|CAT HEAD UPDATE - May 2020 Edition|
Welcome to your monthly issue of the resurrected CAT HEAD UPDATE e-newsletter for fans of blues, Mississippi, Clarksdale and Cat Head. We appreciate your support. (If you'd rather not receive a monthly email, then please feel free to unsubscribe.)
Our brick-and-mortar music venues may be closed, but Mississippi has been super busy keeping the blues alive over the past month via online streaming, virtual tours and lots of planning for future events. The blues community needs our support, so please tip the streaming musicians whenever possible, and consider donating to one of the funds below (among others) that are currently assisting blues musicians:
- msbluestrail.org (musician aid fund)
Hang in there, y'all, and visit Clarksdale once the international health crisis is behind us. Thanks and best, Roger Stolle (and Ayler, the blues pug)
PS - Want to help guarantee the long-term success of Cat Head? Then, please check out our expanded WEB STORE at www.cathead.biz.
|"LIVE FROM CLARKSDALE" LIVE STREAMING MUSIC EVERY DAY!|
|Since Clarksdale, Mississippi's world-famous blues clubs and juke joints temporarily closed to the public in late March, LIVE FROM CLARKSDALE has kept our blues town's "365 days a year" of live music going — via daily live streams! The lineup has been fantastic — from LaLa Craig and Lucious Spiller to Watermelon Slim and Terry "Harmonica" Bean... and beyond!|
BENEFITS BEYOND THE STREAMING MUSIC ITSELF...
In addition to helping to keep the music going "virtually," founder Colleen Buyers notes how Live From Clarksdale (LFC) has impacted people personally:
• Several musicians are now livestreaming for the first time and earning some income from tips, including those who have been unable to pay rent.
• LFC helps people feel less alone amidst these challenging times, bringing people joy, and creating connection in this time of isolation.
• Jacqueline Nassar and LaLa Craig are two powerhouse women whose phones were too broken or old to livestream. LFC (and its supporters) has empowered them to livestream on their own with new equipment, from the safety of their homes.
SPECIAL EVENT: Watch the website below for a special "Blues at the Crossroads" event on Saturday, May 9th, featuring multiple blues 'n roots favorites from The Delta.
THANKS to Colleen and Shared Experiences USA for making it all happen... and Visit Clarksdale, Clarksdale-Coahoma Chamber of Commerce and Visit Mississippi for making it all possible.
Tune in daily via LiveFromClarksdale.org, y'all, and "tip tip tip the band"!
SCHEDULE & 'WATCH' LINKS
|PLANS CONTINUE FOR 2020 AND 2021 DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL!|
|Clarksdale, Mississippi's DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL is a yearly blues 'n roots-music homecoming with a particularly faithful following of fans and friends. If you haven't been, then definitely add it to your (gut)bucket list! This year is a bit different and uncertain due to the current pandemic... but October 2020's Deep Blues Fest acts are booked and event planning continues in the hope that the happening can be held. Cross your fingers... also note the 2021 dates... and please stay tuned to the DBF website and Facebook page.|
2020: Oct. 15-18.
2021: Oct. 14-17.
Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/deepbluesfest/
DEEP BLUES WEBSITE
|EXPANDED CAT HEAD WEB STORE WITH TEES, BOOKS, MUSIC & MORE!|
|We're adding new stuff to our online store every week! Please check out our vastly expanded CAT HEAD WEB STORE at www.cathead.biz. What's in store? Lots of cool blues, Cat Head and Mississippi stuff... Tees, hoodies, hats, books, DVDs, CDs, vinyl LPs, glassware, art prints, gift ideas... and more. |
Plus, while you're on the Cat Head website, check out some of the interesting news links, virtual music calendar, quote collection and more. Since I've been forced to temporarily close my world-famous brick-and-mortar Cat Head store location in downtown Clarksdale, my Web Store IS Cat Head. I truly appreciate all y'all's support. Stay well, and come see (and hear) us "for real" when you can. :)
SHOP CAT HEAD!
|WATCH BLUES MUSIC AWARDS (BMAs) ONLINE THIS SUNDAY, 5/3|
|Watch Blues Foundation's "Virtual Blues Music Awards (BMAs)" on Sun., May 3rd via blues.org!|
The 2020 Blues Music Awards will be held on Sunday, May 3 and streamed on Facebook and YouTube (2pm PT • 4pm CT • 5pm ET). This event brings together Blues performers, industry representatives, and fans from all over the world to celebrate the best in Blues recordings and performances from the previous year. The BMAs are generally recognized as the highest honor given to blues musicians and are awarded by vote of Blues Foundation members.
