What a beautiful weekend. Hard to believe it’s the end of October. On Saturday, the temp was upper 60s to low 70s. On Sunday, the temp was mid 60s. Both days had plenty of sunshine. I even opened up the windows on Saturday to air out the house.
Saturday morning, I kind of got up on my own. Sascha was waiting, but she was communicating a great need to me at that point. I put her out and made coffee. The house was quiet as I read the paper. The guys stirred a while later. Rick and I made waffles and bacon for lunch. Rich got his own omelet. Then it was off to get haircuts.
Sascha had been digging in the yard and flowerbeds while we were gone on our last trip. It seems like she always digs the most in the fall. Maybe this was a denning effort on her part to prepare for the season. Rich and I had discussed if a doghouse would stop her. Maybe she just needed somewhere of her own to crawl into and hide away. Today, we went shopping for a doghouse. At Petsmart, they had only a couple of styles. Man, they were expensive.
While we were looking, Rich turns around and says he can make a doghouse for Sascha. I thought he was kidding. We decide to wait and see what Blain’s Farm and Fleet has in the way of doghouses. I got online when we returned home. Nope, they have the same thing everyone else has. Rich decided to try and make her one first. Maybe she didn’t even want a doghouse. OK, he’s on.
After getting a plan from the Internet, he sorted through his wood stock and set up the sawhorses. I guess this really is on. After about an hour, there was a base on the driveway. I helped Rich get 2x4s from the attic for the walls. Pretty soon, there was a structure out there without a top.
Rick thought he would be funny and climb into for fit. Sascha just couldn’t handle that. She came running over and up onto the base. There was no way that Rick was laying claim to this. It was definitely her doghouse. I guess she did want a doghouse to hide in.
I set Rick to cooking steaks for dinner. Rich was still working and Rick needs to practice his grilling skills. With the new grill, there was the searing grate that added a new step to grilling. Rich insisted on it. Sascha was hanging out by the grill hoping that something was dropped. These are steaks. Not a one of those guys is going to drop something that important to them. She would just have to wait until dinner was done.
Yeah, after dinner. Rick carved off what was left on his steak and prepared the bits for her. She watched so intently. It’s a good thing she doesn’t have lasers for eyes. It might just feel like that at times. Rick got up to walk to her dish and Sascha started in with the happy dance. She walks on her back feet, jumps around, and twirls a lot during the happy dance. She can barely contain herself. With the release click, she dives into her dish and doesn’t come for air until everything is gone and the dish is licked clean.
Saturday was pretty quiet. We just hung around and watched TV. But Sunday morning, I woke up to the sound of chewing. Sascha was chewing her toenails! As soon as she thought I was even a little bit awake, she jumps up and starts dancing around. Now, you would think this is because she wants out to take care of business. Nope, she just wants to go out and check out the wildlife. I know this from experience. I try to go back to sleep, without any luck.
So I get up and get dressed. Sascha is doing her happy dance in anticipation of getting outside. I put her out and she runs to the deck to see if the woodchuck is out. At least I hope it’s the woodchuck. On Thursday, I put Sascha out at around 6:00 AM, like usual. I didn’t even look out in the yard. She went tearing out of the garage with such a force, I was scared. Then I saw it. There was a skunk in the yard! Oh my god! Luckily, the skunk took off and didn’t spray on his way! I grabbed the dog and hauled her back into the house before anything else happened. After it was daylight, we tried again with more success.
Since it was quieter this morning, I was able to get coffee and start on the Sunday paper. Pretty soon, Rich was up and looking for the comics. Sascha came in from outside and demanded to sit in my lap. Really? Didn’t Aunt Rose tell you that you aren’t a lap dog? There was no denying her this morning. She crawls in my lap and seems so happy.
Luckily, she decides to transfer her love to Rich and goes over to hop up in the big red chair with him. We read for another hour before it’s time to get dressed and go out for some breakfast. We are still deciding where to go as we drive out of the neighborhood. By the time we get to River Road, we decide on Brunch as our destination. It’s early enough. Brunch is a fair sized place, but it gets a lot of traffic. We arrive and find no one standing outside. That’s a good sign. Inside, the wait is about 10 minutes. Pretty soon, we get our table and order. Everything here is fresh and the food is pretty good. It’ll be a good start to our day.
After breakfast, we head home and back to work. Rich gets ready to finish off the doghouse. I go out to work in the yard. I really need to spray for the box elder bugs. They are all over the front of house and coming into the house. That has to stop. No more bugs! Rick hooks up the water hose and I spray down the front of house to kill the bugs and put down a barrier for any others that might come along.
Finally, the roof is ready to install on the doghouse. It really looks good. Rich put an extra support in the center to hold more weight, if needed. It probably will be needed since I can see Sascha jumping up there. I saw pictures of her on top of the doghouse at the rescue back in the day. She could repeat this habit.
I did a walk around the yard to look at what was left of my flowers. The dahlias and the zinnias are still in bloom. They aren’t looking their best, but they are still out there and being very colorful. I expect them to continue until we have a really hard frost. The couple of frosts to this point haven’t been that hard. I was able to get some pictures. The jump ups on the deck still looked good. I even had a bunch that managed to transfer themselves over to an empty spot and come up on their own. I miss the color and beauty as they perish.
For dinner, Rich put on a fest chicken and set the rotisserie on grill to cook it. Fest chicken is Rich’s version of the chicken that he remembers in Germany. It is garlic, butter, and parley stuffed inside a chicken. The seasoned chicken is grilled on a rotisserie. It is wonderful. It is one of Rick’s favorite meals. The weather is perfect for this meal. Sascha loves the smells.
After dinner, we took Sascha for a walk around the neighborhood. It was still nice out and you didn’t really need a coat. Rick even joined us. We got around by the lake and we saw a couple of deer. We thought we could get by them before Sascha noticed. Nope, her ears went up and she was all attention. She barked and they took off into the tall grasses around the lake.
So it was the close of another perfect day and a great weekend. I know winter is coming soon, but we had late summer just one more time.
This morning around 2:00, the telephone rang. There was no message when it went to the answering machine. We were thinking how inconsiderate someone was to call at that hour. I finally got up after hitting the snooze a couple times, which was around 5:00.
I was working at my desk when Rick came wondering out at 7:00. He mentioned something about 4 shots being fired somewhere in the neighborhood and mentioned a street. It wasn’t a street in this neighborhood. I just passed it off and didn’t think anymore about it. Then the phone rang. I checked the number and saw the same one from around 2:00 this morning. What the heck? It was only 7:00. I let it go to the answering machine, but no one left a message. I was pretty sure it was some sort of dialing machine that was off its clock.
Rick and I had breakfast. Then he came back out and said that there was a shooting in Holiday Hills. I was stunned. The neighborhood isn’t that bad, but you never know. I went on the Internet and saw a story about the shooting of two McHenry County sheriff officers in Holiday Hills. WHAT?!?!?!
The story said that they had a phone call asking the sheriff to check on a woman and her daughter at this house. When they arrived, a guy shot at them from the door. Luckily, the officers weren’t fatally shot. Both went to the hospital. However, a standoff started. While it was still dark, the mother and daughter got out of the house. Then they lost track of the guy. Somehow, he got out of the house. The only place open to him was the lake. From there, they locked down around that house, our neighborhood, and the neighborhood on the other side of the lake.
Now to clear up some information. This was not in Holiday Hills proper. There is a small subdivision that is separate from this village called Vaupell. They don’t consider themselves a part of our village and even have a wrought iron fence between the two villages to prove that idea. So actually, the shooting took place in an unincorporated part of McHenry county.
Rick was worried that he couldn’t get out to go to school. He decided to try and see. They let him out and he went to class this morning. Unfortunately, they will let you out, but you can’t come back. So Rick is outside of the neighborhood. He went to lunch and waited to see if things cleared up.
At 1:00, it was still locked down. He decided to go to his friend’s house and see if anyone was home. Luckily, the lady of the house was there and gladly took him in. At 2:00, we talked by phone and agreed that he would stay the night there if things did clear up. A big thanks to the Gregory family. By the way, his friend is away at school in Utah.
Rich is home sick today. Yesterday, he was coming down with a really bad cold or sinus infection. By 3:00, I went by his desk and found him in agony. He just refuses to quit though. I went to a meeting and then tried to drag him home early. He spent most of today in bed. The sleep will help.
We started watching the Internet for news updates. Around 11:00, we got another phone call from the McHenry County Emergency Call line. This is the number that has been calling and not leaving messages. Voice on the answering machine said that the suspect was at large. A search was underway by officers. We were told to stay inside with our doors and windows locked.
A little while after that, I looked out the kitchen windows to see a couple of officers with guns drawn looking around the yard. There was a police dog as well. I waved and walked out to see if they needed in the garage or to look anywhere. I got the keys and they went into the detached garage. He assured me that things were good, but to stay inside. No problem.
About noon, a plane began making a search pattern over the neighborhood. It was soon joined by a helicopter. This continues until well after 3:00. They went back and forth over the entire area and then returned to search it again and again. At times, the helicopter was so low that it rattled the windows.
