BIG RIVER

in this chapter, James and Bruce head into the Mississippi Delta in search of some of the roots of the music of Johnny Cash. The country elements come later, but here it's all about the blues, the bedrock of the music that spread throughout white America from Memphis in the fifties, and then the rest of the world.

For me, it's a simple journey back in time, generation by generation.

Start with the generation of musicians before Johnny Cash, like Ike Turner, in Clarksdale, the last stopping place out of the Delta before the journey north and into Memphis, and the location for the infamous crossroads, where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for guitar skills. Keep travelling south to Ruleville, to Greasy Street, which bounced with the blues in the forties, and across to Indianola, where BB King would busk on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Church Street.

Head to Moorhead, and to where the Southern crosses the Dog, the two rail lines that were the inspiration for the song that was sung on a small railway station in Tutwiler that led to all that followed, but before you get to Tutwiler, go to Dockery Farms, the plantation where Charley Patton and Son House would sing, the generation before the Clarksdale artists.

Keep going back in time, because Charley Patton and Son House were taught and influenced by Henry Sloan, and perhaps it was indeed Henry Sloan himself singing and making a racket on a guitar late at night on Tutwiler station in the presence of WC Handy, who heard something he'd never heard before. But he liked it. And he took it and spread it, and produced songs like Memphis Blues and began the revolution.

The Crossroads.jpg

The Crossroads in Clarksdale where Robert Johnson sold his soul in exchange for guitar skills (it didn't really happen)

Paramount Theater Clarksdale.jpg

Paramount Theater in Clarksdale

Clarksdale.jpg

Yet another blue-related business in downtown Clarksdale

Blues Alley Clarksdale.jpg

The Blues Alley, Clarksdale, just across the road from the Delta Blues Museum

Ruleville

Ruleville, a blues hotspot in the forties. The gravel track is the site of the Yazoo and Delta Railway, the "Yellow Dog"

Downtown Indianola

Downtown Indianola

The Gin Mill, Indianola - his shirt is over his gun

The Gin Mill, Indianola - the bulge under his shirt on his belt is his pistol

Moorhead Misissippi

Moorhead station, Mississippi, an important stopping point in the story of the blues

Where the Southern crosses the Dog

Where the Southern Railroad crosses the Yazoo and Delta Railr0ad - or, as wailed in Tutwiler, "where the Southern crosses the Dog"

Dockery Farms

Dockery Farms, where blues legends like Charley Patton and Son House played

Dockery Farms

Dockery Farms

Loading bay at Dockery Farms

Loading bay at Dockery Farms

Tutwile station

Tutwiler - Ground Zero for modern western civilisation - where WC Handy first heard someone wailing the Delta Blues

Shack 482

James and Bruce stayed here- Shack 482

Shack Up Inn

Shack-Up Inn

Greyhound Station Clarksdale.jpg

The old Greyhound station in Clarksdale

Downtown Clarksdale.jpg

Downtown Clarksdale

Hambone Clarksdale.jpg

More blues, the mainstay of Clarksdale

Ground Zero Blues Club.jpg

Ground Zero Blues Club, just across the road from the Blues Alley

Greasy Street

"Greasy Street", Ruleville, a blues hotspot in the forties

BB King Corner Indianola

BB King Corner, Indianola

Tamales

Hot Tamales - people eat this, apparently

Moorhead Mississippi

Downtown Moorhead

The old tracks in Moorhead

The Yellow Dog rail tracks in Moorhead

Dockery Farms

Dockery Farms

Dockery Farms

Dockery Farms

Dockery gas station

Gas station at Dockery Farms

Tutwiler tracks

The view WC Handy had as he listened to someone wailing about "where the Southern crosses the Dog"

Shack Up Inn

Shack-Up Inn

Shack Up Inn

Shack-Up Inn