This was Dave’s 8th or so and my first official day on the road. We departed St. Louis at Noon with a destination of small town Mississippi in mind. Our original plan was to visit Memphis but after too many reviews – both online and over the phone – that spoke of poor experiences and no desire to revisit, we decided against it. Dave’s buddy Rui threw out the tremendous recommendation of Clarksdale, MS.
This town is considered to be a significant site in the history of blues music, according to Wikipedia and actual humans. Take this old tale of a local blues legend for instance: (it’s just too cool not to quote completely:
According to legend, as a young man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi, Robert Johnson was branded with a burning desire to become a great blues musician. He was “instructed” to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large black man (the Devil) who took the guitar and tuned it. The “Devil” played a few songs and then returned the guitar to Johnson, giving him mastery of the instrument. This was in effect, a deal with the Devil mirroring the legend of Faust. In exchange for his soul, Robert Johnson was able to create the blues for which he became famous.
Though debated, some claim that the crossroads of Highways 61 and 49 in downtown Clarksdale is where this deal with the Devil took place. Pretty wild. Not to be outdone by the music scene was the place we stayed, Shack Up Inn. This truly rad location is located on an old plantation a few miles out of town. Along with original buildings like the cotton gin, we got to stay in one of the old sharecropper shacks. Updated only slightly to make it livable, these shacks were killer with tons of cool artifacts and memorabilia floating around. And if that wasn’t enough, these folks have a hilarious sense of humor as evidenced by these excerpts from their website FAQ section:
- Wireless internet – Yes
- Brochures – Hell no
- Room service – Call the Peabody in Memphis
- Phone & fax service – Call a Comfort Inn anywhere
- Sheet thread count – NO KIDDING FOLKS, SOME CRAZY LADY ASKED THIS QUESTION…call the Alluvian in Greenwood, they really have the good ones
- Wake up call – Yea right, automatic one minute after check out time, it consists of a chain saw right outside your bedroom window at 11:01 AM
- Beer – We got all you can stand
After checking in and remarking 352 times about how sick the setup was, we headed for town and an old blues club known as Red’s Lounge. I’d give you a hyperlink to check it out but they don’t have a website. They also don’t have beer on tap, windows or conformity. What they DO have is rockin’ live music, Budweiser bombers in a cooler and some old leather recliners to lounge and get fuzzy in the haze of cigarette smoke.
And the man himself, Red, was there swearing up a storm and watching the Olympics on the tube. Along with a handful of what appeared to be regulars, we spent about 2 hours in easily the most authentic, non-tourist-trap, anachronism of a bar I’ve ever visited. Super cool to be there, definitely worth a visit if you’re down that way.
That night, we nervously joked about how our rooms looked like horror movie sets in the pictures we’d taken. We then made it clear that should one of us hear strange noises in the night, it was this person’s responsibility to do SOMETHING. You see, these shacks, rad as they are can bring out any Boogie Man fears you may have thought gone. At 5 am, I helped Dave realize these fears by trying to quietly close the bathroom door. What happened was me standing over him (the door was close to his bed) in the dark while scraping the door NOT quietly. You can imagine the results.