Black History Culture : Juke Joints Another Dying Tradition

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by MississippiRed, Mar 31, 2006.

  1. MississippiRed

    MississippiRed Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I see so many things I came to know and love as Mississippi Tradition dying off and just want to bring a bit of what I know to what yall know...
    Here's one of my favorite places to be on a Friday and Saturday night....the Juke pronounced (Jook sounds like took ) ......yes suh...

    The juke joints are dying.

    “We used to have big crowds, every Friday night especially, and check nights,” said James Alford, manager of Smitty’s Red Top Lounge in Clarksdale, Miss. “But [now] it’s not like that… The casinos have affected this place terribly.” Casinos, home to the gambling that Mississippi legalized six years ago, are also home to free music, free drinks and free food. To a juke joint business already fighting a slow death from more modern entertainment competition, the casinos are accelerating their demise. Perry Payton runs the Flowing Fountain Lounge in Greenville, Miss.: “Right now…I play a band here, I have to charge at least $15. Tyrone [Davis] played [at the casino] and it was free. I think Little Milton was $5. Lynn White was free.” Payton says his business has fallen off 65 percent to 70 percent since the arrival of riverboat gambling.

    “As long as you play the machines and give away liquor, you can’t compete with that, you know.” Even the traditional juke-joint back room gambling has taken a back seat to glitzy corporate casinos. They’ve “stopped that business. Done stopped that,” says Chester Johnson of Dublin, Miss. “They don’t look for no crap games and card games now… Everybody be going [to the casinos] now.
    “Yeah, that casino got everything they near about wanted. They got them games and whiskey too up there, you know, them drinks… They got the crowd now.” For most of this century, the Delta had as many country jukes and blues joints as it did churches. Casey George, a former professional gambler from Dublin, Miss., remembers a time when “just about every house you pass near abouts, everybody [having a party].”

    The rural weekend establishments were usually run by a local bootlegger or by someone selling his product. They provided musical entertainment in homes or in abandoned sharecropper houses as a means of selling food and corn liquor for profit. Juke joints also contributed to the formation of one of this country’s most enduring and important cultural legacies: the blues. If the Mississippi Delta was the cultural crucible that birthed the blues, then the juke joint was the kiln where the musical fires burned brightest. For black Delta sharecroppers, isolated by a lack of transportation, they were a social outlet and a “pressure valve” to vent the week’s stress.

    “Sometimes they’d just drive that tractor up there and jump off and go on in there,” Alford said, remembering his mother’s Charleston, Miss., joint. “[You’d] see a lot of tractors, mules and stuff. As long as you on the plantation, you could drive the tractor anywhere you want.” Irene Williams, “Mama ‘Rene” to locals, runs the Do Drop Inn in Shelby, Miss.: “The juke joints, to me, enable the peoples to go out and ventilate. When you work hard, you’re tense... Not able to pay bills, not able to buy the amount of groceries that you need to buy. Not able to do a lot of things that you want to do. And when you go to these places you’re able to ventilate and let off the stress, and you’re able to cope the next week with your problems better.” In the lawless days of early Delta culture, that blowing off steam would often get violent. Legendary slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk sang about that darker side of Delta night life in 1964: I come in home last night just about 4 o’clock, A little moonshine joint in the rear was just beginning to rock.I kind of eased up side to get a bett view, I saw my baby doing the monkey too.Yeah, gonna murder my babyIf she don’t stop cheatin’ and lyin’Well I’d rather be in the penitentiarThan to be worried out of my mind. — “Going Down to Eli’s”
    Chester Johnson remembers: “If you stayed there till about 10 o’clock and didn’t nothing happen, you better go on home. ’Cause from about 11 o’clock on there’s gonna be some shootin’ going on. Some guy’s gonna whoop his old lady about dancing with somebody.” Despite the occasional violence, and the obvious liquor law violations in dry Mississippi, juke operators and their patrons had little to fear from local law enforcement. “You paid that man to sell that whiskey,” Alford said. “They didn’t say it like that, but that’s all they were doing — paying the sheriff or the chief of police or whoever would let you sell.”

    White plantation owners also discouraged police from interfering with the social lives of their tenants. “If they didn’t call the law, you better not catch the law out there,” Johnson said. “[They’d say] ‘Don’t come on the place if I didn’t send for ‘em.’” To survive, some juke joints are changing. Since few Delta club owners make enough from their businesses to live on — even in good times — casino competition has forced many into some creative marketing to lure their customers back, and to reel tourists in.

