DESTINATION MISSISSIPPI

From the mighty river to the Gulf of Mexico,

Mississippi’s landscape spreads into hills, farmland, sandy beaches and the great piney woods and features a multitude of National and State landmarks and manmade destinations for families around the world to enjoy.  So why leave Mississippi for family summer vacation when these destinations are just around the corner from your house? Here are some favorite Mississippi destinations this summer:

Natchez 

With festivals, historical reenactments, musical tributes, parades, powwows, music and arts, and events with Tricentennial themes, there will be something for all ages. Discover Southern belles, cotton barons, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers while exploring antebellum homes and historical landmarks for a glimpse of the past. Visit museums for history on the Natchez Indians or daily life in antebellum Natchez. Enjoy bird watching, tour an ornate historic cemetery, or watch the sunset over the Mississippi River.

 

 

The Natchez Trace

Connecting Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee, the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway penetrates incredible scenery and over 10,000 years of history.  The Old Trace was the path through early Choctaw and Chickasaw lands used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents. This path became a vital, though rugged, roadway for General Andrew Jackson and his troops during the Creek War. The seven mound groups along Natchez Trace parkway in Mississippi display rich American Indian culture and legacy. Today along the Natchez Trace, families can hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp in this resilient, almost untouched territory.  The Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail features six state parks and one natural area perfect for bird viewing.

The Mississippi River Trail

From its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Trail offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways, pedestrian and bicycle pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation. As a part of the Southern Trail, Great River Road State Park provides a breathtaking natural landscape ideal for picnics and a 75-foot high overlook tower for panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Along this trail, Leroy Percy State Park, the oldest of Mississippi’s state parks, has artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and is the only state park with a wildlife preserve. Natchez State Park is located approximately 10 miles north historic Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. 

Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM)

This 40,000 square foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and enriching weekly programs that focus on literacy; health and nutrition; the cultural arts; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Mississippi heritage.  The Literacy Garden encourages early language and reading skills development. MCM has been recognized for excellence by the Association of Children’s Museums, Trip Advisor, Parents & Kids Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine. Exhibits include the World at Work Gallery, Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Healthy Fun Gallery, Express Yourself Gallery, Wild About Reading Gallery, and Wild About Reading Gallery.

 

 

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this 73,000-square foot complex introduces you to a world of exciting exhibits, nature trails and an open-air amphitheater. Here you enjoy a series of life-size displays like the Monsters of the Deep exhibit as well as a 1,700-square foot gigantic greenhouse aptly called The Swamp. Children enjoy their interactive aquarium where they handle live marine creatures and learn more about how to conserve the environment.

 

 

 

Old Capitol Museum

Built in 1839 and restored to its original grandeur, the Old Capital reopened as a free museum focusing on the history of the building and the events that took place there. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. A National Historic Landmark, The Old Capitol is one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with a limestone exterior, copper dome, and massive interior spaces. Enjoy a guided tour that covers the construction of the building as the statehouse, its architect and caretakers, and the ways the Old Capitol has been used.

Smith Robertson Museum

Located near the State Capitol in Jackson, this museum houses art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans to not only celebrate their heritage, but evoke a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the deep south. Exhibits such as From Slavery to America, 1670-1864 and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement. In addition, the museum houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940, which explores and interprets the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. 

Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Fhttps://www.mspetrifiedforest.comorest lies within hills and ravines hollowed out by nature during the past century. According to the size of the petrified logs, as living trees, these stones were over one hundred feet tall and could be over a thousand years old. According to history, a thunderous, flood-swollen river snatched everything in its path as it roared southward, ripping into ancient trees, leaving behind only remnants to settle deep into the watery ooze. More floods from the North sent more sand and silt, burying the old trees even deeper and petrifying the living trees into stone logs. The perfect spot for history and science discussions while having fun, families enjoy a Nature Trail where nature continues to thrive alongside the huge stone logs that are close enough to touch. There is also a museum, campground, gem mining flume.

Vicksburg Military National Park

Vicksburg National Military Park offers historical, cultural, and natural resources through options tailored to the visitor’s interest and timeframe. Included is the U.S.S. Cairo, one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon).  The Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. Visitors also discover the 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery that holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, more than any other national cemetery. “Soldiers’ Rest,” the plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, is the final resting place for an estimated 5,000 Confederate soldiers. The African American Monument memorializes over 178,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army and the almost 18,000 African-Americans who joined the Union navy. Service figures for the Confederate States remain unknown. Licensed Park Guides make history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park through their knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863.  Visitors may also use the self-guided driving tour

Chotard Landing Resort

Located 20 miles north of Vicksburg, off of Highway 61 North, 24 miles on Highway 465, Chotard Landing Resort sets on the banks of Chotard Lake, a Mississippi River Oxbow.  Chotard Landing Resort offers a place of tranquility for the Fisherman and Outdoors Person. A large common area with grills and tables under the tavern accommodate family cookouts, reunions and all kinds of outdoor get-togethers. Fish and hunt on the Mississippi River oxbow lakes and over 100,000 acres of public land. Bait and fishing supplies are available, as well as a boat ramp. Guided fishing tours available.

Clarkco State Park

Located just south of Meridian near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Clarkco State Park has been a favorite Mississippi recreation spot since 1938. Situated on 815 acres of gently rolling woodlands, Clarkco State Park offers camping, cabin rentals, and water sports in a convenient, unspoiled location for an afternoon or weekend getaway. There are 43 camping sites, 7 primitive tent camping sites, 20 vacation cabins, and 1 vacation cottage plus laundry facilities, picnic sites, pavilions, playgrounds, playing fields, nature trails, tennis courts, disc golf. Clarkco lake offers a boat launch, fishing and water skiing, plus a zero depth splash pad. 

Dunn’s Falls

The 65-foot waterfall in Lauderdale County, just outside of Meridian, was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with a picnic area with barbecue grills, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. The 1857 grist mill was moved from Cave Springs, Georgia in 1987 and reconstructed on the site of Dunn’s original mill, as well as the rustic homestead fascinate history buffs. Stocked with catfish and complete with ducks, the mill pond and picnic area are a great spot for a family outing. Here you can fish, canoe and swim or enjoy the nature trails weaving through the woods where wild turkey, deer, squirrels and other wildlife run free. Historic Carroll-Richardson Gristmill is also open for tours.  Also available are primitive camping sites.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 

Over 150,000 visitors annually participate in activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and research at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photographers capture photos of alligators, waterfowl, warblers and other species living in the refuge. The 42,500-acre refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for Mississippi State University and other local educational institutions and was designed by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of five of global importance in Mississippi. Four green-tree reservoirs (GTRs), two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 900 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. Here, fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the refuge system. The refuge visitor center exhibit hall features a timeline describing how the land was formed, what it is now and how it is managed, and the creatures inhabiting it. Guided walks and talks by volunteers provide opportunities for visitors to connect to wildlife.  Enjoy great views of alligators and look for any of the seven species of common wading birds.  Boardwalks and overlooks provide great vantage points as well, so bring your binoculars and camera.

