The ghosts of blues masters seem to haunt the small, dusty downtown of Clarksdale, Miss., but the music still pours forth.
An hour and a half south of Memphis -- past cotton fields and sleepy small towns -- Clarksdale lies on the famous "crossroads," where Hwys. 61 and 49 intersect and, according to legend, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for some musical mastery. The Delta region surrounding it is considered the birthplace of the blues.
The night I was there, I happened upon one of its many music festivals, which drew crowds to the grounds behind the Delta Blues Museum. At the nearby infamous Ground Zero Blues Club, I swayed to local Stan Street and the Hambone Blues Band.
Then I drove a few miles outside of town to the place I'd booked for the night, the Shack Up Inn -- promoted as Mississippi's Oldest B&B (Bed and Beer). Complete with kitchenettes (mine even had two bottles of cold beer inside), the lodgings include a half-dozen authentic sharecropper shacks for rent, each with its own character, located on the old Hopson Plantation. My cabin happened to be the Pine Top Perkins cabin and included a painted mural of Pinetop at the piano as well as a real piano. The legendary bluesman Pinetop died this past March at age 97, but he once drove a tractor at the plantation -- and he was still "radiatin' the 88's" when he passed.
He had planned to return (and perform) as he always did in October for the annual Pinetop Perkins' Homecoming. But the show -- and the celebration -- will go on. It is scheduled this year for Oct. 9, from 2 to 7 p.m. For more information on the event, go to www.pinetopperkins.com.
DONNA TABBERT LONG