    Alford says today’s crowds that take in the genuine live blues shows at Smitty’s Red Top Lounge aren’t from around Clarksdale. “I’ve had a bus load of Belgians, bus load of Scandinavians,’’ he said. “Most of the crowd I get now is tourists and people from out of town wanting to hear the blues.” Tyrone Jordan who manages the Windy City Blues Club in Shelby, Miss., is one of the many who have added “tease shows” to the lineup, where dancers stripped to the bare essentials, but never got fully nude. “They really work,’’ Jordan said. “At 2 [a.m.] we were still making eight dollars at the door per person. We’ve never done that in this club before.’’

    After a recent show, though, a brawl broke out. It took the Shelby police and nearby Cleveland’s force to restore peace and order. Since then, Shelby has imposed a 1 a.m. curfew, hurting the late-night joints’ dwindling business even further. E.V. Wright, who runs the Black Castle in Ruleville, Miss., has moved on a step to avoid the scrutiny of small-town officials who frown on the sexy shows. “I used to have them, but I found out they don’t want you to do that,’’ Wright said. “I let that alone and I told [my son Everett] to start having rap shows. ’Cause a strip show will draw a lot of people, but a rap show will draw more people.”
    As recently as 1994, Irene Williams was working to expand her weathered, shotgun shack Do Drop Inn in Shelby. Sunday night live radio broadcasts from the club were packing the house — acts like the Wesley Jefferson band would cook through funky blues and R&B, couples would dance the sensual slow drag and shouts and laughter would bounce off the walls. That was when Mama ‘Rene was selling enough plates of home-cooked food and tall-boy cans of Budweiser to make ends meet. Now the food is still good, the beer is still cold. But those crowds are gone — they’re filling the casinos in Robinsonville and Greenville.
    She’s finally let the band go, after a year of paying them out of her pocket. And instead of her dream to retire, run the club on weekends and cook during the week, Williams is looking to sell the club she’s run since 1971, and focus on running her personal care home in nearby Wintonville — assisted living, Delta-style. “Unless something gives, I won’t be here very long,’’ she said. “I’m going to be in Wintonville, just dreaming about the used-to-be… You see the things that mean so much to you just fade away, you know. “You heard that song about it used to be? Yeah, I’ll be dreaming about that.”



    Yall know me it's ya folk Mississippi in my Soul

    MississippiRed
     
  2. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    What this tells me is that we have to get more creative, and change with the times... We can host more new acts rather than the more expensive older acts... Give the new ones a stage upon which to expose their talents to the world, and cut their teeth and sharpen their skills as performers... This is the way it used to be on the old CHITLIN" CIRCUIT, which, sadly, is also defunct in our communities...

    You know, that's our problem as a people, and as individuals... It's just too easy to make us QUIT, to throw up our hands, and say we can't handle, and deal with our problems... Problems are a challenge, and challenges are opportunities...



    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    http://www.mudcat.org/juke.cfm

    Jukin’ in Mississippi



    ....safety should always be a concern when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. Most city jukes are found in the most crime-stricken area of town. For instance, you might find yourself uncomfortable on Nelson Street in Greenville when one of the pushers confronts you with words, “Hey, man! You need anything? Man, I got everything you need.” So stay off the streets. Perry Payton, the owner of The Flowering Fountain, will tell you the same, adding that you won’t find this kind of trouble in his club. In fact, almost all of the proprietors of these joints will do their best to make you feel safe and comfortable.

    OK. Enough of this staged rhetorical folly. If you’ve come this far, you know where your going and what exactly it is you want to do. So let’s juke.

    Many jukes do not have phones; those in the smaller communities do not have street numbers. Most of the larger towns, however, such as Clarksdale, Greenwood, Greenville and Cleveland, have convention and visitors bureaus to point you in some direction should you have difficulty locating any of the clubs and blues related sites mentioned here. Additionally, blues tours can be arranged through the Mississippi Delta Blues Society, P.O. Box 1805, Greenwood, MS 38935-1805.


    CLARKSDALE
    Clarksdale is our first stop. You’ll find this blues rich community on Highway 61 and 49. I suggest that you stop by Stackhouse/Delta Record Mart, 232 Sunflower Ave., (601) 627-2209, or the Delta Blues Museum, 114 Delta Ave., (601) 627-4461 for the word on who’s performing in the various juke joints and for general information on blues happenings.

    JJ’s
    Issaquena Avenue
    (601) 627-9737 for information


    Red’s
    395 Sunflower Ave.