The neighbor across the street came out to leave. He talked to the group of officers standing in the street at Hickory and Oak outside of our house. They were keeping watch for anyone or anything moving. I could see that they told him to stay home, but he seemed to insist on leaving. The one officer nodded. I assume he left for work. It’ll be seen as to whether he can come back soon.
Sascha has been restricted and she’s not happy about that. I’ve let her out, but then make her return as soon as she is done with the current business at hand (or is that foot since it is an equivalent). She went out after the police officers and their dog had left. She had her hackles up over the scent of the other dog. She continues to sniff the area and try to determine who was here. As I said, she’s not happy with the current situation.
At 3:00, I feed Sascha and she wanted out right away. I was out in the yard waiting for her to complete all necessary tasks. I thought about the fence line and started over that way. Hold on here, I didn’t need to walk over and check this out by myself. About that time, Rich came out on the deck. I had him wait there while I checked. There is a space between what’s left of an old fence on our property and the new fence the neighbors had put up. Luckily, there was no one there.
I should have known something was wrong when I went to get the paper this morning and couldn’t find one on the driveway. I checked a couple of times before Rick gave me the news about the shooting. That would explain no paper. At that point, they were already restricting access to the neighborhood. Rick confirmed that they were not letting the school bus come into the neighborhood. A few kids managed to get to River Road and got on the bus. We received another phone message about 1:30 telling us that children at school needed to be picked up by a parent since no bus service would be running down to the restricted area. Problem is: If you went out after your children, you could not come back. Where would you go?
I fed Sascha and took her out around 3:00. I realized at that time we wouldn’t be having any mail service either. Wow, this was even going to stop the government. One guy with a stupid idea shutting down my entire day!
We had haircut appointments for 4:30 today. I told Rick he could go, but I was calling to cancel Rich and I going out. With Rich feeling bad and the need to stay with Sascha, I didn’t want to risk going out and not getting back in. I called and canceled. I feel a little trapped.
With the planes going overheard, police vehicles circling the neighborhood, and the eerie kind of feel around here, it’s a little unnerving. I’ve been trying to work, but I keep looking out of the windows. The noise of constant air traffic is getting to me. I image this is what it is like on a good day in a war area. I gave up all pretense of trying to work.
However, I could still write. Now it was just going to be this blog and what was going on. I checked the Internet again to see what progress there was and if there an all clear yet. I assume the phone will ring and a message will be dictated into the answering machine when it is clear.
One of the neighbors across the street had just returned. Maybe they were letting people returning from work back into the neighborhood. I texted Rick to let him know and tried to call, but it goes to voicemail. Just one more thing to worry about. I’d rather he were home with me. After December, that will be different.
The helicopter started up again. Earlier, Rick said it was parked in the McDonald’s parking lot when he went by. I bet they took over quite a few places. I watched a video by the sheriff’s department on the situation. There were standing at Sunset Dr. coming into the village. I saw the houses up there as they were searching with the dogs. I noticed in the story with the video that the suspect is a former Green Beret. This just gets better and better.
Now the helicopter is stationary out just north of the house. I wonder what that means. Rich got up because it sounded strange of the thing to be hanging in the air like that. We watch out of the kitchen window and it just continues to hover. It’s too much for my nerves and I return to my computer. I’m trying to call and text Rick to see if he can try and return. It just goes to voicemail and no answer to my texts.
Finally! I realized that the cell tower might have been busy. I was getting a channel assigned to my call. I reach Rick and he is getting ready to drive home and see if he can get in. With a couple of the neighbors returning, there is a good chance he can get in. He had his phone on airplane mode since he was running out of battery.
It is 4:30 and Rick made it home. They checked his ID and then let him in. I’m so glad to have my son back! Well, the helicopters continue, but I’m done. I’ll try to ignore them. Maybe movie night down in the basement and at the bar will help.
The title is taken directly from Red Paden: It is what it is.
I decided to combine the last two days since nothing at all happened on the second day, except the drive through rain to get home.
What time is it? What is all this light? Why am I up so early? Didn’t I just go to bed?
With sad faces and sad hearts, we packed up our stuff and loaded the car. It was time to return to the north. We will miss the south with its hospitality, great music, great people, and warm weather. Only there was a storm coming and we should get out of here.
We stopped for breakfast up in Tunica at the Blue and White Restaurant again. Rich was feeling the need for some good ole southern ham and redeye gravy. Today, it was fairly quiet. Still no donuts available for breakfast. I think they are just taunting us with the idea of homemade donuts. Rich picked up a t-shirt from here. It has a 34 Ford roadster on the back.
Back on the road, we head into Memphis and get on 55 going north. We did pretty well until we got around Cape Girardeau, MO. A sign along the highway was flashing a tornado warning for the area. We changed to the radio and found an AM news station broadcasting storm information. The conditions were right, but no tornado was spotted. We got up around Oak Grove and a rest area. We stopped to wait out the rain, which was coming down and we could hard see. We figured we wait for it to pass us by.
Half an hour later, we were back on the road and watching the storm move off to the northeast away from us. The rest of the drive into St. Louis was uneventful. We made our way into downtown to find the Schafly Taproom for dinner. This area of downtown is seeing a lot of updating and rework. Schafly’s is in the old St. Louis Brewing facility. It was very nice. The food was pretty good and the beers were good. It was a great stop. The only thing was the server didn’t seem like he really wanted to be. He ignored me at the table until Rich returned from his pit stop. Then he just wasn’t that attentive. I guess I should realize I’m in the south anymore.
Rich loves the cask conditioned ales. His first was the Oktoberfest followed by the cask conditioned APA. Both were delicious. Rich got the plate of swine with all of the pork portions that you can image, including deep fried bacon. I went for the simpler schnitzel plate. Just what we were looking for. Great food, great beer, and great atmosphere. Next time, we’ll have to stop for longer to enjoy more.
We finally rolled into our hotel for the night. The poor guy behind the desk had to answer the phone as we came in. As we were waiting, a group of young men were wondering around the place. I assumed they were getting ready for work and waiting for their ride. When Rich was coming back up to the room after returning the luggage cart, he was in the elevator with one of them and he asked about the situation. Yes, they were part of an industrial cleaning crew and were waiting for the van.
Rich relaxed as I wrote out the blog for our day in Clarksdale. It took me a couple of hours to completely post the text and pictures. A lot of work went into that post, but I was happy with it. Believe it or not, it was not everything. I thought of it as the highlight reel.
Today, we made it home without any further incidents to report. It was quiet and leisurely ride. Sascha was overwhelmed to have us back and couldn’t stop following Rich around. Tomorrow, she won’t remember we were gone.
It was wonderful trip with a lot of great experiences. I can’t wait to plan another trip to Clarksdale and spend some time around time.
I’m a day behind, I know. There was just no way I was staying up last to report on the day we had. And what a day it was. That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Now I’m tired.
After three days outside in the weather, I was tired. I was a little slow keeping morning this morning. Yesterday, the weather was gray and cold. What happened to the 85 and sunny? I’d take 85 and cloudy. We managed to dress enough to stay warm with layers. I think I slept all the better that night though.
Time to check out of this hotel and move on to Clarksdale. The plan was to arrive in time for brunch at Ground Zero and see the sights and sounds of the Cat Head mini fest in downtown. Then we would go out to the Hopson Commissary on the old Hopson Plantation for the Pinetop Perkins Foundation event.
We rolled into Clarksdale about 11:00. Things seemed to be a little slow in downtown. I wasn’t sure what streets might be closed, so we parked out at the Delta Blues Museum parking lot. I thought this would make it easier to leave when we headed out to the plantation.
We could hear music playing. I had checked Facebook and saw a post from Roger Stolle that things had gotten underway at 9:00 AM. We went the couple of blocks toward downtown where Cat Head Music is located. We could see the tent set up outside of the store. They were playing right on the steps in front. There were a few people hanging out. Cool. More Delta Blues!
We hung out for a few minutes listening to the band. I didn’t know them or their music. They were good. Still no slackers around the Delta when it came to playing music. We went into the store to look around and hopefully talk to Roger for a minute. I love the folk art that graces the walls and other surfaces around the store. The colors and subjects are all great. One day, it’ll all be in a museum to show this time period and examples of the form. Rich picked out shirt he wanted. I found a small painting of Pinetop Perkins that would be wonderful to have.
I was wondering around and looking when I saw this beautiful cigar box guitar. It was so colorful and I loved the subject on the front. It was highly decorated. Then I noticed the signature was SuperChikan. I’ve always wanted one of his works. They are gorgeous. Rich only shook his head and turned down another aisle. So I’d have to work on then.
Wondering down the back of the store, Roger passed me to into out of the doors back there. I thought maybe I could linger around until he came back. Sure enough, it worked. I stopped him and told him the story of meeting his roommate at the Cincy Blues Fest. Roger laughed and explained the whole thing. Pat wasn’t his roommate, but a friend that he drafted into going around to the juke joints in the Cincy and Kentucky area. Roger didn’t want to go alone, but he had gotten hooked on blues back then and was starting to work on articles for magazines and selling the subject matter to other outlets. Pat would follow him anywhere, much to the chagrin of Pat’s wife.
