical genre called the blues, whether we listen to it or not, whether we admit it or not, whether we know it or not. He reaches deep down, he reaches way back, and he conjures up reality lost.

Roger’s words and historical information lay it out plain to see with nothing that would offend. Period. I do like that about Roger’s style. His style in all he does, actually. Roger loves people and it shows. Hate or discord do not trump him nor lead him. Curiosity and love appear to me to be his guides.

Jeff Kokle, Lou Bopp and Roger Stolle signing HIDDEN HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI BLUES at Cat Head. Photo by DELTA BOHEMIAN

Jeff Kokle, Lou Bopp and Roger Stolle signing HIDDEN HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI BLUES at Cat Head. Photo by DELTA BOHEMIAN


The book has 7 chapters. They are:

  1. Blues Beginnings
  2. Cotton Lives
  3. Race Records
  4. Radio Days
  5. The Crossroads
  6. Juke Joint
  7. The Interviews

My favorite chapter after “Cotton Lives” was “The Interviews.” I especially found the interview with Bentonia native and proprietor of one of the oldest juke joints in Mississippi, Blue Front Cafe, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, to be rife with penetrating reflections; Jimmy “Duck” Holmes understands. Here is an excerpt from Roger’s interview with Mr. Holmes.


The Devil’s Music?

“See the same faces on Saturday night, see them Sunday. Does that make them sinful? I don’t think so. If you decide that you want to tell about a personal experience you had in life, that’s good. People use the church to testify all the time: ‘I’m praying for God to give me a job,’ ‘praying for God to heal my child.’ Now, you stick a guitar to it, and ‘oh no, oh no!’ Some of the same lyrics that Jack (Owens), Skip (James) and Muddy (Waters)…Some of the same lyrics are spoken in the church, but you put a guitar to it, it’s the devil’s music. That part I don’t understand. People frowned on you telling a story with music to it, putting your emotion in it. Start crying, singing, ‘My wife left me’ or ‘I’m broke’ and start playing the guitar, then all the sudden that’s the devil’s music. When did they decide that they wanted to separate that? ‘This is OK because there’s no music to it,’ or , ‘That’s not acceptable because it’s got a guitar part.’ Any preacher can listen to you tell your life history, but you start putting a blues guitar to it, and he don’t want to hear it. My thing is if God bless you with a particular gift and if you don’t use it, he takes it away from you. Anything an individual does, if God is glorified in it in any way, he’s satisfied as long as what you’re doing don’t take your relationship with him away.”

I commend this 119 page paperback book to you if you 1) are from Mississippi, 2) are from the Mississippi Delta, 3) love the Mississippi Delta, 4) are intrigued by the Mississippi Delta, 5) love the music genre “the blues”, 6) want to support someone, that someone being Roger Stolle, who is doing his very best to salvage and share some truths from our unique microcosm of a world we have here in the Mississippi Delta and Clarksdale. Be you black, white, young, old, poor, rich, give a damn or don’t give a damn, pick it up and knock it out. It won’t take you long at all. I read it while walking on the treadmill at the local Snap Fitness.

It has some outstanding photographs by Lou Bopp and a revealing Foreward by Jeff Konkel which ends with Jeff saying “Readers of this book are in for a treat. You couldn’t ask for a better guide to the past, present and future of Mississippi blues. Enjoy.”

Roger is working on his latest documentary film project called “We Juke Up In Here: Mississippi’s Juke Joint Culture at the Crossroads – A joint production of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art and Broke & Hungry Records

Roger has an instantaneous and undeniable wit and I wish I had seen more of that in this book. Perhaps Roger has several more books in his future, one of which could be Roger’s Hidden History of Discovering the Mississippi Blues. I’m certain he would have some funny stories to share with us.

Roger, a man who uses his two ears and his two eyes as God intended. Seeing and listening, and only then “speaking” via his first book, Hidden History of Mississippi Blues. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.


