Brief Thoughts After a Recent “Blues Show” at Da White House – Red, White and Blues


Brief Thoughts After a Recent “Blues Show”

at Da White House

Red, White and Blues

By Poor William

“The blues continue to draw a crowd, because this music speaks to something universal. No one goes through life without both joy and pain. (The blues) teaches us that when we find ourselves at a crossroads, we don’t shy away from our problems. We own them, we deal with them, we sing about them.”  —  President Obama

Mick Jagger performing at the White House. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Mick Jagger performing at the White House. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Blues junkies, Classic Rock devotees, guitar heads and the politically faithful were treated to some awesome, though somewhat vanilla blues as part of a music series continuation hosted recently by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

The “In Performance at The White House: Red, White and Blues” concert was aired last Sunday evening on PBS. The Annenberg Foundation, which has invested in the Mississippi Delta, was a sponsor of the program. The entire performance can be viewed at:

Poor William was jazzed about getting to see some perennial knowns and unknowns in the blues world performing together at the Big House. What a treat for artists to be able to perform roots music with other off-the-chain musicians for the Prez and his merry band of friends, staff, “A-list Must” and campaign contributors.

Actress Taraji P. Henson hosted the program, which included performances by B.B King, Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, Gary Clark Jr., Trombone Shorty, Keb Mo, Warren Haynes, and White House bandleader and music director, Booker T. Jones. The blues ensemble included a healthy dose of talented white blues musicians: Susan Tedeschi and her bad-ass husband, man-of-few-words, Allman Brothers influenced, long-haired guitar prodigy Derek Trucks, guitar legend Jeff Beck and Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger.

Magical Madge and Poor William watched the show at home, joy-primed with liberal libations. Though the blues might not-a-been as nasty as dey-coulda-been, they did reflect appropriate blues classics played by some incredible blues and blues-appreciating musicians.

Poor William purposed not to be distracted by the possible politicization of the event in an election year, so he was only mildly annoyed at some well-scripted, opportune moments seemingly scripted by election-year handlers. Overall, it was a delightful, family-friendly concert that brought attention to the Mississippi Delta and its native tunes—BLUES—the progenitor of most forms of modern music.

Obama paid tribute to Muddy Waters, who spent more than a day on the Stovall Plantation, just down the road from Clarksdale. Though he mispronounced Stovall just a little, how cool he pronounced it at all! We need all the love we can get our hands on in the Delta.

The President personally introduced Indianola native and blues great Mr. B. B. King. Always a consummate performer, B. B. did his state, himself, and his craft “proud.”

The lighting at times was reddish in hue, just like at Red’s Blues Lounge in downtown Clarksdale. The blues was sweet and upbeat. The musicians, once loosened up, played with one another as if they were year-round band members.

Cold beer was missing; there was no smoke—from left-handed or right-handed cigs lazily hovering overhead, nor was there a hoochie mama dropping “it like it’s hot” on a sticky dance floor near a grind-on-this, grown-ass man. And for sure, there was not the mandatory tip bucket on the floor; the tips were all going to PAC’s, and that don’t stand for a group of 20 cigarettes.

However, the prestige, honor and exposure of playing for the President of The United States of Freakin’ America is tip enough, unless one is a blues musician, then the bucket must be passed around by a lady encouraging some Department of the Treasury love. Exposure doesn’t put a chicken in every pot, pork between every bun or a forty in every hand.

Blues musicians, Poor Williams and most folks from the Delta, whether black or white, would rather have a piece of fried yard bird, some pulled pig meat and an adult beverage than the promise of “this will help your reputation playing at the White House/Big House.” Hell, most of us ain’t got reputations, and if we do, they are likely beyond repair.

As for a gig at the White House/Big House providing opportunities for advancement, most blues musicians of yore would tell you a similar house is why they got the blues to begin with and that’s why they spent their lives trying to figure out why the Big White House had it all and they didn’t. They learned about and expressed the blues as a result of a Big White house, so it is fitting they got their due on stage at the Big Kahuna, The White House, home of the people!

Musicians performing during the Red, White, and Blues Show at the White House. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Musicians Jeff Beck, Gary Clark Jr, Mick Jagger and Buddy Guy performing during the Red, White, and Blues Show at the White House. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The performances were stellar. Though the crowd was a hint more uptight and docile than the usual group of suspects seen where da blues is played, they were in the damn White House, so acting a fool ain’t acceptable unless it’s in the Lincoln bedroom.

It must be hard being a national politician. Every move, nod, word, mannerism in front of the camera is scripted. Seeing President Obama doing the “Chihuahua in-the-back-window head bob replete with the shit-eating grin was painful, because I do believe he loves some tunes, but once you The Prez every mannerism is judged, parsed and scripted by the handlers.

Poor William might be in a different political meadow than the Prez, but he does think he crooned a tight, fluid, smooth-as-silk, sweet ending to culminate a fine evening rife with tha blues: “Come on, baby don’t you want to go … sweet home Chicago.”

Having guitar gods Beck, Trucks and Guy (not a group of barristers) jamming at the same time inspired rockers, mockers and cock-blockers the world over! Every musician and singer hit their notes and hit them well. Notes were bent and often!

The svelte, peripatetic, sixty-damn-eight-year-old singer Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame danced his way across the stage and brought the evenings first real energy and sense of “what the hell might ole Mick do?” Jagger said he loved doing a blues show, as the musical genre was something he fell in love with when he was around 12-years old.

So, Delta Bohemians everywhere, blues lovers, BBQ addicts, cold beer aficionados, and those who would like to see a contemporary of Jagger and one who loves the blues and the Mississippi Delta—Robert Plant from Zeppelin—sing some blues, then bring “dat ass to 25th annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Fest in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi, heart of the Mississippi Delta and birthplace of too-damn-many artists to name! Visit


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  1. Pretty awesome to have American bluesmen, British rockers and soulful female singers at the White House celebrating blues history. To hear the President mention Muddy and Stovall, WOW… what a bonus that was! For that matter, to hear Jagger reminisce about his musical, Mississippi-born blues heroes was a double bonus. (One addition for next time: Maybe they can just fly in Red Paden and T-Model Ford to, uh… liven things up a bit? Just don’t let the Secret Service frisk T-Model…)

  2. Wow, I learned about the Plantster here!

  3. Yeah, some locals from here woulda spiced things up a bit. But, then again, it can’t be manufactured and the stiff, controlled environment of the White House had to be a challenge for the musicians. When Jagger came out with all that energy I think he sent a message to the others and they began to relax a bit. I woulda been so nervous. I can’t imagine. I’m so grateful they had this night of celebration for the country to see. It’s happening, Roger. Our latest news of Plant headlining for the Sunflower Festival in August will put a major spotlight on Clarksdale. Don’t you and Steve agree? Let’s get ready! Spotlight is being aimed and focused!

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