We talked for a bit more. Roger said Pat came down last year to check out the store and the music in the area. Now he knew what prompted his friend to come down after all these years. Pat could tell his wife that Roger had made something of himself.
We purchased the things that Rich said I could have. One more pitch for the guitar was met with another shake of the head. Darn. I’m not giving up though. We went back outside and took up seats to listen to Leo Bud Welch again. I had talked to him beyond the tent where he was signing CDs. No one was around, so I took the opportunity to tell him how much I enjoyed the show yesterday. He was very nice. We chatted for a few minutes before Rich found me.
As we were waiting for the show, I realized that the drummer setting up her kit was from yesterday. Then it struck me who she was! This was Dixie Street, wife of Stan Street who is a local artist and musician. We had met the last time we were in town. Can I hate her because she is cute? And she can really beat those skins. I heard someone call her the Queen of Beat. Yes, she is.
After listening for a while, hunger got the best of us. We stowed our purchases in the car and headed to Ground Zero for some food. I was hoping there might be breakfast items on the menu. Nope, it was their standard menu. It’s OK food, but nothing I really wanted. We ordered sandwiches to tide us over. It was crazy busy in there.
The band on stage turned out to be from the UK. I don’t remember their exact name, but they were apparently regulars at King Biscuit for the last few years. They also grew up in the time period when The Rolling Stones and The Who wanted to be bluesmen. They didn’t follow their dream into music until after they retired and got together to play blues again. They return every year to play at the festival in Helena. This year, they talked Bill and Morgan into letting them be the band on stage for the brunch at the Cat Head fest. They were pretty good, too. They have UK in their name since one of the members is from Scotland originally.
We finished up and headed out to listen to more music. Good news is that over brunch/lunch, we talked about the guitar I wanted. With promises and sad eyes and more promises, Rich finally agreed that we could go halves and buy it. Yes! It was worth every promise I made. Now can I remember to keep those promises? We went back to the store and got my guitar. I was so happy.
We got our chairs from the car and set up across the street from the tent against the buildings. This was the best place to be. The music bounced off the buildings and amplified. It was great. Big George Brock had been sitting off to the side earlier. He was on stage now. It sounded so much better than on the Front Porch at King Biscuit. It was a good day.
We could watch people mingling around and see the faces of the local musicians. Rich punched me at one point and said, “There’s Watermelon Slim.” Sure enough, it was. He was standing a few feet away from us having a conversation with a lady. Watermelon is one of Rich’s all time favorites. I was trying to get Rich to go over to him. Rich only took his picture from afar. I guess this was going to be up to me to get right there and start the conversation.
Watermelon had moved on to the sidewalk and carrying on conversations with different people. He had this huge bag with him. My first thought was dog treats, but there wasn’t a dog around at that time. I got up and took Rich with me. I wanted to get a picture of Rich with Watermelon. We waited for a chance to introduce ourselves.
Marquis Dixon came over and put his arm around Watermelon. We started hearing about how Marquis is the future of the blues. That is so true. There aren’t many of the younger generation taking up that kind of music. I had heard Marquis play at King Biscuit while walking around. He is a great guitar player. Watermelon was kidding with him and we kind of joined the conversation.
Apparently, this year’s King Biscuit flyer had a picture of Watermelon Slim on it. One of the earlier people to talk to Watermelon brought it back to him. Watermelon was on a roll after that. Apparently, the Blues Society people didn’t agree with ownership over a song. They were blackballing him from getting jobs. That’s not right, the music belongs to the people who wrote it. I think Watermelon is a little more vocal than the society likes on some issues and they want him to be quieter about those issues. Let me tell you, he is definitely vocal!
I took a picture of Watermelon with Marquis. Then I got a picture of Watermelon with Rich. It was a great photo. We mentioned that we couldn’t get Watermelon’s latest CD because it was sold out in the Cat Head store. He mentioned that we could get a copy around the corner. Great, we would check that out.
We were sitting in our chairs listening to music when I noticed that Robert “Bilbo” Walker was standing by a table next to Red’s BBQ smoker pit. I decided to go talk to him and see if he had CDs. This guy is a real character. He wears this incredible wig and it’s become his trademark. It’s really hard to tell how old he is, but I see on Wikipedia that he is 77. It says he’s also a late bloomer to publishing his music. No time like the present. Said hello and picked out a CD from the table. He laughs and shakes his head. “You know, this one here is a much better set of music than that CD. You should buy this one, but don’t let me tell you which one to buy.” OK, I take his advise and buy that one. I ask him to sign it to Rich. The CD artwork is printed on a computer and the CD is handwritten. Too cool. You won’t find this anywhere else.
We listened to some more music. Then it was 2:30. We needed to get out to the Hopson Plantation for the Pinetop Perkins Foundation. The flyers said it would start at 3:00. We packed up our chairs and headed toward the car. Rich stopped me at Red’s BBQ wagon first. Red Padon is the owner of Red’s Lounge in town. This is a real juke joint set up down the street from Ground Zero. We were planning to go over tonight to see what it was like. I was excited and scared. I didn’t know what happened in a juke joint.
Rich wanted to try the ribs that Red was preparing on the smoker. Since Rich makes the world’s best ribs, he always has to try someone else’s just to be sure. Red poked around in the pan for what he considered to be some choice ribs. As we were paying for the ribs, Red invited us over to his place tonight. We assured him that we planned to be there. I think Red might have made a threat to come and find us if we didn’t. Now I was scared.
We were standing on the corner with our chairs and ribs. Now I wonder where Watermelon meant had CDs? We saw the Blues Emporium and started down that way. Watermelon came running up and asked if we still wanted that CD. Of course we did! Turns out, he had them in the trunk of his car! We stood at his car talking for a bit. He gave Rich the CD and they discussed the title track, Bull Goose Rooster.
The rooster on the front cover is the rooster from the song. While in Key West, Watermelon was in the post office parking lot where this particular rooster was the bull goose guy of the hens in that area. In case you didn’t know, chickens are wild down there. This rooster came over and checked Watermelon out. I guess he decided that Watermelon was OK because he ran off to chase away his competition. That’s lucky. A rooster who decides you are a danger can be a bad thing. Watermelon wrote a song about the encounter and that point in his life. It’s a great song.
Rich explained that he heard the song on Bluesville XM station. Watermelon was glad to hear that Bluesville was still playing his music. Rich is also. We got Watermelon to sign the CD, which also made very happy. What a great day for Rich! Watermelon mentioned that he might stop by Red’s tonight for the jam. We shook his hand and assured him we would be there and looking for him. We left Watermelon in the hands of another fan who was waiting for us to finish so he could shake hands and buy a CD.
We packed up our stuff and headed out toward Hopson’s. Now Hopson Plantation is what remains of a cotton plantation in the area. Someone purchased the property and it now houses the Shack Up Inn. They collect sharecropper shacks and put them on the property as hotel rooms. They are really cool. We stayed out there the first time we came to Clarksdale.
When we rolled up, there were cars everywhere. I pulled through the driveway and we happened to find an empty spot close to the path to the commissary. We could hear blues from every direction as we got out. Following the path to the main building, we walked by Terry “Harmonica” Bean playing for a an audience. Cool!
At the Commissary building, we walked up to the porch and found out that the Foundation show was more than a dedication. There were shows all day long. That means we had missed a few! When I saw that Superchikan was on the bill for 5:30, I dished over the money to get in.
Superchikan is one of those artist that Rich loves to listen to. He is the nephew of Big Jack Jackson, one of the all time big names in blues. Superchikan is the guy who made the guitar I just talked Rich into buying. His band is all female and called the Fighting Cocks. Lala plays the synthesizer like you never seen and do it so well.
We wandered around inside the commissary and listened to the band on stage. Inside was packed pretty well. There was nowhere to sit. The signs started just inside the door to let you know that Laguanitas was helping to sponsor the event and you could get one of their four beers for $2.00. What a deal. Rich got a Little Something Something. After a bit, we went back outside and followed the signs to another stage in the garden behind the commissary.
We found the Key West garden back there. Guitar Mac was on stage. The wide yard area was surrounded by these little front porch structures with tables and chairs. This was too cool. We found a table on one of the porches and settled in to listen. The weather was about 78 and cloudy. It was a great day. A waitress came by to take orders. Even better, there was service out here.
We listened to music and talked. An older gentleman came out and sat down at the other table on our porch. Another gentleman joined him pretty quickly. I heard them talking before the waitress came by and they ordered. They had definite accents. We moved around our table to leave a couple of chairs open. This worked well as other guys came and joined the other table. They needed the chairs. I asked where they were from. The answer was The Netherlands. So yet another group from that area. We talked about the King Biscuit Festival. The original guy at the table had been coming for the last 14 years. However, he was getting discouraged with the commercial acts and less of the real blues. We agreed. There needed to be more real blues.
One of the Dutch guys wanted to just plain chips to go with his beer. Unfortunately, the waitress couldn’t find any. He had to settle for Cajun chips. A round of beers and a Sprite came out with the chips. Before the guy could get his chips, the guy to his left grabbed the bag and slammed it to the table. Now they were all broken! He still ate them.
