On Thursday at 4pm a marker will be unveiled at the Queen of Hearts club in Jackson, which is located at at 2243 Martin Luther King Jr. — best way to get there is to go west on Woodrow Wilson and go a couple blocks past Medgar Evers/49 and then take a left on MLK.
The Queen of Hearts has been hosting live blues every weekend since the early ’70s, when owner Chellie B. Lewis opened the club with Big Bad Smitty leading the house band. Later featured artists at the club included King Edward (Antoine), a native of the Lafayette, LA area who arrived in Jackson in the mid-’70s together with vocalist McKinley Mitchell. I was just at the club a couple weeks ago and it was packed, with great music being played by a band led by vocalist/bassist Roosevelt Robinson, Jr., and featuring Memphis native Charlie Jenkins on the drums — Charlie was performing regularly in Memphis during the Stax era, and appeared on recordings by artists including a young Denise LaSalle.
Also on Friday, a marker will be dedicated at 4pm in Inverness, the hometown of Little Milton Campbell. He was born there in 1933 but soon moved with his mother to a home near Leland that she would occasionally convert into a juke joint. He first began playing professionally under the wing of local bluesman Eddie Cusic, who will be appearing in Clarksdale at the Juke Joint Festival this weekend.
By the early ’50s Milton was playing regularly in Greenville with artists including Sonny Boy Williamson II, guitarist Joe Willie Wilkins, and pianist Willie Love, with whom Milton recorded for the Trumpet label in 1951. In 1953 Ike Turner landed Little Milton a contract with Sun Records, and in the mid-’50s he moved up to East St. Louis, and began recording for the local Bobbin label. He found fame in the mid-’60s on Checker, made some fabulous records for Stax in the early ’70s, and in 1984 landed at Jackson’s Malaco, for whom he recorded 14 albums and cut modern day blues standards including The Blues is Alright and Annie Mae’s Cafe. It was a real shock when Little Milton died in 2006 shortly after suffering a stroke — he was still in great form as a vocalist and guitarist, and was a real gentlemen. I felt privileged that I got to know him.
The festivities surrounding Saturday’s Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale begin there already on Friday, when the Delta Blues Museum hosts a conversation with Honeyboy Edwards at 3pm. And there’s plenty of good music on Friday including Louis “Gearfshifter” Youngblood @ My Brother’s Sports Bar, Big Jack Johnson @ Red’s, Robert “Bilbo” Walker @ Sarah’s Kitchen, and Super Chikan @ Ground Zero. The main events of the Juke Joint Festival are at night, when a $10 wristband gives you entry into 14 separate venues, but the music’s free on eight stages around town during the day. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Arkansas’ CeDell Davis, who has recorded for Fat Possum, as he hasn’t appeared live for several years to my knowledge. Other performers during the day include Honeyboy Edwards and Eddie Cusic.
The evening acts play at venues ranging from the converted gin at Hopson Plantation to Messenger’s pool hall, which was around back under the same name back when Alan Lomax was in Clarksdale back in the early ’40s. It’s a nice lineup as usual, with Big Jack Johnson, T-Model Ford, LC Ulmer, Homemade Jamz, Big George Brock, Robert Bilbo Walker, John Horton & Mississippi Slim, RL Boyce, Stan Street, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Josh “Razorblade” Stewart, Big T and the Family Band, Guitar Mikey and the Real Thing, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm, Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson Blues Revue, and Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band.
On Tuesday yet another Blues Trail marker will be erected at 10am in Scott. This one acknowledges both the blues legacy of the Great Flood of 1927, as the levee broke near Scott at Mound Landing, and blues great Big Bill Broonzy, who claimed to have been born in Scott.
The 1927 flood was very likely the greatest natural disaster in American history, and its significance for the blues was largely expressed through song. In the wake of the flood many songs were composed by artists who experienced it directly, notably Charley Patton, who wrote the powerful two-part “High Water Everywhere” and the husband/wife team of Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, who performed McCoy’s “When the Levee Breaks,” later covered by Led Zeppelin.Many other artists who likely only heard about it in the news also recorded flood songs, such as Atlanta’s Barbecue Bob, who wrote “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,” of which Doc Watson does a nice version.
Yet another marker will be unveiled on Friday April 24th in Kosciusko in honor of native Charlie Musselwhite, one of the leading harmonica players in the blues and one of the nicest guys you could meet. Charlie will be in Mississippi next week, and in addition to appearing at the marker unveiling he’ll be at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale on Tuesday April 21, when they have an official opening reception for a temporary exhibit on memorabilia about Charlie called “Son Of Mississippi, Citizen of the World.” He truly is international in the sense that he both regularly performs around the world, and explores many regional traditions. Back in the late ’90s I had the fortune of seeing him in Sweden performing together with the wonderful Cuban group Cuarteto Patria. Charlie will also be performing at Rooster’s Blues House in Oxford on Wednesday night, and at B.B. King’s in Memphis on Thursday night.