CAT HEAD UPDATE NEWSLETTER
"All the blues that's fit to print."
|No... No, really. It IS a new year, y'all...|
|Hopefully-happy New Year! I hope this monthly CAT HEAD UPDATE from the world's blues capitol — Clarksdale, Mississippi — finds you well. I know. It's all pretty relative at the moment.|
As Cat Head begins its 19th year at the Crossroads of American music, I want to say THANK YOU for all of the support — especially during the past 9 months. Cat Head is still here, and we're still working with our town's amazing team of musicians, venues, tourism partners and blues fans to do all that we can now... while planning for a bright future.
Whether you're ready to road-trip now or want to plan for a visit later in the year, here's where to go for info: CONCERT CALENDAR (including festivals) at cathead.biz/music-calendar, STREAMING CALENDAR at livefromclarksdale.org, and VISIT CLARKSDALE info at visitclarksdale.com. Get a trip preview at https://youtu.be/I50ZeRBLS7U, and then please #VisitMSResponsibly.
More on festivals like this month's pandemic-ly modified Clarksdale Film & Music Festival and April's Juke Joint Festival, below.
Have you seen our Cat Head WEB STORE lately?
Our vastly expanded online webstore now features some 400 Mississippi, blues music, Clarksdale and Cat Head logo'd items! Shop www.cathead.biz today for T-shirts, hoodies, hats, vinyl LPs, CDs, DVDs, books, artwork, glasses, mugs and much more. Also, shop us in-person Mon-Fri 11am-4pm; Sat till 5pm. Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mask up, get your shot when you can, and come see us for some blues, y'all!
Thanks and best,
Roger Stolle (and blues pug, Ayler).
PS - Thanks for the snow pic with my pug, by Colleen Buyers.
|SNOW? SNOW! Clarksdale, Mississippi's winter wonderland last week. Too late for "bah humbug"?|
|11th annual CLARKSDALE FILM & MUSIC FESTIVAL puts safety first... later this month.|
|Lights, camera... masks... action! Clarksdale, Mississippi, readies its first-ever "pandemic edition" of the annual Clarksdale Film & Music Festival — January 29-31, 2021.|
CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI — Since the pandemic shutdowns began last March, festivals around the world have either cancelled or gotten creative in order to keep attendees safe. This month's Clarksdale Film & Music Festival in historic Clarksdale, Mississippi, has paid attention and incorporated health and safety measures into its planning every step of the way.
The festival is scheduled for Friday-Sunday, January 29-31 — indoors, outdoors and online.
"We've been working for months planning our most thoughtful film festival ever," explained co-organizer Nan Hughes. "With the help of our friends and fans, our aim is to make this year's nonprofit event both fun and safe."
INDOOR VENUE, OUTDOOR DRIVE-IN
This year's indoor venue, The Bank event space at E 2nd & Yazoo Ave., will feature everything from temperature checks and hand sanitizing at the door to properly-worn face masks and less than 25% seating capacity inside. All health and safety protocols are posted at clarksdalefilmfestival.com.
For nighttime, health and safety conversations led to an exciting new festival addition: A "pop-up" drive-in theater at 3rd & Issaquena Ave., downtown.
"We're only putting on our festival if we can make it as safe as possible, so a nighttime drive-in seemed like the perfect solution," said Roger Stolle, co-founder of the event. "Like with our indoor venue, we've hired professionals to stage the outdoor screen and projection. The drive-in audio will be broadcast through viewers' car radios. Pretty cool."
AN ENTIRE WEEKEND OF EVENTS
The Bank indoor venue runs Saturday, January 30, from 11am-6pm with doors opening at 10:30am. The outdoor drive-in theater runs Friday and Saturday with parking starting at 5pm and the films at 6pm. Pre-sale tickets and details are at clarksdalefilmfestival.com.
"For obvious reasons, we need to limit ticket availability this year, so we strongly recommend that attendees buy pre-sale tickets online now," said Hughes. "Pre-sale ticket buyers will save money and know that they can get in for our full roster of films. For fans who can't attend, we also have a donation button online."
Daytime documentaries feature blues, jazz, vinyl records and more as subject matter. The Nighttime drive-in films are Finding Nemo (which has Clarksdale connections) for Family Night and Blues Trail Revisited I&II (partly filmed in Clarksdale) for Blues Night.
MOVIES, MUSIC AND MORE
In addition to celluloid favorites, the weekend includes History Walking Tours with Robert Birdsong, Virtual Panel Discussions moderated by Clay Motley and plenty of live blues music.