BMA WATCH PARTY
|BLUES NEWS FROM AROUND THE MISSISSIPPI REGION, Y'ALL...|
|DELTA BLUES MUSEUM & #GivingTuesdayNow. On May 5, go to https://now.firespring.com/nonprofits/delta-blues-museum-clarksdale-ms and donate. Pledges count, too--contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on pledges.|
GROUND ZERO BLUES CLUB'S
"Quarantine Series" from Clarksdale, MS, for May 2020:
Thurs., 5/7 - Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, 8pm
Mon., 5/11 - Ben Payton featuring Bonesman, 8pm
Thurs., 5/14- Keith Johnson & George Mumford of Keith Johnson & the Big Muddy Band, 8pm
Mon., 5/18 - Lightnin Malcolm, 8pm
Finale: Thurs., 5/21 - Super Chikan,8pm
CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI BLUES SOCIETY keeps Hal & Mal's "Blue Mondays" going online from Jackson every Monday night at 8:30 p.m. (members post videos of past performances) at https://www.facebook.com/groups/134758873254380/
MARSHALL RAMSEY'S MISSISSIPPI "COLORING SHEETS" for Magnolia State towns, including Clarksdale at https://mississippitoday.org/2020/03/23/a-tour-of-mississippi-with-marshall-ramsey/. Great for quarantined kids... and kids at heart!
BB KING MUSEUM in Indianola, Mississippi, may be temporarily closed, but check out their excellent videos at https://bbkingmuseum.org/video/
BLUES FESTIVAL GUIDE MAGAZINE's website keeps you up to date on future fests at www.bluesfestivalguide.com
PBS NEWSHOUR VISITED CLARKSDALE, Mississippi, during 2019 Juke Joint Festival. Watch now at:
Juke Fest and Clarksdale revitalization - https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/with-the-juke-joint-festival-a-mississippi-city-aims-to-lose-its-economic-blues
OUR FRIENDS AT CATHEAD VODKA have been up to plenty of good stuff during pandemic...
Hand sanitizer - https://mississippitoday.org/2020/04/01/due-to-pandemic-cathead-switches-gears-produces-hand-sanitizer-by-the-ton/
Southern Foodways - http://www.thelocalvoice.net/oxford/cathead-makes-major-gift-to-southern-foodways-alliance/
OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL WENT ONLINE in Oxford, MS... https://www.oxfordfilmfest.com/oxford-film-festival/2020/4/14/off-goes-virtual-a-new-series
FREE "MOONSHINE & MOJO HANDS" WEB SERIES: Watch 10 FREE episodes, and tour Mississippi virtually at http://www.moonshineandmojohands.com/episodes.html.
MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL moves their amazing Jackson, MS, event from August 2020 to August 21, 2021. Info at msbookfestival.com.
MISSISSIPPI/REGIONAL BLUES RESOURCES on the web:
"LIVING BLUES" MAGAZINE Mississippi tour guide issue from a couple years back is free online at http://digital.livingblues.com/publication/?i=226901#
PLUS, MEMPHIS FLYER TRACKS LIVE-STREAMING music events just across the border from Mississippi... https://www.memphisflyer.com/blogs/MusicBlog/
|CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI'S DELTA BLUES MUSEUM "VIRTUAL TOUR"...|
Muddy Waters - The Blues Legend. Produced by Mississippi filmmaker Joe York, the video tour draws upon the Museum's existing educational feature "Follow Muddy". This feature expands our visitors' experience through new visuals of Stovall Farms can be viewed plus much more, featured on display in the Delta Blues Museum Muddy Waters Addition.