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Mississippi legend Elvis Presley returned to his hometown Tupelo on September 27, 1957 to perform a benefit concert for a new Youth Center and park in Tupelo. The proceeds helped purchase his birthplace and as well as build a park for the neighborhood children. Within the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park visitors find the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.

 

 

The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

Located on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta, close to the Crossroads at Clarksdale, The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center honors the life and music of B. B. King. Museum exhibits and educational programs build bridges between the community and the world and preserve the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural and musical heritage. Exhibits explore King’s 60-plus year career through Mr. King’s personal papers, materials, and objects from his life and work, and multi-media and film.

Delta Blues Museum

The Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi’s oldest music museum, is housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, which was built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The Museum preserves, interprets, and encourages interest in the blues and its story. The museum’s hometown, Clarksdale, situated where Highways 61 and 49 connect, has been a center for blues culture since the 1920s. Numerous music legends have been born and raised in this Delta area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and W. C. Handy. Today, visitors flock to Clarksdale where the blues culture has been preserved and the Delta blues tradition continues. The museum offers many current exhibits.

Tanglefoot Trail®

In advance of National Trails Day in 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis designated 10 local and state trails as national recreation trails, adding more than 150 miles to the National Trails System. Tanglefoot Trail® was included. Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails, preserves the abandoned 43.6-mile railroad corridor passing through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage. These rails were assembled in part for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad by Col. William Clark Falkner, beginning in 1871.  Replacing the rails with a trail, the Tanglefoot Trail® offers outdoor opportunities to families, groups and visitors of every age. The Tanglefoot Trail® towns include Houston, New Houlka, Algoma, Pontotoc, Ecru, Ingomar, and New Albany.

African American Military History Museum

Opened in 1942, in the segregated army of World War II, the USO Club served as a home away from home for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby and is the only remaining USO constructed especially for African American soldiers in public use in the United States. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Mississippi Landmark. Hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals, fill the restored main hall. Each item tells a story of pioneers such as Hattiesburg’s own Jesse L. Brown, America’s first black naval aviator, and lesser-known heroes such as Ruth Bailey Earl, also of Hattiesburg, whose image and actions represented the more than 500 black nurses who served during World War II. Docent-guided and self-guided tour, available Wednesday-Saturday, last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

The beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village is located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrum’s created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

Ship Island

Ship Island played an important role in the history and settlement of the Gulf Coast. In 1699, French explorers named Ship Island, which soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Here, many colonists took their first steps on American soil and Ship Island became known as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast. Once a single island, 1969’s Hurricane Camille split the land mass in two. Ship Island with its tranquil stretches of National Park beaches offers an affordable family vacation to explore, swim and relax for a fun-filled day.  Experience the pristine gulf waters, explore the beaches and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, all part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on Ship Island approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi and are accessible by Ship Island Excursions’ ferry boats, located in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. During the 50- minute ferry boat ride, watch for Bottlenose dolphins. Ship Island MS

 

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is an educational outlet with programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals and their environment.  The facility also houses an educational museum, a 200 seat auditorium for media presentations and lectures, classrooms, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, and more. Visitors of all ages engage in hands-on learning experiences to help them understand and appreciate the species that make Mississippi Gulf Coast waters unique. Explore the interactive museum, and encounter sea creatures such as stingrays, sharks, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins in the new Discovery Room touch pools. There is a fossil dig and a dock to meet dolphins face-to-face.

 

The Deason House

Built in 1845, the Deason home in Jones County, Mississippi stands as a Greek revival architectural gem from the antebellum era. As the oldest home in Ellisville, it was also the first painted home in the area and its detailed semi-octagonal vestibule is the only one of its kind known to exist in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“It’s one of the oldest structures completely made of longleaf pines in the world because longleaf is only indigenous to the Southeast United States,” said Frances Murphy, Regent of the Tallahala Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). “Studies have shown that the wood was likely cut in the 1830s and the [longleaf pines] are estimated to have been growing in the late 1300s.”

The first owners, Amos and Eleanor Deason, built the home as a farmhouse.

In 1890, Isaac Anderson, Jr. and wife Sarah Rebecca “Sallie” Pool purchased the home and lived there until 1939 when it went into the Anderson estate. In 1965, Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, a descendant of both Amos Deason and Isaac Anderson, Jr., bought the home and in 1991 presented it to the Tallahala Chapter.

“Actually a lot of the Chapter members are family or descendants of the Anderson family, so I guess you could say it’s still owned by the same family,” said Frances.

Oh, and by the way…it’s haunted.

“The claim to fame the home is most notoriously known for is that Major Amos McLemore, Confederate Army officer was shot and killed in the home during the Civil War by Newton Knight,” said Frances.

Newton Knight had deserted the Confederate Army because of the 20-slave law, which stated that a man owning 20 slaves or more didn’t have to fight. Knight, who had never owned a slave, felt the Civil War had become a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Jones County, being mostly wooded country, wasn’t a good place to raise cotton and therefore very few slaves lived there as compared to the rest of the state, Frances explained. Other soldiers with the same sentiments deserted the Confederacy along with Knight. Major Amos McLemore, who was from the area, headed up the troops sent to round up these deserters.

“Newton and his men could have stormed the house and killed everybody, but Newton specifically targeted McLemore,” said Frances. Everyone accepts that Newton Knight killed Amos McLemore even though there was no eye witness to the crime and Newton was never charged. “From this event, the house got the reputation of being haunted.”

Every year, the Saturday before Halloween, the Deason Home hosts a reenactment of the McLemore shooting, with the assistance of the Rosin Heel Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“They are dressed in Civil War Army uniforms and they sit around the campfire outside,” said Frances, adding that the ladies are dressed in the period costumes. When guests touring the home enter the bedroom where Major McLemore was shot, McLemore is waiting for them. “As he talks to the guests. the door flies open and Newton Knight rushes in. So guests get a little taste of what it was like when the shooting took place.”

The reenactment event, which has been going on for 20 years, is family friendly, said Frances, although it may be a little startling when the gun goes off.

“But nothing gory.”

Frances encourages parents to make the tour a family event because children experience what life was like during the war while learning about the oldest home in Jones County.

“It’s not your traditional Halloween spook house by any stretch of the imagination.”

The house will also be open Halloween night, but rather than a reenactment, the night will be a Ghost Tour with past residents of the house telling their stories.

After all, some stories never die…and some characters refuse to.