The music continued and the beers kept coming. Our waitress would bring whatever we wanted. Life was good in the Key West Garden. At 5:30, we moved back inside to get ready for Superchikan. I stopped off at the bathroom and came out to find Rich talking to strange woman. Turns out, she was from Grand Rapids, MI. She worked as a representative to a company that handled sirens in a large geographical area. And she worked with Motorola system, including their own internal radio system. Cool.
Superchikan hit the stage. The music was great. Rich walked around and got some pictures, including one of Lala for me. We listened until the end of the set at 6:30. Then we had to get over to the hotel and check in before going to Red’s. We had been so busy that we hadn’t gone over yet. I still needed to change clothes so I had something warmer on.
The Hampton is one of the newer hotels in the area. That’s probably why I could get a room there. It was only 10 minutes from Hopson’s. We pulled in and got registered. Then we had to unpack the car again. We were getting pretty good at knowing how to get luggage onto the car and into the room. The cardkey was a wave in front of the doorknob. Technology is wonderful.
The room was the most beautiful place I had seen. The bathroom had a wonderful walk-in shower. Problem is: I just needed a place to sleep! I wouldn’t see much of this luxury. For now, I changed clothes and we left to head out to Red’s.
I was starving and we had spent most of our money. Our plan had been to get tamales from Hick’s. Unfortunately, they were closed on Sundays! No tamales. So Mickey D’s would do in a pinch. We went by a bank close to the hotel and found it I could get money out of the ATM! We went downtown to look for a credit union that was listed for that location. No good though. We found another branch of the bank that denied me and Rich tried. Success! We were in busy again. Red would be happy.
Red’s Lounge had been right on the corner of Sunflower and Delta. We got there and found out that it had moved just down the block. You could tell because the door was open, music was pouring out, and the smoker was smoking. We paid the man at the door and took up seats right in front of the stage with our backs to the bar. The seats were going fast.
The band was just sitting in the area of a large rug that was probably defined as the stage. There were lights all over the place in different colors. It was definitely an eclectic arrangement of décor. Music was blasting out of the speakers. I was trying to figure out why everyone was just sitting around listening. The drummer made an announcement stating that we were listening to Big Jack Johnson. That explained a lot. I knew Red is a huge Jack Johnson fan. Turns out, they were best friends, probably as close as brothers. I think he does this because he missed his friend.
After considerable thought and seeing Red’s t-shirts all over town, I think Red Paden is a philosopher. He has a very straightforward outlook on life and living. I don’t think he pulls any punches. I looked Red up on the Internet and found out he went to college with Walter Payton and they played football together. That might explain a lot. So cool.
After the CD completed, the band took the stage. This is Anthony “Big A” Sherrod and his band. From the first moment that Big A touched the guitar, I was impressed. This guy has a lot of talent and is very charismatic. Big A played several songs and the crowd was really getting into the music. It was easy though. At the end of his set, Big A explained the rules of the jam and the atmosphere of a juke joint. Pretty much everything went, except for videotaping. They announced that anyone caught would pay a $1,000 fine. $500 would go to the band and $500 to Red.
Tonight is about jam. Anyone who wanted to get on stage would sign up with Big A to join the jam. As Big A called the name, the person would come on stage and play three songs with the band. The first guy was from Frances and had his own guitar. He was so excited to get on stage. He was really good. You could tell that he had practiced up for this. After the third song, he got his stuff and went back to his seat. We congratulated him as he left the stage. Amazing.
The next guy, Jed, came up to the stage. He apparently was a musician who played with a band, but his dream was to play on stage at Red’s. His set was really professional. We saw a guy from Pennsylvania, who was not a professional, but he did a great job. The next set was a group of professional musicians in town. The harmonica player was a local guy using the name Johnny B. He brought a guy from Lichtenstein who had a blues band back there. Dixie Street took over the drum kit. They played their three tunes and Big A asked Dixie to stay on.
Next on stage was Lorenzo from Italy. I was not aware of a blues scene in Italy and I can see why. Lorenzo could definitely guitar, but he couldn’t sing. He mostly screamed. We couldn’t wait for him to get off stage.
The jam turned to the local musicians, such Terry “Harmonica” Been, Dixie, Iceman, and a guy on guitar named Tony. I couldn’t get his name. Finally, Watermelon Slim took the stage and did his three songs. He is an amazing showman. It was so cool to have the opportunity to see. I loved the song, “Call the Boss.” The song was about calling in sick after being out all night partying. Like that’s never happened.
Throughout the night, we saw all kinds of people. Just about anyone who was musician in Clarksdale came through. Sugar from the Big City Rhythm and Blues magazine sat next to Rich. Earnest “Guitar” Roy came in and was trying to get a beer from the bar. He talked to Rich while he was waiting. We just saw this guy at King Biscuit! Even the Dutch guys came and got lost in the back. I never saw them again. Lala came in and talked to Sugar for a while. I just couldn’t get up the courage to talk to her.
Around midnight, the place was clearing out, but the music was still rolling. However, the drunks were getting dangerous. I was getting a lot of beer spilled on me and almost getting elbowed. We called it quits. It didn’t appear that it was stopping soon. It was raining outside, but only lightly. We headed back to the hotel. We got in and realized neither of us had grabbed a cardkey to get back into our room. The guy at the desk took pity on his and gave us another card.
Once inside, we talked and talked. After winding down, Rich went to bed while I made notes to write this entry up tonight for you. After that, I went to bed and slept really, really well.
Oh yeah, I got t-shirts from Red’s Lounge and I’ll be wearing mine proudly.
P.S. I posted this and then realized how long the info was and the ridiculous number of photos. We were on the go from 11:00 when arrived in Clarksdale until midnight. This is all we have to show for it. And a couple of t-shirts.
Last day of the King Biscuit Blues Festival. Hard to believe that we’ve spent almost 3 full days listening to blues music. It’s been great, but very tiring. Then we still have a day in Clarksdale on Sunday.
I slept in even later this morning. I woke up hearing Rich talking on the phone. Turns out that Rick called me at 9:00 this morning to vent about my dog. Rich got the phone and got to hear the details of how Sascha pissed him off. I guess she moved the hose roller away from the deck, moved the chicken wire out of the way so she could crawl under the deck. The denning instinct is really strong in the fall.
Rick couldn’t get her to come out from under the deck. He finally got some cheese to entice her out. It worked, but then he didn’t get her the cheese. As Rick put it, “She didn’t behave so I couldn’t get the reward!” Right. I guess I need to resolve the denning issue with somewhere for her to go and hide out. Time for a new doghouse? Probably.
After checking and double checking the weather, we attempted to dress for the worse and got on the road. First stop was for breakfast at the Blue and White Restaurant. This place is ranked Number 1 in TripAdvisor. Our course, there are only a handful of restaurants in Tunica. It was packed and from the talk, it was all tourists. I got hotcakes (pancakes for the Northerners) and Rich got ham and eggs with redeye gravy. The food was okay. Poor Cindy was struggling to keep up with all the people coming and going. Coffee was good.
On to Helena now. We got into town and went looking for the school. Turns out, it was a high school. Today, the Athletic Department was handling parking for their fundraiser. Rich pointed out that there was probably plenty of free parking. I felt good about helping the local fundraiser though. The car was within walking distance also. Two for one with this deal.
We got our chairs and headed down to the Lockwood Stage to hear Leo “Bud” Welch from Clarksdale. I read about him in Roger Stolle’s posts. He sounded like the old style Delta blues, which is what I like the best. As we walked about one of the vendors, he was in his tent playing a cigar box guitar. The sound was great and very different. I wanted one for Rick, but not at $250!
We got caught by the next tent where they were selling King Biscuit shirts and sweatshirts. These were really cool designs. We walked down to their trailer to see what else they had. Where were these designs yesterday when I was looking? Oh yeah, I just didn’t walk down there when I original saw the trailer. But I had now. We decided to come back to pick out things.
Next stop, and no further stops, would be the Lockwood Stage. We got there to find out that the entire area in front of the stage was underwater. No problem though, everyone was setting up their chairs on the sidewalk. While we were waiting for the show to start, I stepped away to talk to Rick. I confirmed that the situation was in hand at home, but he was still really pissed at her. I hope she survives until we get back. Good news was Rick had an awesome night of bowling on Friday.
I had walked down the block to avoid bothering anyone with my conversation. So I crossed the street to walk back to the stage and saw this stark white obelisk in one section of the park. I went over to find out what it commemorated. Turns out, this is the site of the first Christian service and cross erected for a service in this part of the world. It was part of DeSoto’s exploration of the Mississippi River back in 1541. Interesting that it didn’t state Catholic service.
I got back to my chair and talked to Rich for a few minutes. Some people had left so we moved our chairs in closer. Rich was looking back over his shoulder a lot. I finally had to ask why. On a park bench behind us, Rich thought the guy looked like Bruce Iglauer, president and founder of Alligator Records. I wouldn’t know personally, but it could. I urged Rich to go and talk to him. Finally, he got up and walked back there. They were talking for a bit, so I went over and took a picture of Rich and Bruce together. Alligator Records is how Rich got deeper in the blues. This was his outlet for finding more music. Bruce is a hero because he bought up the Chess Records masters and kept them from being destroyed.
