CAT HEAD UPDATE NEWSLETTER
"All the blues that's fit to print."
|Welcome to another Update. Lots to report to y'all from the blues capitol of the world — Clarksdale, Mississippi!|
|20 years in, Clarksdale's CAT HEAD is still rockin' along. It's been a slow winter for everyone, but we're planning for a big spring (and rest of the year) festival season. We had one fest at the end of January, and we're heavy into planning for this April's Juke Joint Festival. More on that below.|
Clarksdale and the blues have had a few unfortunate passings since my last newsletter, so those tributes and such are below as well. And there's new news from The Blues Foundation and others as usual.
CAT HEAD store is open 7 days a week at 11am, and you can shop our WEB STORE right now at www.cathead.biz. We've got plenty of awesome blues shirts, logo hats, Mississippi books, new vinyl records, classic CDs, local artwork and more.
Stay safe and warm, and come see us when you can.
THANKS AND BEST,
PICS: Yours truly acting silly with Santa Pug for Christmas... and a sampling of our recent winter weather!
|Clarksdale brings a Motley Mississippi blues crew to Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL...|
|THANKS to Clay Motley, FGCU and all of their sponsors and partners (plus all of the musicians and Visit Clarksdale Tourism's Bubba O'Keefe) for an amazing week of educational activities and concert performances in Fort Myers, Florida! We made lots of fantastic connections and new blues (and Clarksdale) fans. Floridians (plus plenty of students and "Snowbirds" alike) enjoyed the blues of Sean "Bad" Apple (who was also instrumental in organizing the road-trip), RL Boyce, Peggy "Lady Trucker" Hemphill, Tim Scruggs and Little Willie Farmer. Truly, the talks and performances were all excellent, and the weather was, too. Those who follow Cat Head and Clarksdale blues happenings may recall that I've accompanied other blues folks (including Bilbo Walker, Anthony "Big A" Sherrod, Stan Street and Lucious Spiller) on journeys to FGCU in the past. We took a little time off, uh... to have a pandemic. Anyway, great trip. Thanks to all y'all.|
|CLARKSDALE Film & Music Festival turns into a fun all-music event for 2022 (films return next year)...|
|Yeah, we were bummed not to have our friend and featured director Bob Mugge join us this year to present his re-release of DEEP BLUES at our film and music fest. But the pandemic caused us to err on the side of caution (instead of bringing in out-of-town directors and packing folks in a dark indoor space for six hours). So, we went with the venues and musicians who have been open and playing lately, anyway, and who wanted to participate. The end result was a blues packed 3 days of short sets spread around town (in addition to Clarksdale's normal stuff). Lots of music, lots of fun. Plan now for next year's festival at clarksdalefilmfestival.com.|
|Buy PRE-SALE Wristbands now for Clarksdale, Mississippi's epic JUKE JOINT FEST (4/23, 2022)!|
|This year's Clarksdale, Mississippi, JUKE JOINT FESTIVAL & Related Events are 'on' for Thurs-Sun, April 21-24, y'all — including our world-famous juke joint crawl on that Saturday night, April 23rd. The festival nonprofit has already sold PRE-SALE Wristbands to fans from at least 45 U.S. states (plus D.C.) and 10 countries! So, don't wait.|
As you may remember, we SOLD OUT of Sat-night JJF Wristbands last year, so why risk a repeat? Save a few bucks, and guarantee a bracelet for your bluesy wrist. You'll rock out to the blues at 20-some venues, starting as early as 6pm that Saturday and running as late as 1am. BUY NOW at www.jukejointfestival.com. Limited quantities. Price increases in April. Details on website.
Of course, don't forget to get to town early and stay late that week for all of the amazing, official FREE music events that Thurs-Sun — including over a dozen FREE daytime music stages on that Saturday between 10am and 5 or 6pm. Lineup coming soon to website.