 

For information on special events, tours, cost, and space rental, visit the website: http://www.deasonhome.org/

photo courtesy of  The Deason House

GRAMMY MUSEUM® MISSISSIPPI

 Mac McAnally, The Williams Brothers, Sonny Landreth, And Muddy Magnolias To Perform March 5 at Bologna Performing Arts Center

CLEVELAND, MISS. (FEB. 27, 2016)  – Following the opening of GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi on Saturday, March 5, a benefit concert will be held that evening at Delta State University’s Bologna Performing Arts Center, headlined by eight-time CMA Musician of the Year recipient Mac McAnally and multiple GRAMMY® Award nominees The Williams Brothers. Also set to perform are Mississippi-born slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and friends, and rising female soul rock duo Muddy Magnolias. Titled “Back Where I Come From,” the concert will explore these artists’ Mississippi ties through a special evening of music and conversation.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to pay respect to the people who have brought us so much enjoyment through their music than to have them perform during this exciting weekend,” said Lucy Janoush, President of the Cleveland Music Foundation. “There will also be special guests in attendance who will be recognized for their lasting contributions to the music we all love.”

“As native Mississippians, we are truly honored to be a part of this grand opening,” said The Williams Brothers’ Doug Williams. “The heritage of gospel music has very deep roots here in Mississippi and many gospel greats came from this state. We would like to personally thank the GRAMMY Museum for recognizing the rich musical heritage of this state, and for opening only the second museum of this nature here on these grounds.

Doug Williams’ brother Melvin added, “There are artists that put a stamp on my heart and soul so deep ‘til this day, it still remains relevant after all these years, especially ones with Mississippi roots like Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, and my dad, Leon “Pop” Williams, and the legendary Jackson Southernaires. Me being a country boy born and raised in Mississippi singing gospel music from the cottons fields to being recognized as part of such an historic event as the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi grand opening is priceless. I feel like Mississippi has been honored with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Williams Brothers are part of the presenters.”

“Back Where I Come From” will take place on March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Bologna Performing Arts Center on the campus of Delta State University, 1003 West Sunflower Road, Cleveland, Miss.  Tickets range in price from $50-$100 and can be purchased by the general public beginning Wednesday, March 2, by calling Bologna Performing Arts Center at 662-846-4626. For a full schedule of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi grand opening events, visit www.grammymuseumms.org.

Malcolm White, Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, said,

“The artists who will perform and be recognized represent the very best of Mississippi, our story and the goodness of our diverse and curious history. Mississippi’s rightful real estate in the American musical landscape is firmly anchored in gospel and country as well blues, rock, jazz and pop music. Every night is Mississippi Night in the wide, wide world of American Music.”

Mac McAnnally –

Chart-topping recording artist, accomplished producer, hit songwriter and studio owner Mac McAnally marked another note in history with a record-breaking eight consecutive wins as the Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year in 2015.  McAnally was first honored with the Musician of the Year award in 2008, and has won every year since.  Beyond being one of the most respected guitar players and vocalists in Nashville, he has also been nominated for a CMA Award as an artist.

A.K.A. Nobody is McAnally’s latest solo album, sung, performed and produced by the much beloved session ace.  All but one of its songs were written by McAnally, either on his own or with illustrious co-writers including Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown, Sonny Landreth, Chris Stapleton, Al Anderson, and others.  Working with an all-star assembly of friends and studio colleagues, McAnally achieves a rare blend of deep soul and polished technique on each track.  The ironic tile notwithstanding, the music of A.K.A. Nobody speaks to everybody.

McAnally’s depth and breadth as an artist are no secret with the recording community.  McAnally grew up in Belmont, Mississippi and was raised on church choirs and formal lessons, playing pro gigs at 13, tutored on the mysteries of session excellence at the historic Muscle Shoals Studios and relocated to Nashville, he was an essential ingredient on studio dates with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis, George Jones, Billy Joel and many other headliners.  And with a track record that includes writing No. 1 hits on his own for Kenny Chesney (“Down the Road”) and Alabama (“Old Flame”) as well as penning chart-toppers for Sawyer Brown (“All These Years”) and Shenandoah (“Two Dozen Roses”), it’s no wonder that he has been voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Sonny Landreth –

Born in Canton, Mississippi, Sonny grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. The melding of those two places gave him the name “King of Slydeco” from his inimitable slide guitar technique together with southwest Louisiana influences of zydeco. He has enjoyed a prolific career for decades as a solo artist, celebrated sideman and session player. Over the years he performed and recorded with artists that include British blues innovator John Mayall and toured as a member of Jimmy Buffett’s band as well.

Landreth’s latest album Bound by the Blues was released in 2015. Vintage Guitar magazine said, “Landreth is arguably the finest living slide-guitar player on the planet.” The instrumental “Firebird Blues” from that album was created for his hero and fellow guitar ace Johnny Winter, who also grew up in Mississippi.

As Landreth said, “It’s always been about getting out on the road and playing these songs anyway. For me, it’s a continuum of that, with the songwriting process, going in to record and taking that out on the road. That’s still a familiar format for me, although a lot of the other moving parts have changed. As long as it’s soulful and I can get the message out there, I’m in.”

Muddy Magnolias –

the soulful duo of Kallie North and Jessy Wilson, are fresh on the music scene after meeting in Nashville just three years ago. Within six months of individually landing in Music City, North and Wilson met, became songwriting partners and bandmates. Before releasing a single, Muddy Magnolias had earned rave reviews from national press.  Rolling Stone praised, “a sound that melds city grit and Delta dirt, exploding onstage not like two lead singers but more like parts of the same whole…performed as if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards inhabited the Indigo Girls.”  They also landed a coveted spot in Elle magazine’s 2015 Women in Music issue. Now, with new music produced by Butch Walker (Weezer, Pink, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy) the pair are poised for their real breakthrough.

About GRAMMY Museum Mississippi

Built and operated by the Cleveland Music Foundation —

a non-profit organization developed in 2011 — the 28,000-square-foot GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be housed near the campus of Delta State University, home of the Delta Music Institute’s Entertainment Industry Studies program, which features the most unique audio recording facilities in the South. Similar to its sister Museum — the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE — GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music, and the cultural context from which it emerges, while casting a focused spotlight on the deep musical roots of Mississippi. The Museum will feature a dynamic combination of public events, educational programming, engaging multimedia presentations, and interactive permanent and traveling exhibits, including a Mississippi-centric display that will introduce visitors to the impact of Mississippi’s songwriters, producers and musicians on the traditional and modern music landscape. The Mississippi Museum’s debut special exhibit will be Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! Curated by the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE and Fab Four Exhibits, Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! provides fresh new insight into how and why The Beatles impacted America in the 1960s — and beyond.

For more information on about GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, visit www.grammymuseumms.org. For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @GRAMMYMuseumMS on Twitter and Instagram, and like “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi” on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi

Ocean Springs – The City of Discovery

 

Part 1

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

If you’ve ever been to this quaint little Gulf Coast town tucked along the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay then you know it has a lot to offer. Visitors come from far and wide, and many will either decide to stay and never return back home, relocate there, or decide to make it their retirement place.  Every town has its own personality, and this one lives and breathes a unique atmosphere, perhaps because of its nearness to New Orleans or its eccentric arts past.