Leo Welch finally took the stage. This 81 year old looked frail as he come on stage and made his way to a chair. The drummer was a cute girl who was behind the drum kit. Leo started playing and it was magic. It was deep Delta blues. He was energetic and warm. At one point, Leo got up and danced around the stage. He was really putting on a show. Leo was telling his age though when he forgot the words to a song and just kept playing. He was looking to the drummer to help him end it. She was pretty good at directing him with the beat. He would follow along. They made quite a team up. I thoroughly enjoyed the show.
After the show, Rich got his Sharpie and got in line to purchase a CD and have it signed. Rich again made a friend as he was talking to a photographer wearing a Blues Blast jacket as they waited in line. The photographer was actually from The Netherlands and was sent there to shoot pictures for the magazine.
While Leo was playing, a young lady waded through the water and was dancing around in front of the stage. She was pretty good, too. I happened to waiting near the line and heard the young lady talking to someone. She was also from The Netherlands. Then I overhear a conversation of three guys near me. They were also from The Netherlands and were talking about attending Glastonbury in England. All the old 60s bands attend this one in honor of the blues that started them all. How cool is that!
We went back to the trailer to pick out shirts and other odds and ends. The people working the desk were great. We were talking about the events and shows. They were having a great time. They helped us pick out shirts and get what we wanted. Thanks to the King Biscuit Foundation for their great volunteers.
This meant a trip back to the car to drop off our goodies. We made some wardrobe changes since the weather was getting a little cooler. More layers were going to help. What a different between today and yesterday. It was 85 and sunny with a good wind. We both got sun burnt. Today, it was 68 and dropping. It was 62 at around 2:00. The clouds were coming in heavier also. I was pretty sure we were looking at a good rain.
Back on track, we walked down the strip to the Front Porch stage to catch Big George Brock. The seating was packed and they were standing out on the sidewalk. Fine, we already knew it was probably better out on the street anyway. We set up our chairs just out from the sidewalk. We could hear perfectly well out here and we could breathe. A lady came out to sell CDs. We bought one. I loved her dress of electric blue and we had a short conversation about it. It was gorgeous.
She moved on and I opened the CD to prepare for a signing. I noticed she was in some of the pictures. I grabbed the Sharpie and walked over to get her to sign. This would be an extra. She agreed to sign it without saying too much. She was also a leftie and we laughed about our shared trait. Her name was Miss Clarine.
After the show, Rich sent me in to get Big George’s signature. I got in line with three other guys. People were swirling around us and it was getting hard to tell who was in line. I kept up with the guy who had been in front me. I knew he was in line. We finally started moving forward. It was finally my turn. Miss Clarine was taking the CD and getting it ready for Big George. Turns out that George is blind and Miss Clarine makes it possible for the fans to get what they want. I was able to shake Big George’s hand as well. He was the nicest man. It was an honor to talk to him.
Now it was lunchtime. Rich had one of the BBQ places picked out. This was a Hip Hop and Blues club on the strip that had a smoker running right outside of their club. He originally was planning to get rib tips from another location, but their smoker had been soaked in the rain the night before. This meant they were still getting good coals going for their cooking. It was going to be a wait.
The ladies at the desk took our order. I got the pulled pork sandwich and Rich got the rib tip plate. For some reason, the one lady tried to confirm that he wanted the beans and slaw with that. Of course, Rich tells her. He needs the balanced meal. It was pretty good for sitting on the street. It would fill us for now.
Time to head to the Main Stage and hang out for the rest of the day. We decided to sit on the upper part of the terrace on the old railway tracks up there. It would make a good platform and hopefully a good viewing spot. We sat down in a clearing and arranged ourselves to see the stage. Matt Schofield Trio was on stage. They were more electric blues, but they were pretty good. We arrived while they were playing. When Matt introduced the group, we found out they were British! The entire world had come to Helena, AR!
We decided to walk around a bit. It was another day of sitting around and listening to music. We walked out of the Main Stage area on the levee walk. This took up to the River Front Park where people had tents and campers set up. This is where the free camping was! We decided to walk back to town and look at the Civil War plaques in the park. After reading all three volumes of Shelby Foote’s Civil War, we look for battle and fort locations. The plaques here were celebrating the Battle of Helena, which took place on the last day of Gettysburg and gets very little attention. This was also a location that Grant had to take out of Confederate hands to take Vicksburg.
We wandered down the strip and decided to get dessert before heading back to our chairs. Rich got an elephant ear and expected to share. However, I wanted the red velvet funnel cake. We got both. The red velvet was so good. We went back and feasted well. Of course, we didn’t make it through all of it, but we did our best.
Unfortunately, we had a couple of people sit down next to us and smoke away. We decided to move. We moved a row back and over. It was a great view of the stage. After a time, I felt something on my ankle that burned. It might have been an ant. Then I felt another one. Yep, the dreaded fire ants that we had heard about. This was a nest. We had to move again. This time we moved over since some other people had left. It was more comfortable and the viewing was getting better.
The next band was called Andy T. and Nick Nixon Band. I had never heard of them. Apparently, I should have. Andy T. was actually the sustaining sponsor for the event with his wife, Kathy Balmer. The band was playing some pretty good blues. It was fun. Over the course of the set, we discovered that Nick Nixon is actually an original member of The Imperials. He was best friends with Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox of Band of Gypsies (Hendrix’s band). There was a lot of history on that stage.
As Andy T. and Nick were winding down, a lady behind us finally had enough to drink and started trying to have conversations in a really, really loud voice. She was definitely getting obnoxious. Rich looked at me and said, “Move.” We moved over and down on the next set of tracks. We were able to put our feet up on the tracks and kick back. Not bad for a move.
Last show for us was going to be James Cotton. Here is another one of those blues legends that is getting up and not going to be with us all that much longer. He was on my list of people I wanted to see. Now I can say I’ve seen him. The band started up as usual for a couple of numbers to show off the members. They were extremely good musicians. Finally, James Cotton came out with his array of harmonicas. He took a seat at center stage and the music moved around his.
We only stayed for the first hour. It was 58 and getting chillier still. I was thoroughly cold. A lady directly behind me started to whine to her husband. She was cold also. After about the fourth time of her say, “But I’m COLD,” I wanted to hit her. The husband just kept saying yes, dear. That was enough for me. It was cold and the natives were definitely restless. We packed it in and left for home. Oh no, not home, just back to the hotel.
We discussed our views of the festival. With so much great music, great facilities, location, and probably one of the best set of working volunteers I’ve seen, this festival is a must for anyone interested in music. For Blues people, I would recommend it 100%. I think this had the best sound crew ever. There were so few glitches and wonderful quality. Kudos to the King Biscuit Festival people.
OK, that’s a wrap for tonight. Tomorrow, we head to Clarksdale for some more music, food and fun. Then, it’s Red’s Lounge for the evening. This is going to a real juke joint experience. Scary, but exciting. I’m hoping I can talk to Roger Stolle while we are in town also.
It is Friday. Does that mean that vacation is halfway over? A week just isn’t enough.
Even though I stayed up late last night, I still got up around 8:00 this morning. We got up and dressed for breakfast downstairs. This hotel isn’t known for their breakfast and I see why. At least they had coffee. Tomorrow, we will know better.
We talked to housekeeping before we left. I didn’t see any need to prep the room. We are just here for 3 days. The lady seemed concerned about not cleaning the room, but I’m sure that was just the tip. I’ll remember to leave her a tip for doing as I asked. We won’t be really dirty anyway.
I wanted to drive to the festival down old Hwy 61. So we pulled out from the hotel and headed toward the river to catch the old road. I thought it might be interesting and it was. We went through some of the older towns that are still standing. We drove through downtown Tunica, which is very nicely updated and kept up. There were parks, flowers, and wonderful architecture. The road was hard to figure out, but we finally made it out of town.
Now the smaller towns on the old highway are sad and rundown. I would expect that with the loss of population that I see around them. That gave way to a discussion on the situation of farming in this country and how it is being controlled by foreign interests. Too bad we aren’t interested We’ll be buying food from the Chinese pretty soon.
We arrived in Helena a little after 10:00 in the morning. I expected to see the college kids out in front of their school selling parking spaces. They weren’t there. So I drove around the block to the first parking area I saw. As I was pulling in, Rich spotted the kids on this of their building. Too late. We parked and got our stuff together with our chairs. The walk was only a couple of blocks to the main strip for the festival.
As we walked down Phillips Street, I noticed a Blues Trail sign outside of a set of doors. The sign was telling me that Sonny Boy Williamson and some of his friends came to play at a club in the location called The Hole. It looked like they were renovating the building. Hopefully it can reopen to share more of its history.
As we walked, a man with a Chihuahua came by. I was kidding him because the dog was calm and seemed to have purpose about walking down the street. He was with the local humane society. The dog was going down to the booth as window dressing. He told me she was the pretty one at the booth. At least she was calm, cool, and collected.