"Well, it is a film and music festival," said Stolle, emphasizing "music". "Folks can go to clarksdalefilmfestival.com for a full schedule of music performances, movie schedules, walking tours and panel discussion info."
Music performers include Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Sean "Bad" Apple, Anthony "Big A" Sherrod, Watermelon Slim and more at venues like Bluesberry Cafe, Bad Apple Blues Club and Hambone Gallery.
As with the film screenings, festival organizers ask attendees to come prepared with face masks, etc. Each music venue will have a small cover charge at its door and be limiting attendance for social-distancing purposes.
Festival organizers wish to thank the filmmakers, musicians and volunteers as well as event supporters including Visit Clarksdale Tourism, The Walton Family Foundation and others.
|Sounds Around Town & LiveFromClarksdale.org keep "live" blues music jammin' in Clarksdale.|
|Winter birthdays? Anniversaries? Time to treat yourself? Shop Cat Head's expanded WEB STORE.|
|Sure, feel free to visit in-person Mon-Fri 11am-4pm plus Sat till 5pm if you can. If not, then please check out our pandemic-expanded WEB STORE at www.cathead.biz. Shop now for Mississippi, blues, Clarksdale and Cat Head coolness — including books, vinyl, CDs, hoodies, tees, hats, artwork and so much more. We're here to serve you — shipping daily. Thanks, y'all!|
|So, what's up, Clarksdale? Downtown revitalization, live blues, fans moving here, more investment...|
|For the past two decades, Clarksdale, Mississippi, has been leveraging blues music and history as the first "puzzle piece" on what was once a pretty empty looking table to bring tourism to the forefront, business back to downtown and more people to the Delta. In particular, a concentration on live blues music and festival events has given musicians and venue owners a new lease on life — even bringing new players and proprietors into the picture. (Pre-Covid, Clarksdale had worked its way up to live blues 365-nights-a-year plus around 15 annual festivals.) This forward momentum has largely sustained us — and even spurred new growth and investment — during the past 9 months of global pandemic. (Keep in mind, by the way, that international tourism has been a third of our business in recent years.) That doesn't mean we haven't suffered personal and business losses, of course. We have, like everywhere. But it does mean that we are still working to make living and visiting the proverbial Crossroads good now and even better in the future. Below are a few random updates. Come see us when you can. - Roger at Cat Head.|
VISIT CLARKSDALE TOURISM
- Visit Clarksdale's Covid-era "Ready to Road-trip?" marketing campaign (e.g. print ads, social media, web marketing, outdoor billboards, custom videos, etc.) asks potential regional travelers if they're ready to visit Clarksdale and showcases local highlights as well as our health & safety best practices. Watch the original launch video at https://youtu.be/I50ZeRBLS7U. And watch the latest (censored!) 2021 video at https://www.facebook.com/VisitClarksdale/videos/156905735866488.
- Visit Clarksdale's executive director Bubba O'Keefe secured a large C.A.R.E.S. Act pandemic tourism grant last fall, which has helped to fund the campaign above as well as some new marketing materials that are coming soon — including an African American History map, eight new local history markers, a set of touchscreen kiosks (that allow visitors to chart their own itineraries), promotional table tents (for hotels/restaurants) and more.
- More website updates are coming, but check out the new PLAN YOUR VISIT app link on Tourism's homepage at VisitClarksdale.com.
- Additionally, Visit Clarksdale just printed a new, updated foldout Tourism Map. And fabulous Audio Walking Tour app continues to be totally free of charge.
CROSSROADS ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP
- Executive director Jon Levingston announced the new partnership last month. Levingston has been instrumental in attracting new businesses such as PeopleShores to Clarksdale in recent years as the Chamber head.
- From the Press Register last month: "The Clarksdale Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Foundation and the Economic Development Authority of Coahoma County now have a new name and a new marketing direction. The newly-branded Crossroads Economic Partnership recently launched its website, www.crossroadseconomicpartnership.com to promote economic development and chamber membership in Clarksdale and Coahoma County."
- Exciting stuff, y'all. Watch the CEP launch video, "New Day," at https://youtu.be/sW0DDpFmfxM.
NEW PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS
- In perhaps mid-summer, Marisol Doyle and Kate Gluckman moved to Clarksdale to make hand-crafted bagels (what I'm told they believe is the new biscuit)! Y'all can pick up their tasty Big River Bagels (and sandwiches) at the already fabulous Meraki Roasters, downtown.