A city that is increasingly growing in diversity, nestled within its space are lots of quirky boutiques, little shops, and great food places (more than 100!). A new favorite spot can be found around every corner. Ancient oak trees line many of the streets, stretching across the road and whispering tales of long ago. It’s a town with its own character, and a love for the arts. Numerous art festivals draw people from all over the US and Canada throughout the year, the most well-known being the Peter Anderson Festival.

Here is a baker’s dozen of popular favorites that you should not miss when you visit The City of Discovery:

  1. Tato-Nuts Donuts: The Mohler family has been making the world’s BEST donuts here since 1960. Donuts are made fresh every day, and you can also get a great cup of java (a.k.a coffee) and other pastries. These donuts are special because they’re made from potato flour- which kind of makes them healthier…at least that’s what I tell myself! Go early because there’s usually a line out the door! And if you go during the Mardi Gras season (Feb/March), be sure to try the King Cake donut. But the classic chocolate glazed is a popular favorite, especially because they make their chocolate glaze from scratch.

  2. Government Street Grocery: The best hamburger that you will seriously ever eat can be found at this restaurant. It’s not fancy, and it’s small but you can’t go wrong with any of the menu selections. Get the home-made fries and see if you can guess the secret ingredient. Be sure to look for their famous wall sign that reads, “Keep OS weird!” If you go in the evening, you can catch some great local bands (Texas Pete & Rooster Blues are just two examples). Local craft beers, like Blue Moon, are here, too.

  3. The new indie book shop, Southern Bound Book Shop: Finally, OS has an indie book shop! Bring on the 21st century! In its early stages before becoming a full-fledged butterfly, it’s currently tucked inside a cozy corner of the Adele & Grace Consignment Boutique…which is just mere footsteps from Gov’t Street Grocery. Events like Story Time for kids and a Book Club are encouraging folks to read more. They have a second location in Biloxi, and are great supporters of the local writers in the area. Many books written by local authors can be found here, as well as lots of new releases. Be sure to sign up for the rewards program to earn points for purchases toward future books. Go indies! Shop local!

  4. The Mary C. – officially the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts and Education: If you want to catch a small theatre production or music venue, this is the place. Their annual calendar is filled each year with great artists and all good things for art lovers. This place is a nerve center for local arts. There’s a revolving art gallery that always features thought-provoking artwork or photography that very much pertains to local history and all things Southern. If you go, be sure to visit the gift shop for local designs and artwork. Don’t miss the Ocean Springs History Museum upstairs; if you can catch the Curator, he will tell you some very interesting things about the history of this place and how it developed, as well as the people who played roles in its development. The Mary C. always has a great many things going on. Besides all of these things already mentioned, it offers a wide variety of art classes for all ages… everything from calligraphy, sewing, painting, sculpture, and stained glass to drawing, jewelry making to culinary arts. Once a month they also offer a Saturday market on their lawn; local arts and crafts vendors set up stands and sell their wares.

  5. Walter Anderson Museum of Art: Ah, Walter Anderson…the eccentric man for which this town is famously known. His artwork is famously unique with flowing lines, ink drawings, wood carvings, and jewel-like watercolors. Most of his art relates heavily to the local area and its forms found in nature, such as the sea and local birds or fish. He was known for his 14-mile rowboat trips to Horn Island where he would spend weeks painting and becoming one with the sea and its creatures. If you visit the museum, you will find a unique collection of pieces that will inspire you to enter a magical world of imagination. And best of all, there is a huge room at the museum, tucked in the corner and used for meetings or gatherings; in this room you will find every inch of space filled with nature scenes and whimsical creatures or designs. There is also a Little Room, as it is known. It was discovered at his cottage after his death, and is a giant mural inspired by Psalm 104. The Little Room has been added as an extension to the museum, and stepping inside of it womb is like stepping into a magical and whimsical world filled with dreamlike imagination.

  6. Lovelace Drugstore & Soda Fountain: Nostalgia owns this place. It was originally the medical practice of Dr. O.L. Bailey, but was burned in 1915. It was rebuilt as Ocean Springs Drugs in 1926, and became Lovelace Drugs in the 1950’s. Still dressed in its retro-ish 50’s décor, Lovelace Drugs will take you back to yesteryear. It’s a must on your list of sites to see. They even still have the original soda fountain counter with bar stools. They still sell a small selection of typical drugstore items, but grilled Reuben’s are their specialty, along with milkshakes and root beer floats. A visit here is especially nostalgic during Cruzin’ on the Coast, when vintage vehicles take over the town.

  7. THE BEACH! – No stop to O.S. would be sufficient without a jaunt to the beach. There are a couple of popular spots. If you have a boat, you may want to check out the marina. Front Beach is conveniently located across from Fort Maurepas, which has playing areas for the kids and picnic tables, grills, and restrooms for the whole family. If you have your walking shoes, you can walk along a nicely paved sidewalk along the shore, and can even walk all the way to the Biloxi Bay Bridge which connects O.S. and Biloxi via highway 90. But East Beach is a personal favorite because it’s much quieter, and also allows dogs. This is also the best spot to watch fireworks on the 4th of July. No matter which spot in the sand you choose, watch for shrimp boats heading toward deeper waters, crabs along the beach, and pelicans diving for fish. If you linger to watch the sunsets, you’ll see a glorious show of colors and may catch fish jumping in the water. Breathe in the salt air, wiggle your toes, and relax…then write your name in the sand and get in touch with your inner child!

  8. Shearwater Pottery: Every town must have an off-the-beaten path place to check out. The first time that I went here, I seriously thought that I was headed to the boonies and would surely get lost in the woods and trampled by wild beavers or would end up driving headfirst into the ocean. Just past the marina, there’s a tiny, narrow dirt road- if you blink then you’ll miss it. There is a sign, but it blends in with the camouflage of the green bushes and clay road. Once you find this road, which is very narrow and curvy I might add, you pass several artist cabins before reaching a final cabin. You’ll know this is the place because of all the cars parked outside. Only in the South do we have driving directions like this! On any account, once inside you’ll be transported into another world…the world of marvelous pottery. Originally founded by Peter Anderson (brother of Walter) in 1928, it is still family-owned today. Needless to say, this is considered local hallowed ground. All three Anderson brothers- Peter, Walter, and James- are its most well-known pottery designers. Today they have a variety of potters who design and sell ceramics, decorative and utilitarian pieces as well as figurines. Truly unique in design and reasonably-priced, their pottery is magnificent. If you are into pottery and collections, this is one place you can’t miss. (Even if you’re not, just go!)

  9. French Kiss Pastries: Welcome to Paris! That’s exactly how you will feel upon entering this special little place. Take some time to ooh and aah over the beautiful and delectably inviting pastries, cakes, cookies and pies while you try to decide what to get. Personally, I always love their blueberry scones. The berries are so fresh that they explode in your mouth, bursting with flavor. But there’s also cute little gourmet cakes- get one and you can proudly claim that you ate a whole entire cake!