BOOK YOUR ROOMS ASAP! It's pretty late to be booking rooms for JJF, but there are still some around. Find excellent LODGING LIST at www.visitclarksdale.com, and start calling (not relying on 'online calendars') to find a room (or at least get on waiting lists). If you don't mind a short drive, then the Isle of Capri casino hotel in nearby Lula, MS, definitely has rooms at https://www.isleofcaprilula.com/. Also, check out these JJF camping options as well, https://jukejointfestival.com/rv_form.php. And maybe search AirBnB and VRBO.
|Shop now for new and classic tees, hoodies, hats, books and more in our CAT HEAD WEB STORE...|
|We've broken through some supply chain challenges to bring in some cool new stuff as well as restock some favorites. Shop our expanded CAT HEAD WEB STORE today at www.cathead.biz, and come see us in-person when you can. You've kept us going for two decades now, and we truly appreciate it. Here's to 20 more years of music and mayhem! Thanks, y'all.|
|Clarksdale, Mississippi, says goodbye to late friend, fan and property owner MARK BENSON...|
|Clarksdale blues fan and downtown supporter Mark Benson passed away last week. Mark and his wife Sarah own the Nellie May's building next to my Cat Head store as well as the two-story building at the corner of Delta Avenue and E 2nd Street that houses the amazing Delta Diggs, Squeeze Box and Hooker Hotel overnight apartments (along with two other businesses). Mark was a supporter of several festivals and events here and sponsored an ad banner for his lodgings on my Cat Head website. Through the years, he was a regular visitor to Clarksdale before the pandemic. I was out of town last week so appreciated John Magnusson letting me know about Mark's untimely passing. More from John below. My sympathies go out to Sarah and the rest of their family. Thanks for your contributions to Clarksdale, Mark.|
A tribute from Mark's friend and fellow Clarksdale business owner, John Magnusson:
This past fall Clarksdale lost one of the original pioneers of it's downtown resurgence in Bill Luckett. Bill was one of only a handful of local, hometown folks who have a passion in seeing Clarksdale come back to life. Part of this resurgence has also been fueled by people who are not from here.
This month Clarksdale has lost one of the original “covered wagon” pioneers-from-elsewhere who has helped in the rebuilding of downtown. Mark Benson passed away this month. Some of you folks knew Mark well. He and his wife Sarah, as well as his sons Marshal and James, were frequent visitors here over the last 20 years. They love Clarksdale and are proud to be a part of it. Taking inspiration from The Shack Up Inn and The Lofts at The Five and Dime, Mark Benson transformed the half block between Delta and Yazoo into an iconic image in Clarksdale that I have seen in documentaries, TV commercials, and numerous media around the world. Let's all raise a glass to the people who help the world be able to come to Clarksdale and hear the blues: The musicians, obviously; but also the restaurant owners and staff, music venue owners, store owners, hoteliers, and all the other entrepreneurs who believe in our little slice of the Delta! Long live Clarksdale!
A tribute by friend Willis Frazer at start of this month's Visit Clarksdale Tourism Commission board meeting:
Motion made by Willis Frazer, seconded by Bill Gresham and approved unanimously by the Board that, “Today’s Coahoma County Tourism Commission Board meeting be dedicated in memory of Clarksdale’s wonderful friend, Mark Benson, who passed away from this life on February 1, 2022. Mark was from Franklin, TN and was an incredible asset to Clarksdale and Coahoma County. He was a property owner who did much to improve the downtown area for the benefit of tourists as well as the local community. He also loved Clarksdale and its citizens dearly and was vital to our economy as well as the town in encouraging tourists to enjoy Clarksdale and all of its resources. Mark along with his wonderful wife, Sarah, certainly lived life to the fullest. Mark will be missed by this tourism board and all of his friends and citizens of Clarksdale. We extend our deepest love and condolences to his wife, Sarah, and their family and express our thanks for all that Mark did for Clarksdale to make it a better place in which to live and visit."