- New Orleans' blues musician Randy "19th Street" Cohen (https://19thstreetred.com) moved to Clarksdale in early December, where he'll play music and run his new Red Top Recording (studio and vintage amp repair) at 22 Delta Ave.
- Blue Cotton Bake Shop — "an artisanal bakery, art and music gallery" — opened at 301 Issaquena Avenue in late summer. Delicious cakes, cupcakes, sandwiches and more. See instagram.com/bluecottonbakeshop.
- Rapper and Clarksdale native Rick Ross opened a Wingstop restaurant at 300 Issaquena back in July. It is run by Ross' sister and added as many as 20 new jobs.
- In early summer, blues musician Sean "Bad" Apple opened his super-cool Bad Apple Blues Club (in the old Club 2000 juke joint) beside the world-famous New Roxy on Issaquena. He did a LiveFromClarksdale.org stream from his club recently but is otherwise only open by appointment at the moment. More at https://www.facebook.com/seanbadapple.
- Artist (and former Oxbow restaurateur) Hayden Hall, along with his wife Erica, opened Hayden G. Hall Gallery just before the holidays at 247 Delta. Check out his amazing work at haydenghall.com.
- Aussie Johnny Cass (of Hooker Grocer + Eatery fame) recently "opened" his new Houndog Mule's Street Diner — a mobile food trailer based in Clarksdale. His specialty? Incredible Australian meat pies! Yum.
- PLUS... We've also had some other folks move or buy property (both commercial and residential) here during the pandemic. Still more are talking about doing things here. And some other downtown renovations and such are currently underway. Stay tuned.
- Founder Colleen Buyers (also of Shared Experiences USA) and her team have done an incredible job working with local musicians and venues (with the ongoing support of Visit Clarksdale Tourism) to keep blues music streaming every day from Clarksdale, Mississippi — for 9 months now! Check out LiveFromClarksdale.org and SharedExperiencesUSA.com.
|Clarksdale, Mississippi, blues featured on NPR's Marketplace, recently (including Cat Head)...|
Last week, NPR's Marketplace highlighted the pandemic disaster of music venue closures and struggling musicians. The story started in the Mississippi Delta....... in Clarksdale. Thanks to Erika and Kai for remembering the crossroads!
Note: The 365 live-streamed blues that's referenced is via LiveFromClarksdale.org with continual support of Visit Clarksdale Tourism. Thanks to Colleen Buyers, Bubba O'Keefe, the musicians and venues who have kept the blues alive in the land where it was born.
|What's up? New blues, jazz, Mississippi and other relevant info from the worldwide web...|
XRDS.fm BLUES/ROOTS RADIO - Listen to Clarksdale's online radio stream while you read storeis below! Just go to https://www.xrds.fm/.
BLUE WHALES & THE BLUES? - Check out the "sound/genre" comparison in the 4th paragraph of NY Times article at https://nyti.ms/2WG1gvZ.
ALSO FROM BLUES MUSIC MAG - Recently, Jack Sullivan posted on FB: "Celebrating our Seventh Year Anniversary in Print and Digital Editions. Coming Jan. 2021 the Winter Edition of Blues Music Magazine featuring Marquise Knox, John Nemeth, Nora Jean Wallace, Kirk Fletcher, Ruf Records Blues Caravan with Jeremiah Johnson, Whitney Shay, and Ryan Perry. Columns by Art Tipaldi, Bob Margolin, Bill Dahl, and Roger Stolle. Cover Photography by Jim Hartzell."
DELTA DOWNLOADS - blog and interviews from Denise Leisz.
CENTRAL MS BLUES SOCIETY NEWS - On Fri, Jan 29th, the Bolden Moore Library will have a special virtual program dedicated to the book "Frankie Finds the Blues" by Joel Harper. This is a program produced in support from the Central Mississippi Blues Society. In the video, blues artist Abdul Rasheed reads the book as illustrations from the pages, created by Gary Kelley, are shown. Info at 601-922-6076.