We got into the main stage area so we could leave our chairs. Luckily, we got spots right on the path so we wouldn’t have trouble getting in and out. Then it was off to get coffee from the local coffee house, Westrock. While Rich was ordering up his coffee, I was looking through the art work on the walls. It was very open and the works were grouped by artist. There was some very nice stuff there.
We walked around the main drag and checked out a couple of stores. I checked Grammy Dee’s across from the coffee house as a possible place to eat breakfast. We talked to the young lady stationed outside of the doors. There was promise of a good southern breakfast here.
I have to apologize for my description of the festival attendees. They aren’t just old, white men. There are a lot of old, white women, too. These do seem to be throwbacks to Woodstock and free love. You see a lot of braless women, but now they hang a lot lower. There are few perky young girls out here.
One thing that got was the dress code. It was 85 and sunny. I was baking in a tank top and shorts. I saw women dressed in high leather boots and all manner of dress. There were several sweaters out in the crowd. I was melting just looking at them. I guess high fashion has more to do with dress than actual comfort. We did come away with sunburns even with all the lotion applied.
We headed back to the main stage and took up our places on the path. We managed to sit right next to a couple we had sat behind yesterday. It almost looked like people had left their chairs overnight to hold their spots. I saw a lot of people in the same places. But then again, I saw several people who had moved from our location yesterday to better spots closer in. By the time I figure out the method, it will be all over.
The first act that came on was Erneste “Guitar” Roy. We had seen Guitar at the last Blues Fest in Chicago that we attended. He was pretty good then and was still good to watch now. Turns out, he is from the area and had played rhythm guitar for one of the big names in blues here. I was impressed.
Between shows we wondered around. We went to the souvenir building and picked up t-shirts for the event. It was time to replace a couple of very worn shirts. After looking through some of the vendors, we once again headed back to our seats. Keven Purcell and his band were on stage. I was impressed with this guy also. I have to say that all of the talent was up to par with the festival.
Next up was Toronzo Cannon. Toronzo is from Chicago and we’ve had the great privilege of seeing him play a couple of times already. We felt honor bound to let those around us know that he was a great guitar player and storyteller. He didn’t disappoint us either.
He came on stage wearing overalls with a crisp, white dress shirt and nice tie. He explained that he was wearing the shirt and tie because he meant business. The overalls were because he had work to do and expected to get dirty. He did. It was a wonderful show from him and the band.
I had heard Reba Russell on the radio and wanted to see her. They took the stage and jumped right into. I didn’t realize she was more soul blues. That and the fact that her favorite word was asshole. She even had a song about someone being one. She had a good voice, but I’m not sure I cared for the soul take on the blues. It was different.
We snuck out to get some food. Rich was going for the ribeye poorboy sandwich at the Texas vendor. While we were there, I spied the alligator sausage and decided on that. It was spicy and good. It’s been a while since I’ve had anything alligator.
I have to tell you about all the music going on around on the strip as well. They allowed people to set up at specific spots and play. We saw and heard some really great music. I liked the one tent someone had set up and the band was playing away very loud. They started to play, “Midnight Special” as we walked by. I stopped to listen. It was very appropriate for the surrounding.
We got back to our seats as Kurt Fletcher and his band were playing. Josh Smith was the rhythm guitarist and he was great as well as Kurt himself. We really enjoyed listening to them play. Rich decided to buy a CD and went off to purchase it as well as to get a signature. He came back with an exasperated look on his face. Apparently, the people in the store couldn’t sell him the CD until the band got there. We waited a bit and wondered back down. It took a bit to find them in the store.
Rich talked to Kurt and Josh for a bit. He presented his Sharpie and told the story about being prepared. Kurt laughed and said he hadn’t been prepared himself. Someone had to find a marker for him to sign CDs with. Interestingly, a DJ came up and asked Kurt to do a spot for his radio show. They did the takes right there. That was cool to watch and listen to. Too bad I don’t know what station or show!
We walked down to the end of the strip to the Lockwood stage as the Funky Butt Brass Band was playing. This was a guitar, drums, trombone, sax, and sousaphone. They were wonderful. The band had a great sound and they were having a great time on stage. Even the heat didn’t hold them back from jamming and having a great time.
We got back as Anson Funderburke was taking the stage with his band. This turned out to be a jam session with several people. John Mayer came out and did songs. An Austrian guy was playing the synethezier and accordion. Dana Robinson from Delbert McClinton’s band came out with her saxophone. A couple of guitartist joined the group and everyone got to do a spotlight piece. It was pretty cool and great tunes.
By now, we had been tracking some bad weather headed toward us. It was after 7:30 and I was exhausted. I figured I wouldn’t make it to 9:30 to see Delbert McClinton. I just stayed up too long the night before! We decided to pull up roots and head out. We’d stop by Church’s Chicken for some late dinner and hang out. I still had this blog to write.
We got back on the Mississippi side of the river and had just gotten into the building at Church’s when the storm was unleashed. The rain was lashing the building and lightening was cracking all over the place. That turned out to be a good decision. I can’t image trying to leave Helena in a storm with all those people who had been drinking all day long.
We got our food and headed to the hotel. We ate and discussed our day. Rich was telling me about his conversations with the guy next to him. Yep, Rich made another friend today. The guy is a widower from Northern Arkansas. He had been coming to the festival for the last 3 years. He normally camped out at the state park during his time. This year, he had to come on his own when his friend couldn’t make it due to a bad knee. We said good-bye to the new friend, who tried to convince us to stay and hear the next act. We declined and told him to enjoy it in the rain. Apparently, he was there to stay and see the day out.
So here I sit writing up our adventures of the day. Soon, I’ll have this posted with pictures and then I can go to bed. I’m tired.
I got to sleep in! There was no wet dog nose in my hand or anywhere near my face. I didn’t hear a dog throwing itself to the ground and sighing with an impossibly deep and long breath! I’m on vacation! I’m afraid to ask my son how he woke up this morning.
We showered and packed. Then it was a quick trip downstairs to the breakfast area to grab a bit before hitting the road. I know there were a few other women in the room, but I mostly felt overwhelmed by the guys! Rich was getting his eggs with biscuit and sausage gravy while I was standing in line waiting my turn. A young man of about 25 or so came up and stood on the other side of Rich and was slowly trying to insinuate himself into line ahead of me. Oh no you don’t buster. I was here first. I calmly stepped in front of him as Rich turned away in his direction. This caused him to step back a bit. A nice snarl would have been appropriate, I think.
After breakfast, it was time to transfer luggage to the car and turn in the card keys. We dashed across the street to pick up the necessary supplies for a road trip. We filled up our travel mugs and grabbed a couple of cold waters. Getting back to the car, we adjusted for the environment and headed to the highway. When I say adjusted for the environment, I meant that the windows were rolled down. It was only 72 when we left. That meant I could have the windows down. I rolled down one of the back windows to adjust for pressure as well as comfortably airflow.
Rule number 1 is driver rules. Whoever is driving gets to make the rules. This is only superseded by rule number 2. When the temperature reaches 84 outside of the car, the air condition goes on with no questions or begging from anyone, not even the driver.
Traffic was good again today. Trucks were out and about, but not hogging the road and seem to be making their way in our direction without hindering us. Our first stop was in the New Madrid rest area. In case you don’t know, New Madrid in the site of the largest set of earthquakes in the U.S. They started in December 1811 with roughly a 7.0 and continued through Feb 1812 with a 7.9. It was during the last one that the Mississippi River is recorded to have run backwards. It was said that the quake caused church bells to ring of their own accord in Boston.
In the building at the rest area, they have a graphically representation of the Mississippi on the floor with the 5 individual earthquake locations marked on the graphic. Each earthquake location records the time and magnitude. It’s pretty cool. There is also a location shown for a set of waterfalls that appeared after the last earthquake that later disappeared. The area where the river ran backwards is also marked. Poor cool.
I recently found out that a distant cousin from my dad’s side of the family had been living in the area at the time of the earthquakes. I so wish I could talk to him and his family about the event. How cool would that be!
When we first arrived at the rest area, there was an old car sitting in the lot. The couple inside were reading through a map. It was a really cool, old hot rod looking thing. There were signatures all over it and little sayings everywhere. I could help myself. I had to stop and ask about the car. Turned out to be an old Chrysler. I didn’t know such a model existed. Jerry said most people didn’t. I told them how much I admired the car.
Connie and Jerry were headed to Mobile. This was a driving car and no trailer queen. I think he said he had put 180,000 miles on the car himself. It was just too cool. Then I noticed that he adjusted the steering wheel. I made the comment that it had some upgrades. Connie told me it had AC also. Now that’s an upgrade. Sallie’s AC is to open the vent under the windshield.
I realized after I said good-bye and went inside that I didn’t take a picture of their car! That was dumb. Hold a conversation and then walk away. Later on, we caught up with them on the road and Rich got pictures of the back, side, and front. Still a cool car, but going down the road.
