Sunflower Scrapbook '97, Part 2


Delta Blues Museum Saturday morning began with an error on my part. Dick Waterman had a meeting to go to so he dropped me off early in the A.M. outside the museum. Somehow I misinterpreted the Festival program and thought I needed to head for the main stage in order to see a performance by Eugene Powell. Turns out that Eugene was playing at the museum and I missed him as a result. But the mistake was not without its benefits. I wound up having a chance to do a little wandering around downtown Clarksdale.

Strolling down Yazoo Ave. As I strolled down Yazoo Ave. towards the railroad tracks for the second day, I was struck by something I had experienced the day before but hadn't paid much mind to. I lived in New York City for the first 30 years of my life, and now live in Florida. When I moved to Florida, I was struck by the friendliness of strangers. People said hello to one another. They made eye contact. Things like that would get you, at the very least, stared at in New York City. Here in Clarksdale it appeared to be a law. In my lone wanderings around Clarksdale I never passed a single person that did not give me a smiling and spoken greeting of some sort. After it happened a few times on this particular morning and I began thinking about it, I was struck by a sense of sincerity in all those greetings that I've never felt even in friendly Florida. I decided to test that sincerity on the next person to walk by striking up a conversation.

"Good morning, Sir. How are you this morning?" she said approaching from the opposite direction.

"Pretty good. Good morning to you, too. Are you from around here?" I asked.

"Yes sir," she replied.

"Are you going to go to the festival today?" I asked.

"I probably will, but I'm going to wait until the sun goes down and it's a bit cooler. You headed there now?"

"Yes, ma'am, I am," I replied.

"Well have a nice day, and enjoy the music," she said as she continued her morning walk.

If I were to say "good morning" to someone today on a New York City street, I wouldn't be surprised if they ran.

Wade Walton's barbershop Abandoned railway So I enjoyed some wandering around. I visited Wade Walton's Blues Barbershop. I walked along the now abandoned railroad tracks that carried many a Delta resident to Chicago in search of a better life.

Old passenger station WROX-AM 1450 The all Blues station I went to the old passenger station that Muddy Waters left from in 1943, on the way to his destiny in Chicago.

I wandered on over to the home of WROX - AM, the all Blues radio station that I had tuned to in my hotel room the moment I got there.

By then I was quite warm (and sunburned from the day before) so I headed back towards the stage and the cold beer.

C.V. Veal - M.C. and performer Most of Saturday's festivities were M.C.'d by the irascible C.V. Veal. C.V. was a real blast. Talented and funny, he got progressively drunker and drunker as the day wore on. (I watched him make several trips to his "stash"). Several times he would be sitting at the back of the stage, during someone's set, looking for all the world like he was asleep, and then he'd dash up to an open microphone, let out a deafening scream of joy, and then go sit back down again. A few of the performers got a little annoyed with him, but the crowd loved him.

Part of the Exotic Queens The first performers up were again young people. Comprised of one male and 4 young ladies, all less than 14 years of age. Once again I was knocked out by their musicianship. I was particularly impressed with the young bass player in this group. She really had it goin' on. She was another of the young ones I felt could "go places". I hope she sticks to it.

Drummer with The Exotic Queens From this point on, a good portion of the schedule got fouled up. Besides working on "Delta Time", an absence in the act that was to follow the young ladies left us with quite a bit of shuffling, mixing, and matching, the results of which while quite enjoyable left me wondering exactly who I was watching. Another group of mostly young people was set to play, but their leader, Dr. Mike, was called away in his role as an M.D. so the shuffling began. Through this period various combinations of Dr. Mike and the Interns, Fruteland Jackson, C.V. Veal, and Robert Curtis "R.C." Smith performed. It was all great fun.

Othar Turner and his nephew R.L. One of the highlights for me was meeting Othar Turner (pictured here with his nephew R.L. Boyce). He is truly the last of a time past. Although he plays with mostly area children as his drummers, I fear his style of folk fife and drum music is likely to die with him. I certainly hope not. Othar is quite a great guy. You would think that his primitive style of music would set him apart from the other performers, but that is FAR from the truth. He is an AVID fan of the Blues and was frequently visible in the audience in front of the stage "rockin' out" to the funky music. He is also extremely well loved by all of the musicians. I feel lucky to have crossed his path.

In the jumbled schedule, Jerry Ricks played a set. He was taken by surprise when he started what was to be a quiet acoustic number and he suddenly heard pounding drums behind him. C.V. Veal, now quite shitfaced, had jumped onto the vacant drum kit, and without asking, was giving his enthusiastic help. I know Jerry was not happy with this unexpected accompaniment, but he handled it as gracefully as possible until C.V. could be coaxed off the stage. Jerry's a class act.

Arthneice Jones The next highlight for me was the appearance of Arthneice Jones and the Stone Gas Band, featuring a unique link to the Delta past. Playing keyboards in this working band is none other than Howard Stovall.

Howard Stovall If the name Stovall sounds familiar to you, it should. Muddy Waters lived just outside of Clarksdale on the Stovall Plantation. The plantation is still there, and the Stovalls still own it, and Howard plays in a working Delta Blues band. He is also the executive director of the Blues Foundation so he is a busy guy. I wanted very much to meet Howard, having corresponded with him many times in the past, but we just never seemed to occupy the same space at the same time. Every time I looked for him he was gone. (A bit like that Robert Johnson legend).

Bonnie Kalmbach I met several Blues-L members at Clarksdale but for some dopey reason I never thought to snap their pictures. With one exception. I did manage to snap a sneak pic of Bonnie Kalmbach as we sat in the backstage shade watching the show.

Wade Walton the Blues Barber A big treat for me was seeing Wade Walton. Wade has been a Blues ambassador for quite a few years, offering up a song or two in his barbershop whenever a new Blues tourist appeared. More than his musicianship, his joyous love for the Blues is what keeps me wanting more. Another person that I am so lucky to have finally met.

Early Wright - Blues DJ - WROX One more Delta Blues fixture I had the pleasure of meeting was Mr. Early Wright who has been broadcasting on Clarksdale's WROX AM for over 50 years. He still can be heard dishing up the Blues Monday thru Friday from 6 to 8 PM, and then switching to Gospel from 8 to 10 PM.

James SuperChikan Johnson When it got dark it was time for the biggest crowds of the festival and the biggest names on the bill. Robert "Bilbo" Walker, Ike Turner, and Little Milton. But the real headliner for me... the man that I came to see... the man who's autograph now graces my copy of his CD... was James "Super Chikan" Johnson. He did not disappoint. In fact, as is often the case his live performance way outclassed his recordings.

Sunday meant a leisurely breakfast with Dick, and a lazy drive through Mississippi to Memphis, stopping along the way to see various landmarks. Dick Waterman took me to a very special place along the way, the final resting place of his old friend "Mississippi" Fred McDowell. There I photographed the beautiful headstone that Dick and Bonnie Raitt bought to replace the original, which was rather small and, amongst other things, had misspelled his name. (that original stone is now in the Delta Blues Museum). Dick wouldn't let me get a picture of him by the stone because he was wearing a T-shirt with a Rock artist's picture on it and he knew that "Ferd" (as Dick called him) wouldn't like that. I did manage to sneak a picture of Dick pulling some weeds up though, and you can't see the T-shirt photo so I guess it's O.K. to keep. I'll end my report here with a picture of the front and back of Fred's tombstone. I hope you enjoyed my little scrapbook as much as I enjoyed putting it together.


Front & Back of 'Mississppi' Fred McDowell


For Part 1, click here.



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