  10. Greenhouse on Porter: You will love this great little coffee shop that walks to the beat of its own drum. Jess & Katie, the owners, make the best gourmet biscuits this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Housed in an actual former greenhouse, colorful artwork adorns the front entrance area, and the table seating area greets patrons with a small organic garden. There’s a special spot for parking your bicycle, and you’ll get treated like an old friend from the moment you step foot inside. They also host Opp Shop events for local artists, movie nights, musical afternoons, yoga, and writer’s table events. This is really a place that has quickly become embedded into the local community, and its positive vibe will infect you. Mondays are usually Free Coffee days, and be sure to visit the Little Free Library…it’s co-sponsored by Southern Bound Book Shop!

  11. Quakes Ice Creamery: From the outside, you would never know what a treasure can be found within the walls of this place! If you are a true adventurer, then you will take a chance and soon discover. Once inside, you can sit down and eat a great hamburger or hot dog and grab a homemade malt, ice cream or sundae specialty. The food is great, and the ice cream is the best and creamiest in town- and features daily flavor specials. But the best part of all is that you can write your name on the wall! Grab a sharpie, and find a spot if you can, and leave your mark. Folks have been doing this for years. Literally every inch is almost filled- walls, ceilings, tabletops, chairs and benches…even most of the bathroom spaces!

  12. Historic L & N Train Depot, and Fresh Market Saturdays: During the bustling train days of long ago, this station ran a line from Mobile to New Orleans, and it made stops in Ocean Springs. It was built in 1870, and has been lovingly renovated. Today it houses the Chamber of Commerce and a Visitor’s Center, as well as a small gift shop that features local artwork- particularly that of Walter Anderson. This is a great place to stop and get brochures and loot to plan your itinerary. On most Saturdays, depending on the season, you can check out the Fresh Market from 9am-noon. Local farmers bring their fresh crops, and you can also get local honey, fresh organic milk and eggs, cheese, beef jerky, handmade soaps, hand-spun yarn and a menagerie of other items.

  13. Belgicans Fries: Last but not least, this is really the BEST place to get fries. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or supper! The name is a blending of play on words, Belgium and America…it’s the Belgian and American way of eating fries. They have a second location a stone’s throw away in D’Iberville. Fresh-peeled potatoes are fried twice to a crispy golden and crunchy texture. When you order, you get to decide topping choices. The menu is diversely unique, and they really do make a meal.

As you can see from this list, Ocean Springs has a lot to offer visitors.

This list is just a short example. In a town with over 100 restaurants and loads of other great places, you will have no trouble finding great spots to shop, eat, or play. Plan your visit today!

The City of Discovery, Part I by Kristina Mullenix

 

East Mississippi Railroads – Part 2

Legend has it that rivalries between John Ball and Lewis A. Ragsdale rooted and grew,

both men wanting to build their town, in their way, on their land in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. M. S. Nussbaum’s railroad history, Complete Guide to the Railroads of Meridian, Mississippi, Past and Present, reveals that on the old McLemore land, Ragsdale and Ball each laid out their own town lots, one aligning his streets parallel to the railroad while the other used true compass headings, resulting in the anomalous street arrangements that exist in Meridian today.

As the village developed, so did the need for a town name.

This only served to heighten the rivalry. In 1854, when Ball acquired a post office he named it Meridian. Ragsdale, however, was intent on naming the village Ragsdale City. So, various signs popped up around the village that read Sowashee, Meridian, and Ragsdale City. As one name came up, the previous name came down. Whatever the name that day or night depended on what rival party had put the last sign up and the people either accepted or ignored the ongoing “name” duel between their neighbors.

A land grant had been granted in 1853 to the North East & South West Alabama Road (NE&SW),

which would connect Meridian to Chattanooga, Tennessee, but possession of the land wouldn’t happen until 1860. In 1855, The Mobile & Ohio (M & O) Railroad, which began in Mobile, Alabama, became the first rail line to chug into Lauderdale County, heading northward to the upper Midwest industrial centers. The primary beneficiary of the railroad would not be the Town of Marion as predicted by Con Rea, but the McLemore Old Field.

John T. Ball built a crude plank station, which The M & O named the “Sowashee Station.”

Sowashee was Choctaw for “mad river.” Even though the M & O agreed to full depot privileges, for two years, Sowashee ran as a flag station, its full expense falling on Ball.  By October 3, 1855, trains rolled in and out of Sowashee Station. According to legend, this spurred even further the long-time disputes between Lewis Ragsdale and John T. Ball.

Passenger_engine_mdn_new_orl (2) (1280x694)

 

When the Southern Railroad headed east in 1859, plans were to cross the M & O line at Enterprise,

a thriving community in Clarke County just south of Sowashee Station. But fearing commercialism and riffraff that often accompanied the rails, the people of Enterprise rejected the connection. Ragsdale and Ball, though still competitive, realized the opportunity and joined efforts to bring Southern Railroad through their village, promising land and assistance in whatever capacity the railroad needed. Once the deal was made, Ball and Ragsdale extensively publicized and promoted the coming of the Southern Railroad, at last striving toward a common goal that benefited both rivals.

On February 10, 1860, the Mississippi Legislature approved the charter for Meridian, Mississippi.

But with the beginning of the War Between the States, the new rail was finished by the Confederate government in May 1861, just in time for war. According to Nussbaum’s Guide to the Railroads of Meridian, Mississippi, the line between Vicksburg and Meridian was in operation, and on May 29, its first train pulled by the Mazzeppa arrived at 6:45 p.m. entered the small village carrying precious cargo: the Vicksburg Southerners, a Confederate Army volunteer  company. On June 3, the first train departed for Vicksburg at 8:45 a.m. William C. Smedes, President of Southern Railroad Company and known as the Father of Southern Railroad, at John Ball’s suggestion, recommended to the M & O Railroad that the station name be changed to Meridian.

Read Part 1
Read Part 3

 

East Mississippi Railroads (Part 1)

By the mid-nineteenth century, the locomotive, known as the “iron horse,” had become a national obsession and a massive machine of stamina, speed, noise, fire, iron, and smoke. Finally, travel conquered the obstacles of forests, water, hills and valleys.

Stories about railroad projects, railroad accidents, railroad profits and momentum saturated the press and became the subject of speeches, articles, stories, and songs.  The railroad engine, a symbol of human energy and strength in the time of the horse and carriage, became godlike and in the distance resembled a long monstrous snake-like machine chugging down its track, puffing white smoke, like Native American ceremonial signals above a wilderness landscape.

Edward McGehee, a planter from Woodville, Mississippi , had a dream of a railway system extending the twenty-seven-miles stretch of railroad from Woodville to St. Francisville on the Mississippi River below the Louisiana line.  In 1830, a company was organized; on December 20, 1831 a charter was obtained, and the West Feliciana became the first railroad in the United States to cross a state line as well as the first to use the standard gauge of four feet, eight and on-half inches.

