FIRST THINGS FIRST: I didn't have all the facts straight when I wrote last week about The North Mississippi Allstars' upcoming release. Polaris, produced by Cody and Luther Dickinson, was recorded at Ardent Studios, not at Zebra Ranch as reported. Kudos to Ardent -- and the brothers Dickinson -- on the album, which should further establish the mighty Allstars on the national scene.
FELIZ CUMPLEANOS: To Domingo Samudio, aka Sam the Sham, who is celebrating his birthday February 28th. Here's to many, many more!
EVERYDAY I GOT THE BLUES: Down in the Delta, The Year of the Blues seems to be getting off to a somewhat rocky start. As reported in The Clarksdale Press Register on February 10th, Delta Blues Museum director Tony Czech led a local committee to New York for the Salute to the Blues fete earlier this month. Armed with 6,000 Delta Blues Map Kits, the Coahoma County group was seen touting area tourism to music industry bigwigs, including Seattle's Experience Music Project director Robert Santelli, guitarist Vernon Reid, and R&B diva Ruth Brown. Volkswagen anted up $18,000 for the map kits, a revamped brochure that Rooster Blues founder Jim O'Neal originally designed.
But by February 12th Clarksdale businesspeople were up in arms. Such blues-based businesses as Cathead Blues and Folk Art and The Shack Up Inn were deleted from the brochure, along with The Isle of Capri Casino, which, hands down, is the area's biggest tourist draw. On February 13th, Czech resigned. His departure is hardly the same blow as the forced resignation of Living Blues editor Scott Barretta. In fact, most Clarksdale residents seem happy to see him go. Nevertheless, it leaves the Delta Blues Museum without a director during a potential tourism boom.
"Clarksdale is so far behind the times," Clarksdale businesswoman Nancy Kossman (proprietor of Delia's Stackhouse) says. "The city doesn't want to fuel the income it gets from the blues back into the culture it comes from. There's a real danger that if some people have their way we'll have a little version of Beale Street. But, then again," she sighs, "things might continue to stumble along in their own weird, funky way. That's what I think people are coming here looking for."
BACK IN PRINT: In the summer of 1994, I was ensconced in blues culture, thanks in part to Alan Lomax's seminal overview The Land Where the Blues Began. I was sorry to see his book go out of print. And I often wonder how many nascent musicologists it may have inspired. Looking for an informative read? Now, Lomax's opus is back in print and can be found at local bookstores or via TheNewPress.com. Be sure to grab the new companion CD, which features work songs, field hollers, and fife-and-drum music from the likes of Muddy Waters, Sid Hemphill, and Clarksdale's Church of God in Christ congregation.
MORE HILL-COUNTRY BLUES: With the inclusion of "Shimmy She Wobble" in the opening scenes of Gangs of New York, Othar Turner's Rising Star Fife and Drum Band is reaching audiences as never before, but the Turner family has recently fallen on hard times. Drummer Jessie "Chip" Daniels died of a stroke last summer. Then, last October, Othar's 17-year-old granddaughter Kanoshee Turner drowned in a flash flood.
Othar, now 94 years old, was admitted to Southaven's Baptist Memorial Hospital last week with pneumonia and an irregular heartbeat. Meanwhile, his daughter, Bernice Turner Pratcher, is at home in Senatobia struggling with cancer. While the Turner family has medical insurance, the spate of tragedies has spiritually -- and financially -- exhausted them.
Get-well cards for Othar and Bernice can be sent to their attention c/o Bobbie Turner, 3339 Gravel Springs Rd., Senatobia, Mississippi 38668. Donations can also be sent to the family in care of Bobbie Turner, while tax-deductible gifts may be sent via Blues Aid, c/o Sonny Boy Blues Society, P.O. Box 237, Helena, Arkansas 72342. Please note that any donations sent to Blues Aid must be marked "Othar Turner," or the money will go into a general fund.
The Turners hope to purchase a new trailer this spring for both Othar and Bernice to live in. A concrete slab, a septic tank, and utility hook-ups are other necessities. Various musicians -- including The Lost Sounds and Daniel "Slick" Ballinger -- are planning area benefits for the Turner family this spring. Stay tuned to this space for more details.
You can e-mail Andria Lisle at firstname.lastname@example.org.