Clarksdale Revisited: the Australian Perspective

This past summer, my co-blogger Jennifer and I lured our longtime friend Cam into hitting the road down to Mississippi with us. If you check the roadtrip tag at the bottom of this post, you can read some of our other recollections from the trip, but for now, go read Cam’s lovely article about our visit with Rat at the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Graceland Too

This week, we do a little rewind as Jennifer shares her take on one of the more… exceptional places we visited on NTSIB’s Great Southern Roadtrip of 2010.

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Graceland Too, Holly Springs, MS
If I could return to any one town from NTSIB’s Southern voyage last summer, it would be Holly Springs, home to, among other things, Graceland Too. NTSIB stopped by Graceland Too the day after visiting Graceland itself. We happened to arrive at the same time as two ladies from a Tupelo paper, which is how I learned about the concepts of “Birth Week” and “Death Week”, two of the major annual events in Elvis country. In somewhat belated honor of what would have been Elvis’ 76th birthday this past Saturday, here are some pictures from the experience:

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Elvis Presley trading cards

The collection of Elvisiana at Graceland Too is the hard work of one man: Paul McLeod. He’s been collecting since 1956, and basically, if it involves Elvis Presley in any way, shape or form, he’s probably got it … Continue reading

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Clarksdale

Jennifer’s ready to drop some thoughts on our visit to Clarksdale, Mississippi, the city widely felt to be the home of delta blues music.

To Jennifer’s eternal credit, she passed the visit without outward complaint.

April has already shared her memories from our trip to Clarksdale. Here are some of mine:

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Kitchen window, Ground Zero Blues Club

Readers, I must tell you: this place creeped me out. I’m from New York, and Ground Zero – problematic and inaccurate though the label may be – only means one place. The blues club opened in May 2001, and so technically came first, but still, despite the delicious fried cheesecake (!), it ranks high on my list of disquieting dining experiences.

I was excited to get out of there and go to the Delta Blues Museum. That lasted for about an hour and three cycles of the video playing in the Muddy Waters cabin. (Keith Richards, what did you do your head??) At that point I had seen everything I wanted to see and thoroughly investigated the gift shop (why does Mississippi not believe in keychain … Continue reading

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Graceland

On our Great Southern Roadtrip, we trekked over to Graceland, home to Elvis Presley and his family from 1957 until sometime after Elvis’ death in 1977, after we visited Sun Studio. Personally, I was underwhelmed and a little weirded out by the experience. To my mind, it was a sad comment on the deadening excess that too often accompanies the success of music that is born out of raw passion.

Jennifer has a different take on it, so in honor of Elvis week, we give you Graceland…

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The first time I went to Graceland I was 17. It was during a particularly packed (and fraught) college visiting trip with my mother, an hour or two taken out to do something that probably wouldn’t result in mutual seething. At the time it seemed enormous and glittery and truly awe-inspiring, and I loved it. I got a small metal pink cadillac key-chain as a souvenir, which I have referred to as the “pink cadillac of freedom” ever since. It represented everything I thought college would be: my chance to get out of the house, to be glamorous, to … Continue reading

Roadtrippin’: Clarksdale, Part II

After our visit to the Delta Blues Museum, we stopped at the beautifully restored Greyhound station in Clarksdale, which now serves as its visitor information center, and one of the friendly gentlemen on duty gave me a helpful map locating blues-relevant sites around town. Using it, we headed up 4th Street so I could photograph the historic marker for Eddie James “Son” House, Jr. (not to be confused with his Mississippi Blues Trail marker, which is in Tunica).

Nothing on the marker indicates that its placement is particularly relevant to House’s history, but standing on that street for a few minutes gave a little insight into at least two of the “classes” that populate Clarksdale. Son House’s marker is implanted in the sidewalk in front of a folk art gallery where no one pays you much mind unless you look like you have money to spend, while just down the street, a seemingly schizophrenic man was shouting about something very important to him. These moneyed, white-owned establishments feel heartbreakingly out-of-place in Clarksdale. Though I am clearly operating from an outsider’s … Continue reading

Roadtrippin’: Clarksdale, Part I


Photo by Jennifer

Taking a roadtrip to Mississippi to learn about the blues… it’s like a post from Things White People Like, but it is indeed what this white girl did. I don’t remember when I first heard Delta blues music, but it was likely as a part of some “history of rock ‘n’ roll” documentary I watched as a music-obsessed pre-teen. What I do remember is being immediately drawn to the emphasis on rhythm and the guttural vocal delivery. In the intervening years, my relationship with the blues was an on-again-off-again affair until the time I realized that all the music I really loved, the music that spoke to me the most, drew heavy influence from the blues, especially the Delta blues. The Black Keys, A.A. Bondy, the Gutter Twins, the Felice Brothers, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (obviously), etc., have all paid tribute to various Delta bluesmen – from T-Model Ford to Skip James to Mississippi John Hurt – and allowed the echoes of these Mississippi artists to inform their musical paths.

Delving into the music that influenced the … Continue reading

Roadtrippin’: An annotated travel playlist with visual accompaniment

This week, Jennifer treats us to some highlights from her roadtrip playlist along with various photos from our trip to Oxford, Mississippi. Bob Dylan seemed to be an underlying theme of our trip, beginning with some giddy, punchy conversation over dinner on the first night of our drive wherein Jennifer and I told Cam how Dylan had recently been picked up in a neighborhood in New Jersey where the apprehending officers did not recognize him.

I would also like to note that I was not party to the Lady Gaga song.

Selections from the roadtrip playlist, with annotations, and some photographs from the road:

1. Battle Stations, Brine and Bastards – I bought two roadtrip necessities in a truckstop somewhere in Ohio: a satin Peterbilt pillow, for napping in the back seat, and a radio converter for my iPod. This is the first song I cued up once we had everything set up. Brine and Bastards specialize in punk songs on topics of interest to pirates; this particular tune is one I use to get myself moving in the mornings.

2. What Are You Waiting For, Phantom Planet – This one … Continue reading

Roadtrippin’: Sun Studio

Some people wouldn’t understand. This is not conceit on my part but an observation based on the fact that people were all around, but I was the only one standing at the glass wall, gazing in glaze-eyed wonder. I may or may not have pressed my face to the glass. I was at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and behind the glass was a mixing board from Sun Studio. I was imagining the hands that had turned those knobs and the music that had been monitored through that console. I was transfixed.

About ten years later, driving down Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, I grew giddy with excitement when I spied the huge (and impressively accurate) Gibson guitar sign that now marks the original home of that piece of unassuming equipment I had swooned over at the Rockhall. Walking up to the old storefront studio is a little like stepping into a time vortex for … Continue reading

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Sun Studio

Today, Jennifer takes us on another leg of our Southern roadtrip: our visit to the legendary Sun Studio. I’ll post my own observation tomorrow, but we had to share Jennifer’s wonderful photos with you all.

On Tuesday of last week, we put the road back in road trip and voyaged up to Memphis to see Sun Studio and Graceland.
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It is no exaggeration to say that rock and roll as we know it began here in a ragged room on a run down corner in Memphis. Today it is both an active recording studio and a museum.
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This is a reconstruction of the office of Marion Keisker, the lady who recorded Elvis Presley singing for the very first time, and, more importantly, kept a copy of the recording to share with Sam Phillips. We got to hear it during our tour, a little bit scratchy and rough but undeniably The King. I felt a little bit like I did when I watched Streetcar Named Desire for the first time, having to remind … Continue reading