Have You Heard of Clarksdale, Mississippi? Part 2: The Musicians We Met There
Clarksdale: The Musicians We Met
In my last post I talked a little about the history of Clarksdale, Mississippi and it’s unique venues. So perhaps you know that Muddy Waters lived there, Robert Johnson had his famous crossroads moment with the Devil there, and that Bessie Smith died there after a car crash; I’m just naming a few of the well known blues greats that have spent time there. Historical markers about blues history are everywhere in Clarksdale. You know that the music venues are exploding with creativity and are amazing to visit.
One of the really neat things about our visit to Clarksdale is that because the place is so small, we got to meet the musicians we heard in many different settings. On our first night we heard Lucious Spiller (here’s his Facebook Page) at Red’s and we were blown away (I can’t show you because no video cameras are allowed in Red’s), and then the next morning when we were listening to LaLa Craig at breakfast, she told us that Lucious would be part of her back-up band at Ground Zero that night, so we saw Lucious again there. Then, the next morning, Lucious was playing a breakfast set at the Bluesberry Cafe, where we’d met LaLa. And these are extraordinary musicians. As good as it gets. Virtuosic, and full of heart.
Here’s Lucious playing for us while we were eating breakfast (not the best video quality, but worth a listen anyway):
The setting of Clarksdale feels extra intimate partly because you meet the musicians in all these different ways, but also because the relationship is symbiotic. People were friendly and curious about us but also, these guys are working for tips and sales of their CDs, and in this setting you really feel that.
If we enjoy their playing and then go buy their music from CD Baby or Amazon, they hardly make any money. If they want to keep making music for us, we need to pay them for what they do, and for that to happen they need to engage us. My eyes are open. I know they they’re not as in love with me as I am with them.
But after the set, when they sit down at our table to talk with us, ask us where we’re from and how we’re enjoying their town, they also tell us about themselves. They fill in a bit of the backstory about where they live, the gigs they’ve played in the past, they other kinds of jobs they do, their family and their adventures; and usually we buy their CD.
And I’m so glad I did! They’ve made great listening and have kept the visit alive.
So please meet a few of my new friends…
My videos are just short snippets and the quality is a little rough, but they’ll give you a taste of who these people are and what they do. If you like them you can find them on Facebook or YouTube and “Like” or buy their music.
LaLa Craig with Lucious Spiller playing backup on his red guitar (left):
Bill Abel at The Schack Up Inn (He’s also a visual artist.)
The Dirty Rain Revelers (the people we met in Amarillo who said, “You’ve got to check out Clarksdale.”)
Dean Harp and his band at Ground Zero…
So, I’d like to go back someday. Maybe soon. I think we need to help keep Clarksdale going — it’s a kind of fragile situation I think. We need Clarksdale, and Clarksdale needs us.
So, I’ve loved sharing about my experience there. I hope you comment below and let me know what you think, or if you have any questions!
Nancy Salwen is a singing teacher and the founder of The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program, and the author of the book by the same name. She teaches singing to "non-singers," beginning singers, and anyone who wants to be more confident and expressive with their voice. She leads workshops in New England, New York City and California and teaches private lessons over Skype.
In addition she is a Music for People certified workshop leader and leads music-based team building workshops for businesses and organizations, and an early childhood music educator and Music Together teacher and center director.