Photos below: Mark (closest to Red Paden) at Red's birthday bash a few years back, courtesy of DeltaBohemian.com. Second photo is of Mark's downtown lodging, via a Four Square posting.
|CUTRER MANSION presents Black History Month event on February 24th (FREE)...|
|Clarksdale, Mississippi's historic Cutrer Mansion aka Coahoma County Higher Education Center (CCHEC) presents:|
"In honor of Black History Month Please join us for a Community Conversation at the Cutrer Thursday, February 24 -- 5:30 pm to 7 pm. Witnessing the Struggle for Civil Rights With photographs by the late Bob Adelman (1930 - 2016) And a conversation about MLK's visits to Clarksdale. Free and Open to the Public. Info: https://mailchi.mp/8450009fb6b3/cchec-weekly-newsletter-15251785?e=e1088cf7ba."
|BLUES MUSIC AWARD nominees announced, including Clarksdale and Mississippi favorites...|
|Congrats to this year's Blues Music Award (BMA) nominees... including Mississippi friends like Kingfish, Super Chikan, RL Boyce, Johnny Rawls, Cedric Burnside, Mr. Sipp! Blues Foundation members can vote now. Plus, plan to attend the awards ceremony in Memphis this May. |
GO HERE for full list of nominees: https://mailchi.mp/145cfe0b3dbc/2022-bma-nominees-3479204?e=c136b88de7.
INFO ON BMAs: blues.org.
|LATEST BLUES, MISSISSIPPI, CLARKSDALE, JAZZ AND RELATED NEWS. Check out the links below...|
|- Happy 76th birthday (Feb 13th) to Mr. Teddy Johnson of Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary, Louisiana!! The nicest guy you'll ever meet in music. Runs an amaaazzzing place. Add it to your bucket list. https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=5243201739042050&set=a.177117322317209.|
- Speaking of juke joints... Mr. Red Paden of Clarksdale has been running live blues every week from Wednesday through Sunday nights, lately. Come see him soon, y'all. "The game's for life!"
- And in more juke joint news... I just had a customer in store at Cat Head who was at Wild Bill's in Memphis last night and confirmed that it is still the real-deal. So add that one to your bucket list, too. Hmm. And while you're at it, be sure to add The Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, Mississippi.
- The Blues Foundation announces rescheduled International Blues Challenge (IBC), https://mailchi.mp/c2cc48d5bbde/ibc-2022-new-dates?e=c136b88de7.
- The latest Blues Festival Guide newsletters at https://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1415674678 and https://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1415664966.
- Wanderlust Magazine canoes the mighty Mississippi with Clarksdale's Quapaw at https://issuu.com/wanderlust/docs/219_digital_edition/124.
- Latest newsletter from John "Riverman" Ruskey at Clarksdale's Quapaw Canoe Company, https://quapaw.substack.com/p/the-river-remembers?r=rrr1z&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email. (Y'all really should take one of Quapaw's awesome canoe excursions on the mighty miss!)
- New music travel piece (including Clarksdale, of course!), https://leisuregrouptravel.com/discover-the-birthplace-of-the-blues-and-more-in-mississippis-delta-region/.
- Clarksdale Press Register covers Visit Clarksdale's January board meeting, https://www.pressregister.com/communities-entertainment-crime-local-content-top-stories-schools-sports-politics-lifestyles-state#sthash.oedIeCIp.dpbs.
- This week's special BLUES edition of Oxford, MS' Thacker Mountain Radio show (online)... https://thackermountain.com/upcoming-shows/tribute-to-rev-john-wilkins-b-b-king-and-living-blues-magazine/.
- "Driving the Mississippi Delta" YouTube channel (nice folks who were just in my Cat Head store this weekend) at https://www.youtube.com/user/bstein69.
- BB King Museum in Indianola, MS, hosts online events in Feb... https://bbkingmuseum.org/maleleaders/.
- Noted by Delta Bohemian Tour's Billy Howell... Amazon's new Jack Reacher streaming series kicks off with the blues, https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=310341044465335&set=a.100817152084393.
- Update re: The Riverside Hotel GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/f/cmmhd-save-black-familyowned-historic-blues-hotel.
- Update re: T-Model Ford's grandson Stud's GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/f/stud-ford-injury-recovery-fund.
- The Blues Foundation's January newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/571491905b3d/january-2022-newsletter?e=c136b88de7.