After staking his claim to seven-hundred acres in 1834, Virginian Richard McLemore, “The Father of Meridian,” built his log house close to current downtown Meridian.  His nearest neighbor being about eight-miles away, he recruited his neighbors-to-be from back east, offering them land and the promise of a future.  McLemore played a great part in establishing Baptist churches in Lauderdale County, including Oakey Valley Baptist, predecessor of First Baptist Church. Possibly the greatest part McLemore played in Lauderdale County’s future, though not intentionally, was in the future of the railroad.

Between 1911 and 1920, the Southern Railroad increased its ton miles--a measure used to calculate freight transport--by over ninety percent. Incorporated in 1911, the M&M (Meridian and Memphis) Railroad became known as Mud & Misery.

Between 1911 and 1920, the Southern Railroad increased its ton miles–a measure used to calculate freight transport–by over ninety percent. Incorporated in 1911, the M&M (Meridian and Memphis) Railroad became known as Mud & Misery.

The Southern Railroad Company, chartered in Mississippi on February 23, 1846, had plans to build a railroad running eastward from Brandon through Meridian to the Mississippi-Alabama state line. However, before any construction began, the charter lapsed. Reincorporated as a Mississippi corporation on March 9, 1850, the Southern Railroad Company in July, 1852, acquired the Jackson and Brandon Railroad and Bridge Company’s line between Jackson and Brandon, including engines, cars, depots, lands, and slaves. The line would one day make its way toward Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

Before arrival of the Southern Railroad, the 1850’s witnessed the “Iron Horse” pushing its way through Lauderdale County, Attorney Con Rea of Marion predicted the primary beneficiary of the railroad would his town of Marion.  In anticipation of the coming M & O Railroad, according to author James Dawson of Paths to the Past, Meridian Founder, Richard McLemore, before moving his family to the Marion area, sold the remainder of his land to Alabama Lawyer, Lewis A. Ragsdale and Kemper County Merchant John T. Ball. On this land purchased from McLemore, Ragsdale started a tavern in McLemore’s first home while John Ball established the first store in the village not yet named.  These two guys would prove Con Rea wrong!

Richelle Putnam

Read Part 2

 

“Once Upon a Time”

R.W.B. Lewis, a major literary critic of [the 20th] century, once gave this evaluation of Southern literature: “It is impossible to name another region in this country with so massive and virtually unbroken a display of literary genius.” (source: Living By Words; Why Are There So Many Great Southern Writers by David Todd)

Rocking chairs and front porches. Sweet tea and cornbread. Old men playing checkers and whittling wood. Women cooking in the heat of the kitchen and chit-chatting. Some things just go together. Stories and the South go hand in hand.

William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Fannie Flagg, Alice Walker, Harper Lee, John Grisham, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Hurston …the list could go on and on.

The American South is a place of storytelling-that is for sure.

Today’s authors and writers stand on the shoulders of the great writers of yesterday. I have often found it ironic to realize that the American South, particularly the Deep South, is a place filled with people who write. They gather in coffee shops, join local writing groups, and attend a menagerie of Book Festivals and symposiums to learn all about how to write. Their books are filled with ideas, both staunchly conservative and openly reflecting on the dark days of the South and examining Southern culture with new eyes. In this sense, it is a place of straddling fences. How can it be such a place…one where countless people have a desire to create with words and art, yet also stubbornly cling to the past and refuse to join the 21st Century?

We need only consider the history of the Deep South to see that storytelling has always been a part of the culture. The American South is a place that once belonged to many Native American cultures, most notably the Cherokee and Choctaw, who have a strong tradition of oral history and storytelling. It’s also a place to where many immigrants and pioneers journeyed in the early days of the founding of Alabama and Mississippi. Long story short- no pun intended- throughout the history of the South, we have always gathered on the front porch or around the kitchen table to tell tall tales, gossiped about everybody’s business, or soaked up Paw Paw’s stories of his childhood and the good ol’ days (Paw Paw=Grandpa for those unaware). It’s just who we are, and what we have always done- in both word and song. And so the tradition continues.

One MS Gulf Coast author, Fran McNabb, explains it like this:

“The South is more than a regional destination; it’s a state of mind, a feeling, an emotional attachment, and a connection to the past and family…The slow rhythmic cycle of seasons gives a person the time to appreciate the little things in life….Living the slower paced life gives [us] time to allow ideas to develop.”

Perhaps it is also this very emotional attachment which is the reason why we Southerners stubbornly hold onto old ideas, yet are also straddling that fence of old vs. new? On any account, that will have to be a different story on another day, as it is one that is long and complicated.

Today the Gulf Coast is dotted with indie book shops and local writing groups.

The Gulf Coast Writers Association of Mississippi (GCWA) is one such group. Founded in 1986, their purpose is to “encourage and inspire local writers…[whether they] dream of writing their very first story or poem…[or if they are] experienced published authors.” They host monthly general meetings with speakers on a variety of topics related to the art of the written word, an annual “Let’s Write” Literary contest, and publish a quarterly magazine. Philip Levin, a local author and the President of the GCWA, says that they have 176 members, half of which actually live on the MS Coast and 80% of which live within the state. The other folks live as far away as Pennsylvania, Delaware or Colorado but have roots in Mississippi. It seems that the rule applies: ‘once a Southerner, always a Southerner’- those roots stretch deep.

However, another local author named Connie Rainey (who writes as G.G. Houston) adds this:

“You don’t have to be born in the South to understand how to be a Southerner. All one needs to know is that the South is a quilt of heritage and time. It is snug with remembrances, and stitched together by the diversity of its people. I live in this wonderful place because I ‘feel’ the past in its plantation homes and know its future in its modern steel structures. Art and stories blend together to make the South a home for anyone with a story to tell.”

Regarding writing, Philip Levin states,

“Mississippi has a long, proud heritage of inspiring authors. The fetching vistas of our Gulf Coast, with her gentle breezes and proud history, provide inspiration for heartfelt stories. Our generous and friendly citizens offer lovable and quirky characters to populate those tales. Here on the Mississippi Coast, we have a tradition of neighborly visits, relaxing on the front porch sharing a pitcher of sweet tea under the fragrant magnolias. This is why so many Coastians become writers – it’s just a matter of writing down those stories.”

Almost every town and community has a local writing group: Mobile and Fairhope are two that are nearby the Gulf Coast area with large and vibrant writing groups. Oxford, MS, although in the northern part of the state yet home to William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, holds its own in the world of Southern literature, and is another area that has a large following, mostly in part because of its rootedness with the University of MS. Square Books, famous in that neck of the woods, has a long history of supporting and featuring local and up-and-coming authors, as well as Thacker Mountain Radio which also shines a spotlight on local stars of literature. Along the MS Gulf Coast, Southern Bound Book Shop, a younger indie book shop that has two locations in Biloxi and Ocean Springs, also features local writers on its shelves and at Book Signing events. The MS Writers Guild is still relatively new, as it was only established in 2005. But they have local chapters in Hattiesburg Jackson, Newton, Natchez, Tunica, and Yazoo. Columbus (MS), known as the birthplace of Elvis, isn’t far behind with their Writers and Storytellers Guild.

