Clarksdale, the best place in the universe.

Clarksdale, Mississippi is at the top of the Mississippi Delta area, and home to lots of blues legends.  We happened upon Clarksdale with little planning, and it was by far one of the best places to visit.  We didn’t know much about blues, or about northern Mississippi culture, but after staying there two nights, I can confidently say it is the best place in the world.

We found The Shack Up Inn which is a magnificent inn with shacks on an old cotton gin.  A cotton gin, for those not in the know, stands for cotton engine, which mechanized the cotton business.  The inn is a series of shacks that cotton workers stayed in, and an inn that was made right in the middle of the old gin building.  The grounds were strewn with antique stuff and it had a bar and stage in the middle.  It was completely laid back and amazing.  The whole area is surrounded by cotton, which is still a huge industry.

Our first stop, after sitting on the back porch in rockers, cold beers and 100 degree heat in the shade, was Abe’s BBQ, where I had some of the most amazing tamales ever.  Apparently this area is famous for tamales and there are tons of shacks everywhere with tamales.  Also, pretty much every tiny town or community has BBQ smokers set up going full steam.  They are everywhere.  It smells spectacular down here.  After Abes, on a local tip, we went to Reds Juke Joint for some delta blues.  A juke, which is where the word Jukebox comes from, are these little, old shack-type places that play music for the local crowd.  They use to be everywhere ages ago, but now there aren’t too many.  And we went to one, and it was spectacular.

Music starts at 9, and there were a few locals there and us. A few more non-local blues lovers came in and then, by the end of the night (or when we left) the place was packed.  One of the singers even got out of jail the day before!  Bonus!  They only serve three beers in 18 ounce bottles, no frills, and just plain awesome.  We had a fabulous time there.  The All Night Long Blues Band, with Mary Ann “Action” Jackson (who was the one just released from jail…) was brilliant, they brought tons of locals up to play, and someone from Austin, TX was there and humbled to play in the juke joint.  It was pretty nuts.

The next morning, as it was too hot to be outside, we drove around the small town areas and tried to get near the Mississippi (not too easy because of all the levees).  That night, we went to Ramons for some fried catfish and fried ravioli (don’t inquire about how much weight we’ve put on this trip) and it was soooo good.  We got fried shrimp as well, a specialty.  Amazing.  Apparently Morgan Freeman owns a blues club in town, Ground Zero.  It was a nice place, but it was not as cool as Red’s.  It is more for tourists in the Delta area, so we didn’t stay too long.

At our Inn, they had an amazing bar and music joint a few buildings down called The Hopson Commissary.  We checked that out, and back at our hotel got some amazing recommendations from locals.

Clarksdale was such an amazing place, really full of history, but the town isn’t over the top or touristy.  Real people live there.  It’s not a fancy town by any means, and that’s what I liked about it.  Even if Morgan Freeman wants to make the town fancy. I loved it very much.  Husband and I are now huge blues fans.

The next morning, was Sunday.  Apparently in Mississippi, nothing opens on Sunday.  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  Thank goodness we had leftovers from the night before, because eating was going to be impossible.

On our local friend’s advice, we checked out Greenwood, MS.  This is where Viking Range is headquartered and has fancied up the downtown.  We wanted to go to the most amazing restaurant, Lusco’s, but, again, Sunday = closed.  SAD FACE.  The downtown had an amazing book store and some fancyish stores, but it was absolutely a ghost town on Sunday!  We also went to Oxford,MS, which is where Ole Miss is.  It is a really lovely campus and a gorgeous little town.  Pretty ritzy for Mississippi, without the music places downtown, but some good restaurants.  All of which, were closed.

Our destination for the day was Indianola, MS, where there was an amazing club and restaurant, not to mention the B.B. King museum.  Indianola is where B.B. King is from, and the club we wanted to go to (Club Ebony) was bought by him in 2008, and apparently one of the best places to hear music (also from our local friend’s recommendation).  The first issue was that there was nowhere in all of Indianola to stay that was pet friendly.  The second problem was that apparently, even though the club was going to be open, there wasn’t really anyone playing.  The town was neat, and I wish it worked out, but we decided to move on.  The dog can’t go outside for more than 20 minutes in the heat, and we needed a plan, and air conditioning.

We decided to go right to Vicksburg, which is a pretty famous place to be on the 4th of July.  It was a turning point in the civil war, and the surrender at Vicksburg happened on the 4th, which was something of a sore spot here for a while.

We found a completely hilarious “inn” in Vicksburg, found the one restaurant that was open in town, and then, after dinner, WENT ON THE MISSISSIPPI FOR RIVERBOAT GAMBLING!  Well, we went on the lame riverboat that wouldn’t let you outside to look at the river, and the place was filled with sad-looking people.  I gambled a dollar on the slots!  It was so fun.  We were there for all of ten minutes.  The heat is thick down here, so I’m looking forward to heading into Cajun country tomorrow for some Creole and crawfish!


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