    River Mount Lounge
    911 Sunflower Ave.
    (601) 627-1971




    SHELBY
    (approximately 30 miles south of Clarksdale on Highway 61)

    Do Drop Inn
    Third and Lake Streets

    The Windy City Blues Cafe
    Across the street from the Do Drop Inn



    RENOVA
    (just north of Cleveland)

    Shatto
    Off Highway 61 to McKnight Road, then north on old Highway 61



    LELAND
    We continue our ramble south on Highway 61.

    Boss Hall’s
    509 N. Main St.



    GREENVILLE
    With a right turn onto Highway 82, due west, we find ourselves in Greenville, the largest Mississippi River town in the Delta. In Greenville, you’ll treasure historic Nelson Street, mentioned above. A few days before Christmas, I stopped for a drink at the Flowering Fountain with the owner of the club. Payton has booked everyone from Elmore James in the 1950s to Little Milton in the ‘90s. Even Little Milton recorded a song recently to honor the club, “Annie Mae’s Cafe.”

    Flowering Fountain
    928 Nelson St.
    (601) 335-9836



    INDIANOLA
    From Greenville, head east on 82 to Indianola, then north on Highway 49W.

    Club Ebony
    404 Hannah Ave.
    (601)887-9915



    RULEVILLE
    A section of Front Street is commonly known as Greasy Street, where there’s a strip of clubs.

    Black Castle
    Front Street

    Top Ten Club
    Front Street



    DREW
    Boars Nest
    Wilson Avenue



    SCHALTER
    Highway 49 splits near Tutwiler and Yazoo City. There’s a 49W and 49E, both of which run north to south, eventually becoming one. Let’s trek down 49E for one of my favorite stops in the Delta.

    Watt’s Cafe
    109 James St.
    (601)658-4605



    GREENWOOD
    Mitchell’s Lounge
    401 W. Johnson
    (601) 453-0204 or 453-9857

    This list of juke joints in the Mississippi Delta could go on and on. This place is like no other. The music is raw and pure. All over the world, people try to duplicate the juke, but their reiterations are impossible. Elements are missing. Absent are the real people of the Delta who know the blues.
     
  4. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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  5. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    "Backed by tha River and fronted by the grave."

    (SAY THAT!)



    Uploaded by Damien Blaylock on Jul 26, 2011
    We Juke Up In Here is a new film and music project from the makers of the award-winning blues movie M For Mississippi: A Road Trip Through the Birthplace of the Blues.

    Slated for an April 2012 release (but available now for pre-order), We Juke Up In Here follows producers Jeff Konkel and Roger Stolle as they explore what remains of Mississippi's once-thriving juke joint culture. The film is told largely from the vantage point of Red Paden, proprietor of the legendary Red's Lounge in historic Clarksdale, Mississippi. Paden, a true Delta character and jack-of-all-trades, has been running his blues and beer joint for more than 30 years -- providing one of the region's most reliable live blues venues and an authentic stage for a cavalcade of veteran blues performers, both legendary and obscure.

    Told through live music performances, character-driven interviews and rare on-camera blues experiences, viewers are taken below the surface of the quasi-legal world of real Delta jukes -- while it's still living and breathing. Mississippi's juke joint culture may be at a crossroads, but as Red likes to say, "The Game's for life . . . and that's for **** sure!"

    We Juke Up In Here is a joint production of Broke & Hungry Records and Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art.

    We Juke Up In Here is now available at www.wejukeupinhere.com
     
  6. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Uploaded by drblaylock on Dec 9, 2007
    This timely road movie will explore the thriving underbelly of a dying American art form in the land where it began -- Mississippi.


    Planned as a weeklong journey through the birthplace of the blues, M for Mississippi seeks to capture the proverbial "real deal" in its home where it is most comfortable and authentic -- the jukes, the front yards, the cotton fields. More than just a collection of concert performances, the film will collect the sounds, the images and the feel of both the performers and their native landscape -- an environment essential to their livelihoods and inseparable from their art.

    Cultivating the fertile ground between such landmark theatrical travelogues as Buena Vista Social Club and Deep Blues, M for Mississippi aims to appeal to more than just the average blues fan. By showcasing such a fascinating foreign land so close to home, the filmmakers hope to inspire countless others to make their own road trips down Mississippi's blue highways.

    For more info or if you would like to contribute to this project by pre-ordering the DVD and soundtrack, please visit: www.mformississippi.com
     
  7. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    MississippiRed

    Brother, I know it's been awhile since you've been around; but I want to THANK YOU for your efforts to HONOR and UPLIFT the history and culture of our People in the South.

    THANK YOU for REPRESENTIN'!

    I, too, proudly represent my Southern (so-called "country") roots.
     
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