Despite the long tradition of writing and storytelling, it was only this past summer that the very first Mississippi Book Festival was held. Hopefully, this event will grow each year, and shine a bright light upon the many talented writers in our area. My favorite aspect of editing is working with local authors; most are unknown yet extremely gifted with words. Publishing a book isn’t easy these days, but I’m not sure if it ever really was a simple feat. If you think about it, William Faulkner, John Grisham and Fannie Flagg all got their start somewhere. Stop by your local indie book shop today and peruse the Local Author section. You may discover a hidden treasure tucked between the pages of a book. Or perhaps you have a story to write?

  • - Book Signing event for writers who contributed to the "Katrina Memories" book. (photo credit- GCWA)

(Click on Name to go to site)

For More Info: Gulf Coast Writers Association (MS)

Featured Local Authors from this story: Fran McNabb

Connie Rainey (G.G. Houston)

Philip Levin, President Gulf Coast Writers Association (MS)

By Kristina Mullenix Juniper Creek Editing & Literary Services

Roger Stolle: Keeping Delta Blues Alive

Roger Stolle must never sleep!

His Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art store has been labelled “one of the 17 coolest record stores in America” (Paste magazine) and is included in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” (Workman Press). His music/video productions include Moonshine & Mojo Hands web TV show, We Juke Up In Here DVD/CD, M for Mississippi DVD/CD, Hard Times DVD, Live at Seventy Five CD, Round Two CD, Club Caravan CD, Jack Daniel Time CD, etc. He is production assistant for various Broke & Hungry Records projects, an artist liaison for Blues Divas concert film and he has also been quoted in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, The Economist, and more. His music industry credentials include:

  • Keeping The Blues Alive Award recipient (Blues Foundation)
  • Blues Music Award recipient and 7-time nominee (Blues Foundation)
  • Founder/owner Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, Inc., Cat Head Presents recording label and the founder of Cat Head Mini Blues Fest
  • Co-owner Three Forks Music, LLC and co-founder of Juke Joint Festival, Clarksdale, MS, Clarksdale Film Festival, Clarksdale, MS, Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest, and Delta Busking Festival, Clarksdale, MS • Board member Clarksdale Downtown Development Assoc., WROX Museum, Clarksdale, MS, Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc., GrowDelta Advisory Board
  • Partner in Three Forks Music, LLC.
  • Member Blues Foundation and Clarksdale Chamber of Commerce

  • Photo by Dusty Scott

Tell us briefly, if you can, your journey with Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art?

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and stumbled into advertising after college. I was recruited for a management position in St. Louis in February 1995 and, as a long-time blues music fan, started visiting Mississippi in search of the real deal. My first juke joint experience was around 1996 when I spent a night at Junior Kimbrough’s place in Chulahoma, Mississippi. He played. RL Burnside played. Their kids and grandkids played. It was an all local crowd. The walls were covered with folk art, and moonshine was passed around. It was like walking into a history book — kind of an “Alan Lomax” moment. After that, I knew that blues was more than just a musical genre. It was the voice of a culture. Through my seven or so years of visiting Mississippi from St. Louis, I slowly zeroed in on Clarksdale as the center of it all — both past and present. The buildings, museums and history were all here. The problem was that the downtown business district was in the throes of death, and the live blues was only maybe two nights a week then. So, I decided to get involved. After a 13-year marketing career, I quit my awesome Corporate America gig and moved to Clarksdale to “organize and promote the blues from within”. I started by opening Cat Head — “Mississippi’s blues store — before going on to start new blues festivals, produce blues CDs, direct blues films, write a blues book, do blues radio work and so on. I try to pull the real-deal, culturally-connected blues scene together just enough to promote it to the worlds by all means necessary. Folks can read more about my journey and mission at www.cathead.biz.

What has been your greatest achievement as a advocate for the arts?

I suppose my blues career — if that is even a phrase– highlights include co-founding Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival and co-producing the film M for Mississippi. Those are the things most people know me for, outside of my Cat Head store itself. But, honestly, I think my biggest achievement is working with our local blues musicians and venues to finally bring live blues to Clarksdale seven nights a week. Twelve years ago when I opened my doors, we had what I used to call the “two-hour visitor to Clarksdale” most days of the week. They would visit the Delta Blues Museum, eat lunch at the then-new Ground Zero Blues Club, maybe shop Cat Head and then hit the road for Memphis or New Orleans. I realized early on that it was the town with the nighttime music that got the overnight visitor. Today, Clarksdale has live blues seven nights a week, around 8 festivals a year and two-full time blues museums. The downtown has new stores, galleries, restaurants and overnight accommodations. Collectively, we’ve really made an amazing turnaround.

What is your greatest challenge?

Ha! Well, frankly… the biggest challenge with any blues-related endeavor is making a living. Tourism is an up and down business. It waxes and wanes with the season and the economy. And, of course, blues has never been the easiest way to make your first million. Still, I’ve been doing this for over a decade now, and I’m here to stay. I love it.

What about the Mississippi Blues moves you?

That’s a great question. I’m a white guy who grew up in the suburbs of Ohio. Why on earth does Mississippi blues appeal to me and move me in the way it does? I don’t know. I guess you could ask Elvis or Eric Clapton or Jack White the same question. I certainly didn’t grow up within the cultural context of blues. I think it has something to do with the honesty and truth in blues music. Blues is much more about feeling than technique or structure. I think all of us can relate to the feeling contained within the music. Maybe some of us just get a little more into than others.

In your book Hidden History of the Mississippi Blues, is there one story that stands out?

It’s hard to pick just one story, but I guess one that sent shivers down my spine was the story of Mark “Mule Man” Massey’s time at the infamous Parchman Farm. Here’s a guy who went to prison as a bit of a troublemaker and came out a bluesman. Parchman gave him the blues, for sure, but he literally learned to play the music while behind bars.

How important are music and other art forms in our schools?

You know, for a while, the State of Mississippi was running an ad campaign that said something like, “Yes. We can read in Mississippi. A few of us can even write.” The photos showed famous Mississippi authors like William Faulkner, John Grisham, Tennessee Williams and Richard Wright. The musical version of the campaign pictured everyone from Elvis to Muddy Waters. If we want to continue to turn out so many of the world’s great authors, musicians and artists, then it is important that we prioritize arts programs in our schools. We also need to support after-school programs such as the Arts & Education Program at Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum. Education and exposure — to me, those are the two words to talk about. Kids today can Google everything. They can listen to any kind of music they want at the touch of a button, but if no one guides them to America’s blues music foundation, then they’re likely to just listen to whatever the Corporate suits want them to hear. How can we make something new if we don’t know where we came from?

What’s next for you?

Our newest project is a blues web series called Moonshine & Mojo Hands. It will stream on-line for free starting next year at www.moonshineandmojohands.com. It builds upon our past “blues road-trip” films M for Mississippi and We Juke Up in Here. Essentially, we bring viewers on the road with us to visit blues musicians, culture and history around the Magnolia State.