TAKE THE TOUR
|(RE)WATCH "VIRTUAL JUKE JOINT FESTIVAL CELEBRATION" ONLINE!|
|As a thank you to y'all JUKE JOINT FESTIVAL fans, friends and sponsors, the festival organization and Shared Experiences USA/Live From Clarksdale (especially the hardwork of Nan Hughes, Colleen Buyers, David Rodwin, Brook Hines and all the musicians) put on a 9-hour live-streamed FREE music event featuring 27 acts... followed by filmmaker Ted Reed's wonderful new "Juke Joint Festival Revisited" doc*. Thanks to everyone who made the virtual celebration happen — especially Visit Mississippi, Visit Clarksdale and The Walton Family Foundation. (RE)WATCH VIRTUAL JJF!!|
*PLUS, watch Ted Reed's new Juke Joint Festival Revisited doc at https://youtu.be/HiPsS5spBMc
|BOOK ROOMS ASAP FOR 2021 JUKE JOINT FESTIVAL IN CLARKSDALE!|
|BOOK YOUR ROOMS! PLAN NOW TO VISIT CLARKSDALE IN FUTURE...|
|As Clarksdale, Mississippi, keeps the blues rollin' online via Live From Clarksale and Virtual Juke Joint Festival live-streams, the Delta Blues Museum's new virtual tours, and Visit Clarksdale's own free Audio Walking Tour app... tourism director Bubba O'Keefe and his staff are preparing for the day that we can "turn the lights back on" once the pandemic is under control. Plan now to visit Clarksdale and tour Mississippi in search of deep blues music and American history.|
Read about tourism director O'Keefe's history, passion and plans for the future in a recent Delta Business Journal article at https://deltabusinessjournal.com/bubba-okeefe-promoting-clarksdale-through-tourism-and-expansion/.
"VISIT CLARKSDALE" LINK
|NEW BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE WITH BOBBY RUSH, MORE (FREE ONLINE)|
|Blues Blast Magazine - Issue 14-18 April 30, 2020 (Cover photo © 2020 Bob Kieser). In This Issue: Marty Gunther has feature interview with blues legend Bobby Rush... plus new album reviews and more at link.|
READ ONLINE (CLICK)
|WATCH TERRY "HARMONICA" BEAN INSIDE CAT HEAD A WEEK AGO!|
|As part of the Live From Clarksdale "365 days of blues," the pride of Pontotoc, Mississippi, blues — TERRY "HARMONICA" BEAN — live-streamed a 90-minute hard-blues set from behind Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art's locked door to hundreds of fans all over the U.S. and the world. Much more a fan of the flip-phone than the Facebook, Terry was super skeptical of the whole thing in the beginning. After seeing the global reach of the "watch party" (and both the Paypal tips and even a $10 bill that a fan slipped through Cat Head's locked door), Terry was all smiles! Thanks to Colleen "Masked Marvel" Buyers to making the event such a viral sensation.|
|KING BISCUIT BLUES FESTIVAL (HELENA, AR) STATUS UPDATE...|
|DIRECTOR'S NOTE (4/20/20): "The personal safety and well being of all the fans who attend the King Biscuit Blues Festival has always been our top priority. With that in mind, we will be monitoring the guidelines established by federal, state and local officials. At this time, the King Biscuit Blues Festival is moving forward as planned. In the event the festival is cancelled due to COVID-19, King Biscuit Blues Festival will automatically refund the full cost of this Early Bird Discounted ticket and fees to the original purchaser’s method of payment used at time of purchase." - Munnie Jordan, Executive Director.|
SEE FEST LINEUP!
|"PLACE HAD BEEN ROPED OFF WITH POLICE TAPE" IN JUKE JOINT BOOK!|
|Frank said, “I just feel like whooping me somebody tonight.” T-Model pulled out a pistol and said, “Well, I hope it ain’t me!”|
"Tommy goes, 'I didn’t know we was coming here. I ain’t going in there to play.' So, I’m thinking, 'If you’re not going in there, I’m sure not going in there!' The place had been roped off with police tape, and there was these guys that was walking around the edge like guard dogs."
"It’s almost like, 'I don’t know. Is it safe to go in this place?' And then you get inside and find three-hundred-pound women doing crazy, dirty dancing [laughs]."
Located seemingly in the middle of Nowhere, Mississippi, yet actually only twenty minutes from downtown Clarksdale, Bilbo’s decision to build his juke joint in such a harsh landscape was a bit like the gangsters of yore deciding to build casinos in the wide-open Las Vegas desert... [The] elements continually worked against him—snakes, mosquitos, floods and outlaws. But none of that stopped him.
