Deep South Tour



From Memphis it was time for us to get really serious and head 38 miles south to the mecca of blues. We weren't driving this far across four states without going where it all started for me. When Cream hammered out the riff that Eric Clapton devised for Robert Johnson's immortal blues standard my world turned upside down in the late 1969. I abandoned The Beatles song sheets and turned to blues boogie guitar.

Clarksdale lays claim to being the town where the legendary 'crossroads' are found - the intersection of Highway 61 and Highway 49 - where Robert Johnson allegedly did a deal with the devil himself. The truth is it is all a bit mythical. There are plenty of 'crossroads' to stand at. Robert Johnson was probably singing about standing at a 'crossroads' in life rather than a specific intersection where he sold his soul to Satan. Add to the fact that Eric Clapton augmented the Johnson song with a line referring to 'Going down to Rosedale...' and we have another 'crossroads' where Highway 8 meets Highway 1 – according to Son House who knew Robert Johnson well. The point is there probably isn't an actual 'crossroads'. But the legends roll on - it matters not. In Clarksdale is the real stuff.

Movie star Morgan Freeman owns the 'Ground Zero Blues Club' in downtown Clarksdale and we had come to visit. It's a fairly scary part of town, but the welcome after you brave entering the ramshackle of a building is second to none. Josh 'Razorblade' Stewart took to the stage with a fresh-faced looking blues trio – again I was in heaven. When 'Razorblade' asked if there were any musicians in the audience my hand shot to the ceiling. Within 45 minutes the young guitarist handed me his Fender and walked off leaving me with a bass man and drummer I'd never met before.

I launched them into 'Tore Down' and I was off into another dream world. After 'Tore Down' and rapturous applause I couldn't help myself. I thanked them for allowing me the privilege of just being in the club let alone on the stage and started grinding out the famous 'Claptonesque' riff to 'Crossroads'. The band immediately latched on…bliss. A slow blues in G major and Josh 'Razorblade' himself climbed up onto the stage claiming he liked me so much he was going to sing a song with me! It truly was a defining moment for me. More applause and before I could take my seat, they were calling for more. Another 12-bar boogie and I won't bore you anymore. Sufficient to say a life in music for me felt complete. Next day when visiting the blues museum next door the Ground Zero folk recognised me as 'the guy who played guitar in the club'.

It truly doesn't get any better. Does it?

We could not leave the deep south without 'going down to Rosedale' – so head further south we did. I found the obligatory spot where Highway 8 meets Highway 1, where Sun House said the real crossroads was, took the necessary iPhone shot and there we have it.

We then decided to head back to Clarksdale and visit 'Red's Bar' a truly earthy 'juke joint' that hasn't changed for decades. The beer comes out of a chest cooler of an old kitchen unit and the artist – in this case – Terry 'Harmonica' Bean – sits on chair in the centre of the room (that's all it is – a room) and entertains with only a guitar and blues harp. The crowd sitting all around. Truly remarkable and unforgettable stuff.


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