Finally, here is the report from . . .

The four Norwegians at the 1995 Sunflower Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi . . . The Great Norwegian US Blues Trip '95! For those of you who don't know the story, once upon a time there were four Norwegian friends and blues fanatics dreaming about the ultimate blues holiday in the US.... and in the summer of '95, it all came true! After a year of planning, including some good advice from blues-l'ers, we decided upon a four-week schedule which took us from Houston, Texas to Austin, Texas, then by plane to New Orleans, Louisiana, followed by two weeks all over Mississippi -- also including Memphis, Tennessee -- in a hired Mazda van (with The Sunflower Festival in Clarksdale being the only "pre-scheduled" stop), then finally a long drive up to Chicago for our final stop.

Sorry this report is over 4 weeks late -- but after four weeks out of the country we all had a lot of catching up to do... Hope some of you enjoy the report anyway, though -- and we would welcome any comments and questions! For the most part, only our music-related experiences (which means most of our experiences, actually) are described here. The report is still very long, though... so we have decided to split it into four parts:

Part 1: Houston + Austin + New Orleans
Part 2: The Mississippi Delta
Part 3: Oxford/Holly Springs + Memphis + Helena
Part 4: Chicago

Before we start, though, here are some acknowledgements:

One of the most pleasant things we learned -- or got confirmed -- was that there is a wonderful community of blues lovers out there -- and that the music generates so much friendship, so many shared experiences, so much interesting knowledge to be shared, so many great stories -- you really have to go out there and experience it yourself. In addition to all the great musicians we had the privilege of experiencing, we would especially like to thank the following, in roughly chronological order, for their generosity of time and spirit:

Randy Long and Teresa Brooks at Ms. T's Cafe in Bentonia
Mary Shepard of the Club Ebony in Indianola
Marvin Flemmons at the Music Mart in Drew
James Segrest in Drew and Clarksdale
Curtis Hewston and his two friends in Tutwiler and Clarksdale
Dick Waterman in Clarksdale and Oxford
Tom and Deborah Freeland in Oxford and Holly Springs
Ed Komara of the Blues Archive in Oxford
Judy Peiser at The Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis
Bubba Sullivan of Bubba's Blues Corner in Helena
Sonny Payne of King Biscuit Time in Helena
Panny Mayfield at The Blues Hall in Helena
Mrs. Gist of Gist Music in Helena, and
Dave Markovits and John Sturm in Clarksdale, Holly Springs, and Chicago

You all helped make our trip more special than we could ever have imagined!
Many thanks from The 4 Blue Norwegians:

Per Arne Hansen
Roland Kruse
Geir Oien (MAIN AUTHOR of the above opus)
Tor Arne Reinen

Now, on with the show....

PART 1: Houston + Austin + New Orleans

July 22: Arrival in Houston for the first three members of our group. This first night was spent at BILLY BLUES with MIKE PRITCHARD (formerly unknown to us) and his band. The show was not very good, though -- uninspired, tired "blues rock muzak" at a too-low volume, before an unattentive, dinner-eating audience. Oh well, a slow start is better than no start.

July 24: After the last member of the group had arrived in Houston, we immediately drove to Austin and settled in at a motel. After having a fine Mexican dinner (with the to-be favorite drink of the trip, frozen margaritas!!!) at wonderful 6TH STREET while studying THE AUSTIN CHRONICLE too see what musical experiences we might expect during our stay, we decided to go to the legendary ANTONE'S club for "Blue Monday Night" with the club's great house band, including the awesome drummer GEORGE RAINS, GENE 'FINGERS' TAYLOR on piano, and SARAH BROWN on bass. Introduced by owner CLIFFORD ANTONE himself, the show, which was very enjoyable, went on for several hours, with some exchange of personell (especially guitar players) as the evening passed. We were served mostly traditional -- and fine -- blues in the classic Texas tradition. Unfortunately, the scheduled master guitarist DEREK O'BRIEN failed to show up, though.

(Note: Contrary to what is stated in Christiane Bird's The Jazz and Blues Lover's Guide to the U.S. -- otherwise an invaluable guide book, btw -- Antone's is still in its old location at Guadalupe Dr. -- and is not yet a part of the Billy Blues chain!)

July 25: After breakfast we drove to the ANTONE'S RECORD STORE, located just across the street from the club, for our first of many CD shopping extravaganzas. Severe heat (104 F) made us quite laidback -- but we at least managed to walk up to THE CONTINENTAL CLUB for their afternoon "happy hour" show, -- Antone's recording artist TONI PRICE, known as "Nasty Toni", with an acoustic band! As we understood it, it actually was a release party for her newest CD "Hey" on Antone's. What a great and soulful singer she is (combining blues, jazz and country) -- and what great atmosphere there was at the club! Btw, this was the night BILL SHUTE of blues-l suddenly walked up to us, having recognized us as Norwegians -- which we found quite amazing...