“What makes a blues club an authentic old blues club is when you walk in the door, that blues club’s just like a poor man’s house. S---, he ain’t got no money to go out there and buy no damn matching chairs. When you walk in there, shoot, there ain’t no matching tables, ain’t no matching chairs. He just bought what he could get!”
"...that moonshine. It looked like water. I was sipping out of that stuff. It went down so smooth. When it was time to go, I stepped outside, and I went blind. I couldn’t even find my car."
First thing that Monday morning, a well-chiseled, well-dressed man with a badge walked right out of central casting and into my store. He peppered me with questions as my knees weakened. Since both the evidence and the manufacturer were gone (drunk up and buried down, respectively), I felt less than verbose.
ENJOY THE EXCERPTS ABOVE?
Then, buy a signed copy of my new "Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential" book today at Cat Head Web Store, www.cathead.biz.
I used most of the words I know. Lou Bopp contributed the amazing photos, and Jeff Konkel gave us a little hype on the front end. Also, maybe pick up my first book, too: "Hidden History of Mississippi Blues." Thanks, y'all! Roger Stolle
CAT HEAD BOOK SHOP
|SOUNDS AROUND TOWN... NOW "VIRTUAL" DURING THE PANDEMIC... BUT STILL THE REAL-DEAL!|
|BLUES MUSIC MAGAZINE KEEPS Y'ALL UP WITH THE BLUES NEWS...|
|Straight from Memphis (just 90 minutes from Cat Head in Clarksdale)... Blues Music Magazine keeps you up with the news and a whole lot more. You can also read my regular "Delta Journeys" column in every issue, featuring stories from the Mississippi Delta|
Check out their website today at the link below, and think about subscribing to the print edition (which you can also buy at Cat Head, of course.)
BLUES MUSIC MAG LINK
|BLUES/JAZZ/ROOTS MUSIC PASSINGS IN A TIME OF COVID...|
|"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." - Albert King/Don Nix|
It's only May, and we have already lost a helluva lot of veteran blues, jazz and roots musicians already this year. Covid-19 is directly involved in most of the untimely deaths, and I'd guess the added stress and reduced health access caused by the pandemic may have helped to contribute to some of the other passings. (On a more positive note, musicians like Bobby Rush and Rev John Wilkins survived recent illnesses, thankfully.)
Here is a sampling of some of the better known folks, including some personal favorites.
John Prine, 73 (his own genre!)
Lee Konitz, 92 (jazz)
Henry Grimes, 84 (jazz)
Giuseppi Logan, 84 (jazz)
Ellis Marsalis, 85 (jazz)
Bucky Pizzarelli, 94 (jazz)
Big George Brock, 87 (blues) - full tribute below
Bill Withers, 81 (soul/R&B)
McCoy Tyner, 81 (jazz)
Jimmy Heath, 93 (jazz)
TRIBUTE TO LATE, GREAT BLUES LEGEND BIG GEORGE BROCK...
One of the mightiest bluesmen I've ever known passed away April 10th, just a month shy of his 88th birthday. The Mississippi-born gentleman of the blues: Big George Brock.
HE WAS A LIVING FOSSIL OF THE BLUES.
His life was the ultimate blues story. He picked cotton, boxed and played the blues in Mississippi. Then, like other bluesmen of the era, Big George moved North in search of new opportunities. In his case, he didn’t make it all the way to Chicago. He stopped in St. Louis where he opened a series of blues clubs and shared the stage with blues masters like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King and Jimmy Reed. He claimed an amazing 42 children – including multiple sets of triplets and twins. His brother-in-law was the late Delta bluesman Big Jack Johnson, his nephew was James “Super Chikan” Johnson and his half-brother was ex-ballplayer Lou Brock.