From here, Memphis is a short way down the highway. I was cruising along just a little above the speed limit. I was in the processes of passing a truck when I suddenly had only something large and purple in my rearview mirror. Where did that come from? Apparently, a semi truck had been barreling down the highway behind me and I guess I just didn’t pay attention until he was right on me. I got over and let him through. He went blasting past me at probably 80 or 85. I was hoping I didn’t find him later down the road with a family car under him.
No, somehow he must have thought better of his ways. When I came across him again, he was actually doing the truck speed limit and no longer harassing cars or vehicles in front of him.
Construction season is still in full force in Memphis. We ran into it just around West Memphis. Then traffic pretty crawled into town. We were getting off the highway just before our scheduled exit though. Rich decided it was lunchtime and we should stop at Interstate BBQ. The GPS got us through the local neighborhood alright and we pulled into the parking lot. Right in front of us, written in large letters on the wall was Interstate BBQ.
Louie Washington (Hey, Louie) works in the group of engineers that I write for. He’s from Memphis originally and highly recommended Interstate to us. I was a little leery because this is the Neeley BBQ place. You know the Neeleys from Food Network. Pat and Gina, right? How good could a TV show place really be? Well, it was excellent. I got the pulled pork dinner with baked beans and potato salad. Rich got pork ribs with beans and slaw. I was impressed. The potato salad was just like my mom’s. I haven’t been able to get that since she passed. The beans were just right. This is how I want to make beans.
Louie also recommended that we get the BBQ spaghetti. Wait? What? It just sounded a little too strange for me. Rich was up for it though. He got a small bowl. Guess what? It was great. I could see making this at home. Don’t know if it would taste the same, but I could sure make some similar with Rich’s BBQ. Now I have something to shoot for. Thanks, Louie. We’ll never doubt you again. Go Tigers!
From Memphis, our hotel was only another 20 minutes south on Hwy 69. This is part of the famed and much talked about Crossroads. Funny, but 69 and 49 cross a couple of places. I wonder if they got the right crossroad marked when they set up the sign in Clarksdale.
We arrived at the hotel a little early for check-in and found out that we could move our stuff right in. Great. We had a festival to get to. First, Rich had to finish his 2:00 coffee that he got a little bit late. So he relaxed, had his coffee and cooled down. I forgot to mention to him along the way that the temp was jumping around in the mid 80s. If he didn’t mention it, I was going to tell him. The windows were down with the wind blowing through my hair and the temp was in the 80s for mid October! Best vacay!
We changed into something cooler and headed out. First stop was down to the Missippee River. I wanted to check it out in the daylight. We went down to the Riverfront Park in Tunica. The Tunica Queen riverboat is moored here. They offer rides up and down the river. One barge was going south and making pretty good miles on the current. Another barge was pushing its way slowly up river and seeming to have a really hard time getting anywhere fast.
We got back on track and headed to Helena, AR for the festival. It was in full swing by now since it started on 9:00 AM this morning. The first act I wanted to see was on at 4:00 PM. We got into town and figured out where to head. We passed a local college selling parking for $5. I went around the block and came back to them. Funny, one of the girls thought I had an accent. I explained I lived northwest of Chicago these days, but I was originally from the Luval, KY area. Maybe I’m starting to pick up some of my accent again. That would be cool. I miss it.
We wondered down the main street where the festival was going on. After some stops and starts, we found Will Call in the souvenir building and got our bracelets for the main stage. Everything else was free though. We wondered back up the street to find the Front Porch stage for the first act I wanted to see. It turned out to be inside out of one of the Delta Cultural Museum buildings. It was made to look like the front porch of a sharecropper’s cabin.
The Lindsey Alexander Band was setting up. Seems strange to drive from Chicago to Arkansas to see a Chicago band that I could just drive downtown to see. Somehow, I never got to Rosa’s and Kingston Mines to see them. I had to come to the King Biscuit Blues Festival to see them. They were wonderful. It was great music and he was quite the showman. Several other Chicagoans appeared to be the crowd and definitely fans.
Watching them, I realized that the crowd was a bunch of old Rock and Roll hippies who just went further back into the roots of the music that they loved to reach the blues. Was this the group of people I would be spending the few days with? Probably. They reminded me of my cousin, Jim. He would definitely fit right in here.
Rich bought a CD from Lindsey. I got out the Sharpie to have him go and get it signed. Nope, he didn’t want to. There is no point of buying a CD from someone like this if you don’t get it signed. I marched right up to the front and got in line for a signature. There were 4 guys ahead of me waiting for signatures. When Lindsey stepped up to begin signing, I was the only one who had a pen.
I lent it to Lindsey to start, but told them I had to take it back when I got my signature. The guys in front of me are thanking me profusely. That wouldn’t be the people behind me though. We learned a couple of years ago to bring your own writing instrument if you really wanted a signature. You had to make it easy for them to give it to you.
The guy in front of me turned out to be German. He was spelling his name, but in German! I tried to help and realized what he was trying to say when I found out about the German. Cool! I told Lindsey he had fans all over the world apparently. He said he knew that and now I knew, too. Lindsey seemed surprised when I said I wanted it signed to Rich. He signed with a little smile. I think he knew my husband was too shy to ask for himself. I have no problem doing it.
As predicted, the guy behind me got upset when I took my pen. He begged me to just let Lindsey sign his CD first. One of Lindsey’s guys was rummaging around for a pen at that point. I’m sure they found something to go on with signatures.
We left this stage and made our way to the Main Stage. Billy Branch and the SOBs were already playing. This is another Chicago band that I had to come to Arkansas to hear. The SOBs were the Sons of Blues. They were a really great band. We were seeing a lot of talented musicians out here. With the humidity and temp, everyone was sweating. Billy’s khakis were wet at the knees from sweating. This just opened up a whole bunch of jokes from on stage though.
We had managed to find an empty spots to set up our chairs on the hillside not too far back, but not really that close either. It was on the top side of the path, so we got to see a lot of different people walking back and forth through the crowd. It was great people watching. That’s one of my favorite pastimes. Airports and bars are the best places for people watching. This festival was probably going to rank pretty high on the list also.
The guy to Rich’s left started up a conversation and then asked Rich to hold his spot while he took his chair with him to another stage. That seemed OK. Rich moved over to take up more space. I accused Rich of making friends with someone. He shook his head. Nope, just helping someone out, but he was going to lose blood to hold it for the guy.
After Billy and the SOBs were done, we walked down through the street to see what was out there. We found all of the stages and found the theater where Roger Stolle was going to be holding a panel discussion with a lot of really old blues players. I was interested in that one. I was hoping to talk to Roger also.
Roger owns Cat Head Music in Clarksdale. We used to hear his weekly report about the blues events in Mississippi on the old Bill Wax show on XM. We felt like we knew him. The last time we were in Clarksdale, we stopped by his store. He spent some time talking to us and making sure we purchased things to take home with us. It was amazing to talk to him.
When we went to Cincy Blues Fest a couple of years ago, Rich was accosted by Roger’s old college roommate. The roommate brought his wife over to show her Rich’s t-shirt from the Cat Head Music store. See, he said, Roger is famous and running his own business. Too funny. We could wait to tell Roger the story.
Anyway, we walked back to the Main Stage and found our chairs just as we left them. Guitar Shorty was getting set up on stage with his band. A lady behind me saw me looking at the schedule and asked when Guitar Shorty was scheduled to start. Things were running about 15 minutes slow. Wait. She looked normal, like me, and not like the others I had seen. I guess that was possible.
Guitar Shorty kicked off and turned out to be more rocking blues. He sure played a lot of Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix, in case you wondered. The rhythm guitar and bass guitar players were really young guys. But it turned out, they could play and were dancing around the stage. You could tell their roots were 80s rock and rolls with the jumping and dancing moves. I think that added something. And Guitar Shorty seemed to be OK with them stealing the show in the background. It was fun to watch.
About halfway through the set, it starts to pelt huge raindrops down on us. I pull out the sheet of painter’s plastic. This way I can stay dry and see the band. The Florida guy next to Rich had returned by this time. He stood up and shouted, “It will not rain.” And the rain stopped! Wow, to have that kind of power. I packed up the plastic and the show went on.
So that set finally headed with the Hendrix version of Star Spangled Banner. Rich was ready to go. I guess we were staying to see Wet Willie. This is a southern fried rock band from the 70s. I didn’t know they were still alive, much less playing. But Rich is tired so we pack up our stuff and take off.
We walked back down the street we originally came in on. There was a hip hop club on the corner just down from our car. They had speakers on the sidewalk and the DJ was spinning his records out there. There were kids hanging out all over. I think they were competing with their grandparents’ music up the street.
We got back to Hwy 49 and out of Helena and then out of Arkansas. We crossed over the Mississippi River and were back in Mississippi proper. On our way back, we decided that we were hungry again. That BBQ just wasn’t holding us from lunchtime. We went through Tunica without finding something that was appealing. I thought there was something just up the road from the hotel. Around here, the gas stations have some sort of food place inside.
This one was called A’s. It was mix of southern, seafood, chicken, and Mexican. We ordered food to go. With a six pack of Ghost River Golden Ale from the beer cave at the gas station, we were ready to chow. The food hit the spot, but was a little bit different than we expected. Regional sure does funny things to food.
