Ground Zero Blues Club: Clarksdale Blues Scene
There are a lot of blues clubs you can visit, the most famous is the “Ground Zero Blues Club” that is owned by Morgan Freeman. We made a short visit to it. I was looking for something with that "juke joint" feel that is so much a part of "the blues". I wasn’t very impressed. I had thought it would have at least a bit of class but it reminded me of a regular old bar.
There are much better places to go to if you are wanting traditional blues experience.
Dress Code: No dress code.
Club 2000 Blues Club: Sunday afternoon jam session!
Club 2000 was a very pleasant place to spend Sunday afternoon listening to a live impromptu blues jam session.
Like most local juke joints, it was a rundown bar that looked like it hasn't changed its decor since New Year's Eve 1964 at best. It was patronized by a curious mixture of Clarksdale locals who seemed more hypnotized by the video poker games than the music, and middle-aged tourists seeking the Holy Grail of a genuine live Delta Blues performance.
The jam session was fronted by a most unusual local figure known as "Mr. Tater" or "Foster Wiley, the Music Maker." "Mr. Tater" greeted me and Nathalie enthusiastically outside the door of Club 2000 and assured us that children were welcome inside. His gold teeth shone in the midday sun and we had virtually no idea what else he was saying or singing about for the rest of the afternoon, but that was OK with me. I explained to Nathalie that the human voice is also a musical instrument, and she should just take the songs in context, picking out isolated lyrics here and there like "let the good times roll" or "wang dang doodle."
"Mr. Tater" is an eccentric character who wheels his ancient Fender guitars around town in a shopping cart. Although you will see some old guitars behind glass at the Delta Blues Museum, the real Clarksdale musicians don't keep their classic instruments under wraps -- they play them -- HARD!! Any guitarist who spends his nights drooling over eBay auctions of vintage Guilds and Gibsons and DanElectro tube amps would have absolutely sworn he'd died and gone to heaven if he'd been at Club 2000 with us. You've got to see it to believe it!
Dress Code: The thing that struck me most about this incongruous gathering was its cross-section of old and young, black and white, poor natives and rich tourists, itinerate musicians and the folk artists who support them.
I watched the proprietress as she stepped from behind the counter to enjoy the music. She was an unusually tall, elderly black woman with high Native American cheekbones and long, straightened hair that fell down over her bright red shawl. She lit a cigarette and her sharp profile fell in stark contest to the fading sunlight and the heavy iron bars across the windows. I cursed myself for not being a good enough photographer to capture such a poignant moment. I could have easily sold this image to a magazine and it would have been the shot heard 'round the world for the Delta Blues scene!
I found all of this powerfully appealing, the concept that unlike pop and rock music, no one is over-the-hill in Delta Blues. As I listened to "Mr. Tater" and Co., I daydreamed about me, a single mom in my 40s, pulling my beloved Gibson Flying V and Fender Champ amp out of the closet and rocking like the old days without anyone rolling their eyes at me.
It's not out of reach in Clarksdale. Consider, for example, 78-year-old local blues icon R.L. Burnside. Some visionary producers sampled lyrics from his song "Goin' Down South" over a monster dance track (the melody of "Rolling and Tumbling") and created a hit called "It's Bad You Know" which ended up on the soundtrack of the HBO TV series "The Sopranos." I've played "It's Bad You Know" for Nathalie and several of her little girlfriends, and they went wild over it! And if you're not convinced, I've got one other name for you: B.B. King of nearby Indianola. Need I say more?
(Note to Self: Call the moving company ASAP...)
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Delta Amusement Blues Cafe: They make breakfast, too!
The Delta Amusement Blues Cafe is part of the laid-back small-town atmosphere in Clarksdale. At night while Nathalie slept in our apartment above Ground Zero Blues Club, I looked out the window and saw that the street below was packed with cars. Since all the businesses were closed, I wondered what attracted so many people at that hour, when all I could see was one dim light at the back of a storefront.
The next morning, we satisfied our curiosity and ate breakfast inside Delta Amusement. It was nothing more than a decrepit-looking bar typical of the juke joints in Clarksdale, yet it was bustling with early morning activity and friendly local people. It was the sort of place where everybody knows everyone else, and a customer won't hesitate to pour his own coffee or even answer the telephone.
They served us a hearty and delicious meal at a fair price, and were more than happy to offer suggestions for a reputable local mechanic. When we met the mechanic (Charlie Phillips at Coahoma Tire), he didn't charge us for examining the car, but instead referred us to someone else who was equally honest (Delta Muffler). As I thanked Mr. Phillips, I mentioned the high regard in which people held him at Delta Amusement, he instantly replied "Yes, they're my FRIENDS!"
This sort of thing made Clarksdale a very endearing sort of place indeed. It made me wish I lived there, too!
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Ground Zero Blues Bar: Blues Haven
Ground Zero Blues Bar is a great time. You will find a variety of people and excellent music. There are a couple of pool tables and a big dance floor. Everyone had a great time. Morgan Freeman, Bill Luckett and I think one other guy owns Ground Zero and they are all seen there often.
Dress Code: No dress code that I am aware of.
Ground Zero Blues Club: Lunchtime Blues and More!
Monday - Friday - Lunch
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Wed, Thurs. 5 p.m. - until
Fri. 5:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.
Sat. 6:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.
(Sometimes) - Sunday Brunch 10:30 - 3:00
with live music
Dinner Wed. - Sat.
Live Music Wednesday, Friday and
Saturday nights and Sunday Brunch.
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