I first witnessed the raw blues power of Big George back in the mid-1990s at an urban juke joint in a tough part of St. Louis. Called Climmie’s Western Inn, the club featured no cowboys and wasn’t an inn. But the owner’s name was Climmie, and she was as tough as the neighborhood. As I entered the old-school venue, I could hear the band running through a fast and frenzied blues instrumental. After a couple songs by the band, a series of bigger-than-life harmonica riffs came roaring through the bandstand’s PA system — with no harp player in sight. Suddenly, everyone’s attention was drawn toward the basement stairwell, near the center of the club. Out of the downstairs ladies’ restroom, up the steps and into the audience came a large man in a colorful three-piece suit and hat. From that moment on, Big George Brock had both his mic and the audience in the palm of his hand. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson II, B.B. King. He conjured up their sounds and a little of their souls that night. And I was hooked. Honestly, I just couldn’t believe that such a living fossil could still exist in such modern times.
THEY DON'T MAKE 'EM LIKE THAT ANYMORE.
Born in Grenada, Mississippi, on May 16, 1932, Brock's family soon moved to Flower's Plantation in Mattson – just outside of the boomtown of Clarksdale. Brock started picking and chopping cotton as a child. Because he was a particularly large, strong young man, he soon became a favorite of Plantation owner Roy Flowers.
As Brock told me during the interviews for the blues documentary "Hard Times" in 2006, he was never afraid of hard work, and it was at Flower's that he learned to plow a mule:
"I had a mule that if you didn’t sing the blues, she didn’t want to work right. And if you sing the blues, that mule, she’d work all day. You walking the cotton field, you walking the fields all day long. You just don’t know how many miles you go in the run of a day. Them’s a long mile. They used to plant cotton with a mule. Now, they plant it with a tractor. Plant it, work it, grow it, pick it. They do everything now with tractors. But back in them days, they did it with these. You did it with your hands."
Those were the days when cotton was king, Clarksdale was the "golden buckle on the cotton belt” and blues or gospel were your only musical choices. Brock chose blues.
THE COMEBACK – A MISSISSIPPIAN GOES GLOBAL.
Fast forward 4 or 5 decades.
In 2005, I was fortunate enough to work with Big George on his comeback album "Club Caravan," and soon we were traveling overseas to promote it. Italy, Switzerland, France, the U.K. and beyond.
On a French trip to play the awesome Cognac Blues Festival, we toured a cognac facility and played a show at a castle. Everything was calm, cool and collected till 10 minutes before the final festival gig of the week. The organizers had Big George and the band in a slow-moving golf cart while I walked alongside on the way to the stage. Big George casually leaned over to me and said, "I meant to tell you. I 'blew out' my last A harp last night." What the?! The key of A was HIS KEY! Before I could even start stress over it, completely out of the blue, a young French fan came running out of the festival crowd, catching up with our motorcade, completely unaware of the current conversation. His English was broken, but he said he’d be honored if Big George would accept one of his homemade harmonicas as a gift. A big hand snatched up the harp, and yes... It was in the key of A. And all was right with the world.
That's how Big George lived — loved and lucky.
After I moved from St. Louis to Mississippi in 2002, I mostly saw Big George either down here or at the airport. But, one of the times I came drove up to STL for a show, I spent the night at his 3-story brick home in North St. Louis (in the same room Jimmy Reed once slept). In the morning, Big George started frying a half pound of bacon. I figure A) the eggs would be next, and B) we would be sharing it. Nope. Once fried, he handed me the entire plate of pig and then went to fixing himself a couple packets of Quaker instant oatmeal. Ha. Well, I ate as much bacon as I could take. He was so sweet.
Big George always loved coming back home to Mississippi, though — especially Clarksdale. He was always ringing me up with thoughts and schemes to get him back to the Delta. He loved the music fans here as much as he loved the heat and humidity.
And dang, he was good.
I was just telling some friends this morning after I heard the sad news of his passing. Whenever Big George played on the same stage as some "more famous names," one of my favorite things to do was get out into the crowd and watch their faces as this "unknown to them" bluesman hit the stage. First, the band would start playing. Smiles. Then, Big George would hit the harmonica. Hoops and hollers. Then, he'd sing. And minds were blown. I know this because I was once one of those minds.
Lord, I will truly miss that man — both the bluesman and my friend.
Thanks for sharing your life with us, Big George. RIP. Hope to see you again, Roger
PS - Witness the power of the big man:
COGNAC, FRANCE - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ajyimVrpJw
"HARD TIMES" INTRO - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uPkQZ7Coug
"HARD TIMES" ENDING - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxSP6ROoILM
|BIG GEORGE BROCK — A LIFE IN PICTURES...|