So after eating and a shower, I sit here drinking my Golden Ale, writing a blog, and getting pictures together to post. Mr Zurek has given in and gone to sleep. I guess I didn’t need that much help to remember the day. What I’ve forgotten might not have been important anyway.
Tomorrow is a full day at the festival. We have several acts on our list, including one from Chicago. Got to support the home team here.
At 7:00 this morning, Sascha starts throwing herself down on the floor and sighing really big. I mean, really big. I’m surprised the air isn’t sucked out of the room. That’s her sign she is tired of watching me sleep. It’s time to put her outside. Yeah, she’s right. I’ve probably slept enough. I drag myself out and get ready for the morning.
I get the paper, make coffee, and settle in to read while everyone sleeps. I turn on “Your Roots” to see what Tuesday night’s show was. I love this show. It’s all about genealogy, DNA, and family stories. This is something I love to do myself. Anderson Cooper, Ken Burns, and Ann Deveare Smith are the guests. There were great stories and great family trees.
Rick wonders out of his room and says hello. It’s time for him to get ready and get out of the house of his first class of the day. He gets his breakfast, dresses and looks out of the window. Then he dashes out of the back door without a word. Wait! This isn’t good.
Sascha has been digging in one of my flowerbeds again! She seems to get a denning instinct in the fall and wants to create a huge body hole to hide in. Just not in my flowerbed!! She knows she has done wrong. Rick brings her in and she heads straight for Rich’s desk. She is hiding in her inside den.
I got and find shoes so I can repair the damages. Rick waves from his car as I get a shovel to scrape up the dirt. The patio is covered in loose dirt. Sascha managed to dig below the tree stump that is hidden under the dirt in that bed. She even dislodged the bricks around the edge. Darn her!
I use the shovel to scrap up what dirt I can return to the bed. I shuffle dirt around until I have it filled in. Then I go looking for plywood to lay down on the flowerbed. I stack the loose bricks all around the plywood and over the loose dirt that I didn’t cover. I’ll know she’ll find a way in, but I hope it won’t be easy. Darn her! I said that already!
By now, Rich is up and moving around. He has showered and is working on his packing. He never packs ahead. He waits until the morning of to figure out what goes into his bag. I guess guys have an easier time of packing. I head off to the shower and then finish up my packing. Last of all, I pack my computer and electronics. How would I write this blog without my computer?
Next step is to get everything into the car. At this point, Sascha is out from under the desk and at the back door competing to get out to the car. She so wants to go and not get left behind with Rick yet again. Sorry, girl. There’s no room for you at King Biscuit Blues Fest. We manage to get by her and get everything transferred to the car.
Sascha gets a big hug and a pat on the head. Maybe next year. Then we head out to Island Café for breakfast. There are maybe three tables of people. This should be easy. We order our food and get our mugs filled with steaming coffee. Ah, that’s better. Time to start this vacation right.
Right after we run by the credit union at work to get Rich’s debit card straightened out. He tried to activate it over the phone without any luck. Who knew you would need to know 10 different things about your life and what you answered as security questions 2 years ago! Luckily, it took 5 minutes to fix. Cash in hand, we were ready for the big highway.
We got onto 290 and down to 355 before we knew it. The GPS was telling us to stay on 355 to 80 and take 57 down through Illinois. It had been quite a while since I had gone down that way. The traffic was light with only a few trucks along the way. It was almost like a weekend or a holiday.
Auto Nag on the car was driving me crazy though. The car wants to stop you from hurting yourself or even getting yourself into a possible situation. It slows the car down when you get within so many feet of a car. It tries to stop when you speed up. I was actually getting in the way of traffic with the cruise control turned on. I turned off Auto Nag and just dealt with the features on cruise control. That meant turning off the cruise when I need to stay up with traffic and avoiding clogging up a situation. Darn car!
We made a pit stop in Effingham. This was to get Rich coffee for his missed 2:00 break. Yesh! When I got back on the highway, I got behind a motorcyclist who was very fond of expressing his frustrations. He took his hands off the bar, put them on his head and then raised them to the sky. I could hear him say, “WTF” with his body language. As I followed him, he continued to make very large gestures to the car in front of him. This was the car that refused to move out of the left lane into the right lane to let others pass him, including me. So I definitely felt the motorcyclist’s frustrations, too. He was communicating his feelings quite clearly, but I must have been the only one watching.
Traffic opened up and we all got around the slow guys. When did the left lane become the driving lane! Is that in the Rules of the Road handbook? Saw a lot of cars taking up space in the left lane today. If this sounds like you, know that I’m shaking my head at you for the error of your ways.
We went down the road some more. Finally, we got to the turn off to head toward Cape Girardeau. Then I look down and realize I’m almost out of gas! How did that happen? We got the 5 miles to the exit and there is a gas station there! Thank goodness. Rich went in to pay and I realized I parked on the wrong side of the tank.
After 6 months of owning this car, you’d think I’d understand where the gas tank is. According to Rich, the girl behind the counter said she would wait to punch in the island until I turned around. He looks out of the window to see me jump in and turn the car around to face the other direction. I guess they’ve had some people not be very successfully at this. As someone in the station said they thought they would have to move the gas pump island for someone turning around once. That’s crazy. I’m very good at the quick turn. No problem.
As you approach the Mississippi down this winding back road, you go through a lot of bottom land. There are a lot of private and public hunting clubs down in these lowlands. I guess that’s big business here. They convince people from other places to come in to hunt. They act as guides, provide you with the opportunity, and collect your money for making you a successful hunter.
We made it to the Mississippi River. I heard on my record show this morning that people from Mississippi actually say Missippee. That’s like the people from Louisville who can say it one of 5 different ways. My favorite is still the one we all learned from the Bank of Luval commercials growing up. Luval. Or as my friend, Kim, says: Put your fist in your mouth first and then say Louisville.
So anyway, we cross the really cool suspension bridge over the Mississippi River. It looks much better at night when it is all lit up. Rich is trying to take pictures out of the window. I don’t think they will turn out that well. Maybe we can get better pictures tonight from the river walk.
We find the hotel and ask for recommendations since we found that Buckner’s is closed. Rich was trying to find the address when he ran across an article that they were closed because they didn’t pay their employee taxes to the government. What a shame. They had great food and great beer. That’s really hard to come by. The IRS doesn’t look lightly on tax offenses. We heard about the Broadway Biergarten and Port Cape. OK, that would do.
We left to check out the Broadway Biergarten. On the outside, the bar was decorated in Bavarian flags and blues. That was a good sign. Inside, there were a lot of taps and a lot of bottles on display. The beer list was impressive and took up two pages. Rich got a Vitus weitzenboch. His second beer was Mother’s Oktoberfest. Mother’s is a local brewery. He got that one after he got a sample of it and the Hubrew Oktoberfest. Mother’s won out.
We got dirty fried pretzel bites, which are rolled in wing sauce before frying. Along with this, we each got a burger. The food was nothing to write home about, but it did fill you up.
The bar is an old converted department store from around the early 1900s. The ceiling was original tin. Tables were long with benches along both sides. It was more beer tent style than restaurant. Even the display areas in the front windows had tables and benches. I can image the place being full and the best drinkers and partiers are on display.
We drove down to the river to walk along the river walk. But first, we noticed a small bar called LoDo. It advertised craft beers. We went in to check it out. The place was nice, but did smell of cigarette smoke. I’d say it was a typical old style bar in a small town. They are in the process of expanding and so they didn’t have any taps working. It was only bottled beers. Rich decided to stay anyway.
The girl behind the bar was willing to tell us about what she had. One of the patrons was extremely vocal and jumped in with what he knew. The owner came in and we ended up having a conversation about all of the beers in the coolers and why one over another. The owner brought out several choices and Rich decided on the Piney River Brewery’s Black Walnut Wheat. It was along the same line as an English brown nut ale. It was pretty good.
We talked about the bar and its décor. The patron had been coming into that bar since 1988 and had seen it change over the years to many different types of bars. The owner has several original ad signs up on the top of the wall. Some of them are worth some money, but it sounded like they will stay for a while.
There were three sets of shelves set up on the side wall with beer cans. Apparently, the cans were there when the owner took over the bar. Some of them were pretty old and most brands don’t exist anymore. He had some original Falstaff cans with beer in them upstairs in storage. He said they were worth a lot of money on eBay. Who would pay for Falstaff like that?
We headed out and down to the river walk. The moon was shining across the water. I took a picture, not expecting to get anything. It looked pretty good. It would be a perfect Facebook picture. Rich got some good pictures of the suspension bridge all lit up. It would have been great with the moon behind it. Oh well, probably too early in the night.
So it’s after 8:00 at this point. Time to go back to the hotel, write up this blog for the day, and relax. Tomorrow, we headed down to Tunica, MS where our hotel for the next few days is located. Then we’ll check out our surroundings. On Friday, we‘ll put in our first full day of music on the Mississippi. Saturday should be the same. Sunday, we plan to go to Clarksdale for the Cat Head mini blues fest and spend the night. Can’t wait for that.