63RD GRAMMY AWARDS AIR DATE - Rescheduled to be broadcast Sunday, March 14, 2021.
|CAT HEAD and LiveFromClarksdale.org rang in Clarksdale's New Year's early for our friends in Italy!|
|Thanks to Davide Grandi, Colleen Buyers, Lucious Spiller, our blues friends in Italy and Clarksdale fans all over Europe... Lucious put on a sweet 3pm Clarksdale/10pm Europe performance from the CAT HEAD stage on New Year's Eve. Good times, y'all! https://www.facebook.com/events/399104668075582/.|
|Multi-billion SAVE OUR STAGES ACT on the way to assist struggling music venues, etc.|
|NEW Juke Joint Festival and Clarksdale Film & Music Festival WEB STORE IS NOW OPEN!|
|The nonprofit organization that puts on two of your favorite Clarksdale, Mississippi, festivals has had a tough year (just like all of us!). Treat yourself to some awesome official festival gear, and support both festivals. Plenty of classic stuff in-store plus brand-new Clarksdale Film & Music Festival long-sleeve tees, locally-made Juke Joint Festival quilts and more! Shop now at www.jukejointfestival.store. (Or you can simply make a festival donation.) Thanks, y'all.|
|Speaking of JUKE JOINT FESTIVAL in Clarksdale... It is "on" for now, but expect mask requirements, social distancing, smaller/modified events, etc.|
|That's about all that can be said at this point. There is "a" Juke Joint Festival being planned for April 17th weekend in Clarksdale, Mississippi — but only for friends and fans who are willing to help out by masking, social distancing, etc. Events, venues and entertainment will be pandemic-ly modified or dropped as necessary — and health & safety will be of the utmost importance. Don't know yet if JJF will follow Plan A, B or C. Just please know that the entire JJF team is working on it. Watch jukejointfestival.com for official updates starting on March 1st. Thanks, y'all.|
|Thanks to Blues In Britain Magazine writer Steve Morphew for sending us this blues article. Visit the mag's website at bluesinbritain.org.|
|Live From Clarksdale's Colleen Buyers says goodbye to bluesman Ben Payton... for all of us...|
Yesterday Ben Wiley Payton was late for our gig. Ben isn't usually late. So many bluesmen are. So much so, that this wasn't the first time I sped away from the venue 30mins before showtime to play Find the Missing Bluesman.
Ben's place doesn't have good cell reception. Like so many in the Delta. So the obvious Delta solution is you go find their house. Even if you don't know where it is.
Which means calling a friend who directs you "down 49, past Hopson, past a sign, then look for the white building set back from the road. You can't miss it." #thatssodelta amiright? Might as well have directed me to "the place between the cotton fields."
15mins and 1 U-turn later and I'm there.
His car is in front, and after I ring and knock and shout to him, it turns out his neighbor is in back. (With a pistol.)
I tell him Ben's missing a gig, so I'm coming to see if he forgot and still wants to play, and to check on him. (I've learned in Mississippi that's what we do: we check on each other.) His neighbor says Ben doesn't miss a gig. And lets him know when he's going out of town.
I explain it's just a small gig in town, not worth mentioning and maybe even easy to forget. He explains Ben got a little woozy a couple weeks ago climbing a tree to hang a bird feeder. So I don't turn around and go home -- we both go back to ring the doorbell again and knock a little louder.
Ben rents from a musician friend who's also remote and not yet picking up his phone. I call the musician's friend, a nearby venue owner; he has a key. (We're all extended blues-family and neighbors here.) There's some back and forth on whether to call the sheriff for a wellness check.
There's a dynamic here of me as the white Yankee virtual venue owner, feeling more than a little bit foolish, not wanting to seem overdramatic just cuz a bluesman's running late, not wanting to intrude, not wanting to cause this scene that is in all likelihood more than a little bit overblown.
Yet there's this neighbor who says they say hi across the fence every morning, and he didn't see Ben today.
There's talk of Covid hitting quickly and reminders that with strokes or falls, time matters.
So we call the sheriff and the friend with a key. In this small town where we don't like to make scenes, my mask hides my blushing at the anticipated embarrassment of discovering I dunno, Ben went for a walk. There is indeed a scene of vehicles pulling up outside, as we struggle to get past locked doors inside.
In this case, time didn't really matter; he was gone.
Still, time mattered: Ben lived alone, and had I not come knocking, had we neighbors not talked or friends not taken each other's calls... I might've turned around and gone home figuring another bluesman just flaked.
All this to say: check on your neighbors.
Say good morning over a fence. Look for small signs your loved ones are okay. Call for help.
There's so much to say about Ben; Scott and Bill and so many friends and family and blues-family are finding the right words. I don't know what they are...
I'll say this: Ben's set list is still sitting atop his desk, with his guitar beside the door, ready to go.
Bonesman may have said it best: "If anybody gets to go to heaven, Ben does."
Now we know where Ben's gone.
Photo: Ben's last gig live from Clarksdale, for the Kennedy Center with Scott Baretta. Credit: Roger Stolle.