“I love what the folks at Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center (MAEC) are doing. MAEC is doing what all of us should be doing in our big or small ways — promoting the who, what, when and where of Mississippi’s arts and entertainment worlds. I look forward the Center’s big opening in 2017.”  Visit MAEC HERE

PHOTOS/CREDITS:

passport photo by Chuck Lamb

closeup of face by Lou Bopp

Roger Stolle w/bluesman Lucious Spiller (B&W) by Jerry Manning

Roger Stolle w/Josh “Razorblade” Stewart and “Moonshine & Mojo Hands” co-producer Jeff Konkel by Lou Bopp

Roger Stolle w/beer and RL Boyce by Lou Bopp

Roger/store photo art by Chuck Lamb

Roger w/T-Model Ford at Red’s Lounge by me (selfie Instagram)

Roger w/”M for Mississippi” projected on me (pre-film premiere) by Brian Cahn

Roger at messy desk at Cat Head by Hugues Marly.

Roger receiving Blues Music Award by Dusty Scott.

photo of just store front by Chuck Lamb.

Slow Waltz with Southern Oak

While Kentucky is traditionally considered the master of bourbon,

when old timers began distilling it, the Bluegrass State was a county in Virginia. So it’s no surprise that just outside Fredericksburg, Virginia, a small distillery practices the time-honored art and science of making fine bourbon. Each barrel aged at A. Smith Bowman responds to the seasons, while the spirit inside acquires tenor and taste in a slow waltz with charred oak.

Bowman’s small batch bourbons are currently distributed in 19 states and London, England, yet are still bottled by hand and they never combine more than eight barrels. For comparison, Maker’s Mark, another award-winning bourbon, combines about 19 barrels for each batch. A. Smith Bowman enjoys a growing reputation. “We’re attracting visitors to Fredericksburg from as far away as Maine and Florida and we get international visitors,” says tour guide Mary Ahrens.

In 2013, both John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon and Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon were awarded gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a blind tasting by industry experts of more than 1400 entrants.

George Final 2American Spirit

The history of the Bowman family is uniquely American. After serving in the Revolutionary War, Abraham Bowman and his four brothers settled in Kentucky. Abram Smith Bowman was born there in the late 1800s and moved to Indianapolis as an adult, finding fortune with a transportation company. When the city bought him out in 1927, he purchased a farm in Northern Virginia called Sunset Hills. He used leftover grain to distill spirits. After Prohibition was repealed, he built a modern distillery in Fairfax and named it after his farm. In 1988, the distillery moved to its current location in a former manufacturing plant just off route 2 across from the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. It’s a small operation with a handful of employees. Although they sold their share in 2003 to Sazerac of Metairie, Louisiana, the family that gave this distillery its name serves as a reminder of a tradition generations in the making.

They distill twice a year, in the fall and the spring.

“That’s how the old timers had to do it,” Ahrens explains. “They had to cool their still before there was refrigeration so they had to do it when the streams were running. They could count on it.”

While continuing to make the spirits that built its reputation, Bowman looks to innovate. Master Distiller Brian Prewitt worked with Vendome Copper and Brass Works, in Louisville, Kentucky, to design a custom-made still. This month, a 24 foot tall, 500 gallon hybrid pot made to Prewitt’s specifications was assembled at the distillery. Its features will allow Bowman to experiment with flavor profiles and to take over the entire process of distilling vodka and gin, which until now have been distilled off site and bottled in Fredericksburg. Named “George” for the father of the Bowman brothers, it will make its inaugural run in March. George sits alongside “Mary,” the longtime still named for the Bowman matriarch. “We want to have the capability to try anything and everything, and with George, we should be able to do just that,” Prewitt said in a press release. “We’re excited to do some experimenting, try new things and continue to make great spirits here at A. Smith Bowman Distillery.”

Honorable Tradition

Federal law requires that bourbon be made of at least 51 percent corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, with no additives other than water and yeast. A. Smith Bowman’s recipe includes malted barley and rye. After several days of fermentation, the solids and the liquids are separated and the solids are fed to cattle.

The liquid mixture is then pumped into the still. After distillation, only the “center cut” – what the distiller determines is the highest quality – is used. Each barrel is filled with 53 gallons and hammered shut with a wooden mallet.

For a whiskey to be called “bourbon,” it has to be aged in new charred oak barrels. “We want an oak that’s going to be pliable enough to make into a barrel and porous enough that it’s going to interact with the whiskey,” Ahrens says.

Bowman gets their barrels from Independent Stave Company in Lebanon, Kentucky, a company that has supplied makers of bourbon and wine with hand-crafted barrels since 1912. ISC company sends buyers into Arkansas to select white oak from the Ozark Mountains. The wood is milled into staves which are then dried for 18 to 24 months in open air. After that, the cooper constructs the barrel using techniques first developed in feudal England. Finally, the interior is “toasted” with a 1300 degree propane flame to give them four degrees of char.

The spirit goes in crystal clear.

During aging, the oak relaxes in summer months and contracts in winter. This interaction with the wood develops the spirit’s color and taste. John J. Bowman single barrel bourbon is aged 10 years; Bowman Brothers is aged seven years.

Durindistilleryg aging, some of the alcohol seeps out of the barrel bringing wood deposits with it. This “barrel candy” seals the barrel. While each barrel is different, up to 65 percent is lost in the aging process to evaporation, what is known as “the angel’s share.”

There are more than 5000 barrels currently aging on the property. Finally, after being brought from the aging room, makers extract the bung and empty the barrel into a tank for filtration. Every four to six months, they release bourbon limited editions named after the patriarch Abraha

Bowman’s oaky, concentrated flavors are earning a growing reputation that may force the company to revise their bottling process. They still bottle one at a time.

Cinderpoo by Cesca Janece Waterfield

Cesca Janece Waterfield is a writer originally from the Northern Neck of Virginia. She is fascinated by the history of the rural south and is currently earning her MFA in Creative Writing in southwest Louisiana. Contact her via http://cescawaterfield.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Delta Blues

THE DELTA

(Black, White and Blues)

SAM_1776

 

Flatlands stretch endlessly

Toward the horizon

As far as the eye can see;

Rich, black soil

Yields endless rows

Of blinding white wonder

On fertile ground

That gives birth to the blues.

2012 Patricia Neely-Dorsey

My Magnolia Memories and Musings-In Poems

 

THEM BLUES

SAM_1751

Somebody’s always singing

Them Monday Morning blues songs

Them sho’ nuff done me wrong songs

Them stayed out all night long songs

Them moaning, groaning love songs

Them bear your heart and soul songs

Them feel it in your bones songs

Them make you weak and strong songs

Them letting go and holding on songs

Them totally yours and mine songs

Them everybody knows songs…

We ALL love them blues…songs

2012 Patricia Neely-Dorsey

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