You can purchase Hidden History of Mississippi Blues by calling Cat Head at 662-624-5992 (Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm) or send him an email at [email protected]. Peruse the Cat Head website, too! Watch for Roger and Jeff’s new documentary WE JUKE UP IN HERE! See image below for more information.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER OF Hidden History of Mississippi Blues


Roger Stolle owns Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, a blues store in Clarksdale, Mississippi, as well as his own music and tourism marketing service. He is a Blues Revue magazine columnist, WROX radio deejay, XM/Sirius radio correspondent, Ground Zero Blues Club music coordinator and Juke Joint Festival cofounder. Through his Cat Head Presents record label, Stolle has produced several critically acclaimed blues CDs/DVDs; he coproduced the award-winning film M for Mississippi: A Road Trip through the Birthplace of the Blues. Hidden History of Mississippi blues is his first book. Stolle’s Cat Head store has been called “one of the 17 coolest record stores in America” (Paste magazine), is included in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Workman Publishing) and received a Keeping the Blues Alive Award (Blues Foundation). He was educated at the University of Cincinnati and worked for thirteen years in the advertising and marketing world prior to entering the music business. http://www.cathead.biz.


Lou Bopp is an award-winning commercial location photographer. He came to the blues as a music fan and has photographed a majority of the most significant Mississippi blues musicians in recent years. In the blues music realm, Bopp has photographed everyone from James “T-Model” Ford to “Big” George Brock; he has gone from juke joint to house party, from pool hall to living room in search of his subjects. The human experience intrigues and fascinates Bopp, and his goal is to capture images that reflect the authenticity and meaning of this experience. Bopp has traveled the world on assignment for clients such as Time Warner, Deutsche Bank, McCann-Erickson, Amex, Sports Illustrated, Y&R and many more. His subjects range from celebrities to CEOs, musicians to technicians. His work has taken him from the floor of the NYSE to the top of the Empire State Building, from the renowned sands of Iwo Jima to the legendary “crossroads” of Clarksdale, Mississippi. He once shot on three continents on a single day. Bopp is based in New York City, St. Louis and, at time, the Mississippi Delta. http://www.loubopp.com.


Watch the trailer for WE JUKE UP IN HERE.

Visit Roger’s Facebook Page to read a Press Release about WE JUKE UP IN HERE

or visit www.wejukeupinhere.com.

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  1. Eddie Elenburg says:

    Hi guys,
    Just wanted to say thanks for the hard work ya’ll putt into the D/B.
    It’s really great to be able read this, look at the pictures and think of HOME.
    Thanks for sharing it with me.


  2. frank mckenna says:

    hey folks ,
    Great interview with a great person . Enough can’t be said for all that Roger does for Clarksdale , and all of the Delta . Thanks for bringing attention to him .

  3. Frank,
    Thanks for the great feedback. We are glad you are a Delta Bohemian! 😎

    The rest of the interview will post up this morning. Be sure the check it out, too. He talks about Clarksdale in it. It’s not quite as long as part one.

    Glad you enjoyed the Stolle feature. He is iconic regarding his amazing influence on our blues culture here in Clarksdale, the Delta, in Mississippi and the Mid-South. He’s a great person and passionate about his work. I’m proud to call him my friend. Sadie, too. Ruff Ruff

  4. EE,
    Hey, we appreciate your being a Delta Bohemian even from afar! I’m so glad you enjoy the site and especially this post. Your support gives us an incentive to keep it going!

    Watch for Part Two of Roger’s video shortly. He talks some about the local scene in it.

    Spread the word and Be Bohemian! 😎


  5. Gordon Yamamoto says:

    Finally got to see rest of Roger’s interview; I especially appreciate his sentiments toward “taking care” of his living legend blues men. It’s not a job, it’s a calling! Loved it!!

  6. Check out the new trailer, Gordon! Only thing missing in it is YOU! 😎

  7. Gordon Yamamoto says:

    I was there, but too ugly to include on film!!

  8. Now I know that’s not true! Roger is saving you for the real teaser trailer! 😎

  9. Gordon Yamamoto says:

    No, the REAL reason is they don’t want to include an Asian face because they’re afraid the Delta will be overrun with crazy camera carrying short people like in Honolulu!!……..but hey, we DO SPEND MONEY, BABY!!! ;D

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