- Memphis Magazine article, "Beautiful Agitators: Bringing civil rights heritage to life in the Mississippi Delta" (featuring DSU Delta Center & MS Delta National Heritage Area), https://memphismagazine.com/travel/beautiful-agitators/.
- Latest update from the Memphis Flyer (incl. music), https://mailchi.mp/memphisflyer/we-recommend-wr02zlp755?e=1d913d04a7.
- Recent updates from Clarksdale's Coahoma Higher Ed Center at the historic Cutrer... https://mailchi.mp/a46990b8eefc/cchec-weekly-newsletter-15179924?e=e1088cf7ba.
- Delta Roots Music Fest coming to nearby Helena, AR... https://mailchi.mp/kingbiscuitfestival/deltarootsmusicfest2022-8976776?e=a46d3166c0.
- Oxford American mag remembers The Stones and Muddy Waters at https://oxfordamerican.org/magazine/issue-115-winter-2021/the-dollar-done-fell-at-the-checkerboard-lounge.
- Updates from Clarksdale's Higher Purpose Co nonprofit, https://mailchi.mp/higherpurpose/higher-purpose-co-interviewed-by-desoto-times-tribune-ceo-featured-on-podcast-hpc-business-membership-application-opening-soon-and-hpc-is-hiring?e=cf3d5fa498.
- An interesting photo link via our blues buddy (and Clarksdale neighbor) Charlie Musselwhite... https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/mississippi/ms-farms-from-the-past/.
- And an article on vinyl records resurgence (and supply chain issues) via Charlie as well... https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-01-05/adele-taylor-swift-vinyl-lp-shortage.
- Updates from our buddy Adam Lore at 50 Miles of Elbow Room (cool blues/jazz stuff), https://mailchi.mp/470e4bd8dca3/gide98v782-5691821?e=83bfd9d7b4.
- Grammy Awards rescheduled for April... https://mailchi.mp/grammy/64th-annual-grammy-awards-rescheduled-to-sun-april-3.
- New Orleans music updates from Off Beat magazine at https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=fc9ccc4eed&view=lg&permmsgid=msg-f%3A1724386940779725134&ser=1.
- New Orleans' Jazz Fest announces lineup, https://www.nojazzfest.com/.
- Jazz Times critics poll at https://jazztimes.com/features/lists/2021-jazztimes-expanded-critics-poll-results/... including my favorite jazz festival, VISION FESTIVAL, in Brooklyn (beating out some biggies!!).
- Amazing avant-jazz trumpeter (a personal favorite!!) Jaimie Branch coming to Memphis' Crosstown Arts in March; pic below, and tix and info at https://crosstownarts.org/calendar/jaimie-branch-fly-or-die/.
|Clarksdale, Mississippi, music fan and promoter RICHARD BOLEN passed away last month at 74...|
|Clarksdale's Richard Bolen passed away on January 10th at 74. He is perhaps best known to blues fans for the Arts & Culture tribute signs he was instrumental in creating during his time working for the City. Read about the signs at https://mississippitoday.org/2017/09/11/signs-point-way-to-bringing-clarksdale-together/ (and see photo examples below).|
The following obituary excerpt is courtesy of Meredith Nowell Funeral Home: "...Richard was a passionate fan of music. He coproduced the 1978 film, Rockers, a drama featuring Jamaican Reggae music. The film featured many Reggae musicians and helped popularize the music genre throughout the world. He was the producer and promotor of a variety of concerts, including a performance by world renowned guitarist, Buddy Guy, in Clarksdale in 1996. ... Richard had a lifelong interest in human rights. He was an active and passionate advocate of the American Civil Rights movement. This interest was expressed over many decades everywhere he lived, including in Clarksdale, where he conceived and had fabricated a large metal silhouette in honor and remembrance of Aaron Henry, erected on the site of Dr. Henry’s 4th Street pharmacy. ... In one of his most successful local endeavors, he conceived of an idea to honor Clarksdale’s many musicians, as well as civic and civil rights leaders. After culling recommendations from all sectors of the community, he created and had fabricated the images of the selected individuals and they were permanently attached to light poles throughout the historic downtown area. In his final years, he returned to music production. Along with his brother Gary, a celebrated songwriter and musician, he developed a concept for a musical production. He became the manager and coproducer of the Royal Brothers Memphis Project, which including many luminaries of the Memphis music scene..." RIP.