Later in the evening we went to the 'upscale' nightclub TOP OF THE MARC to see Black Top recording artist W.C. CLARK, a black soul/blues singer/guitarist. He was good, but the venue had an unfitting "supper club" feel and we had the feeling that W.C. was holding back, performing "politely" and not unleashing his full powers. Nice guitar and vocals, though.

July 26: This day found us at the best record store of the trip, WATERLOO Records! They had a big sale -- on top of their already low prices -- and great variety of music. We went completely nuts and came out with a combined lot of CDs for about 500 $... The evening was spent traversing the bars of 6th Street and listening to music -- including the fine young white songstress STEPHANIE BRADLEY in the early afternoon at JOE's GENERIC BAR (whose "washroom" facilities have to be seen to be believed!); the veteran black bluesman (singer/guitarist) HOSEA HARGROVE at the 311 CLUB just next door -- and the energetic and very competent young white "cover" bluesband THE HEADHUNTERS (quite Little Walter-influenced) back at Joe's again later in the evening. A wonderful and cheap evening's musical entertainment in the very nice, relaxed, "safe" atmosphere that seems to characterize everything about Austin.

July 27: Our final day in Austin found us back at the early afternoon show at The Continental Club to catch local c&w; favorite and veteran DON WALSER, whose heartfelt and "blue" renditions of traditional acoustic country material in the Hank Williams Sr. style (complete with yodeling and steel guitar) really charmed us. We then went back to ANTONE'S to visit an old acquaintance from last year's NOTODDEN Blues Festival in Norway, GUY FORSYTH and his band. This young white Guy (!) has a devastating voice, which sounds like it belongs to an old, big, black singer. He's also a fine harp player and slide guitarist and has a good band, including the not-easily-forgotten "The Mountain Man" on bass (and, fittingly, vocals on "300 Pounds of Joy")!. Chicago and Texas blues meet in Guy's fine -- and LOUD! -- music, which is tirelessly energetic, tight, and authentic, a interesting covers and fine original material.

July 28: Although we were sad to leave the great Austin atmosphere (which is unreservedly recommended for all music lovers!), the flight to New Orleans found us expectant of things to come. We checked in at The Fairmont Hotel just adjacent to the French Quarter (expensive but worth it) and went to FELIX's for a seafood dinner. We then took a cab to the MAPLE LEAF BAR out near The Garden District, where, according to the unvaluable free magazine "OFFBEAT", ROCKIN' DOPSIE JR. & THE ZYDECO TWISTERS were playing. The band contains three of zydeco legend Rockin' Dopsie's sons -- on vocal/percussion, accordion, and (I think) drums. And -- they sure kicked up a storm. Tight, enthusiastic, raucous, loud, danceable, irresistible -- this was great live zydeco, and the audience responded with dancing, shouts, big smiles, spontaneous washboard playing (!) and general good vibes. Only their more "modern" funk/rock-influenced material disappointed somewhat (too loud, too much Hendrix guitar), but there was thankfully not too much of this.

July 29: The day's activities included an expensive trip to TOWER RECORDS on Decatur, a tasting of the superb coffee and beignets (french donuts) at famous CAFE DU MONDE nearby, a mind-bogglingly big Muffaletta sandwich at MASPERO's -- and the hard but unavoidable choice between JOHNNY ADAMS at Mid-City Lanes and SNOOKS EAGLIN at the new club BUGSY'S. Well, Snooks won -- and we were glad he did. This was THE musical experience of the whole trip -- a 3-hour virtuosic performance (in front of about 20-30 people) of boundless and exuberant enthusiasm, energy and humor; the greatest guitar playing we have EVER heard (what you might think are overdubs on his records are NOT); superb, tough and soulful Ray Charles-like vocals; a rhythm section as tight, funky and energetic as can be imagined; and a set list of such eclecticism, spontaneity, and richness that it can only be found in the head of a human jukebox like Snooks. Upon learning that we were from Norway, he immediately engaged the audience in a singing contest -- "Norway against The US!" which had us shouting our heads off in a (failed) attempt to win .... SEE THIS MAN, he is probably the greatest raw talent you'll ever witness.

July 30: Nothing could really follow Snooks, but strolling around the Quarter, eating great New Orleans food, catching some fine and funny street musicians ("Stoney B. and Grandpa") and drinking DIXIE beer isn't bad either! For our last evening in The Crescent City we went to the nice bar MADIGAN'S out by The Garden District to catch a solo set by JOHN MOONEY, who was good but not spectacular, playing Son House/Robert Johnson-influenced slide guitar... and overplaying it quite a bit ("too much show-off virtuosity" was the general verdict). Still, a fine ending to our stay.

For Part 2, click here.

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