Pic of Richard Bolen (R), Dick Waterman (middle) and yours truly after film festival a few years back. Second pic of A&C signage near Cat Head.
|Other recent Mississippi-connected passings include Millage Gilbert, Guitar Charlie, Syl & Jimmy Johnson...|
|- Mississippi-born bluesman Millage Gilbert dies in Kansas City at 83, https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article257809258.html.|
- Blues brothers, Mississippi-born Syl and Jimmy Johnson both pass away within a week of each other... RIP. Chicago Reader remembers at https://chicagoreader.com/music/a-tribute-to-syl-and-jimmy-johnson/;.
- Greenville, Mississippi's Guitar Charlie (seen with Booba Barnes in Deep Blues) passed away in late January. According to friend Linda T.: "He went to Methodist Church Leland on Sunday and was happy and feeling fine. Bug exterminator found him Tuesday. It looked like he sat of edge of his bed and fell over either Monday or Tuesday. Rob Mortimer in Leland to handle things." Super nice guy. Condolences to his friends and family. RIP.
Pic of brothers Syl and Jimmy Johnson via Chicago Reader.
|SOUNDS AROUND TOWN... in-person blues music in Clarksdale, Mississippi... 365 days a year!|
|Spread the word, y'all... Clarksdale really does have at least one 'live' blues show every single day (even holidays) — and usually more than one. Here's this past week, below, but you can see "this week" and beyond (including our 2022 festivals) on my CAT HEAD MUSIC CALENDAR at https://www.cathead.biz/music-calendar.|
PLUS, check out LiveFromClarksdale.org for Clarksdale's WEEKLY LIVE-STREAMS, supported by Visit Clarksdale Tourism, VisitClarksdale.com.
|Listen to author interview on blues radio for the excellent tour guidebook, CHASING THE BLUES...|
|Listen to latest BLUES TRAIL REVISITED podcast w/Duck Holmes! Supported by Visit Clarksdale.|
|Jackson, Mississippi, WYAB radio show features Clarksdale harmonica man, DEAK HARP...|
Check out Clarksdale's own Deak Harp — blues musician and store owner, harmonica builder — on Jackson, Mississippi's WYAB's Blues & Arts Hour with Jim Thorn this morning. Then, come visit Deak and the rest of us at The Crossroads! Listen at: http://wyab.com/twh/DeakHarp012122wyab.mp3.
|Volunteers at April's Juke Joint Festival receive a tee with this fab STAN STREET artwork on the back.|
|As usual, Stan Street—the ower of Hambone Gallery in Clarksdale—did a fabulous job on the artwork for the back of this year's Juke Joint Festival VOLUNTEER T-shirt. Interested in possibly becoming a JJF volunteer? Email via this link to find out more... https://jukejointfestival.com/contact.php.|
|Miss some past issues of the monthly CAT HEAD UPDATE e-newsletter? Read 'em online now...|
|After a few years off due to the rise of "social media" options, I resurrected my (perhaps) infamous CAT HEAD UPDATE monthly e-newsletter at the start of the pandemic shutdowns to help keep our fans and friends around the world up to date with Clarksdale and blues happenings (and hopefully sell a few tees, books and records in the process). I appreciate comments, support and occasional contributions to the Update. If you've missed some in the past, I have all of the 'new' ones since the start of the pandemic linked at https://www.cathead.biz/links. Thanks, y'all.|
|That's all for this month! Please stay well, check us out online, and visit CAT HEAD when you can.|
|Our physical CAT HEAD DELTA BLUES & FOLK ART store is located at 252 Delta Avenue in historic downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi. We're open 7 DAYS A WEEK — Mon-Fri 11am-4pm, Sat till 5pm, Sun till 3pm.|
CAT HEAD is celebrating 20 years this year, and we thank y'all for that! Can't get here for a visit yet? Then, please check out our WEB STORE at www.cathead.biz. We ship every business day (both domestically and internationally).