Leaving Baptist Town, we had to wait for the Illinois Central to pass. In the Delta,the section of a town inhabited by the poorest was separated by a RR track.
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"Tallahatchie Flats" situated on the Tallahatchie River in Greenwood, MS
Back in the Day: Sylvestor Hoover's Museum is a recreation of a 1930's shotgun shack. This is where Robert Johnson purchased his corn liquor.
Mural of Johnson: The grocery is where Robert bought Prince Albert rolling tobacco. He would write lyrics on the brown paper the tobacco came in, then stick it on the wall with chewing gum.
Robert Johnson and Honey Boy Edwards performed together on street corners for pennies, nickels and dimes.
Shotgun shacks in Baptist Town look very much the same as in the 1930's.
After leaving the Little Zion M.B. Church, Sylvestor gave us a tour of Baptist Town.The photo on the left is the site of Robert Johnson's last residence.
The Delta Blues & Heritage Museum in downtown Greenwood, located on the second floor of the former site of WGRM Radio studios. BB King made his first live radio performance there in the 1940's.
Steve's personal collection of music and artifacts, including hubcaps and miscellaneous parts from the 1936 Hudson Motors Terraplane, are in the museum.
The Hudson was the car that Robert Johnson dreamed about, which inspired his only hit song called "Terraplane Blues". Steve LaVere maintains that all the music in his collection traces back to Robert Johnson.
"Where the Southern Crosses the Yellow Dog"
Delta Blues & Heritage Museum
Steve LaVere, Owner and Proprietor
While in Greenwood, we had dinner at Gardenia's. The restaurant is located in the exclusive Aluvian Hotel. Dining was set up with curtain cloaked cubicles for privacy, like a passenger train. By chance, we had the opportunity to meet Steven Johnson, grandson of Robert Johnson, who was dining with James White, screenwriter of the movie "Ray." While chatting, Steve Johnson's cell phone rang. His ringtone was one of his grandfather's songs called " Cross Road Blues."
Steve LaVere created a project of modernized shotgun shacks just north of the Little Zion M. B. Church on Money Road. This was a great place to stay while in Greenwood, a most relaxing and peaceful experience.
In 1903, W.C. Handy encountered an unidentified blues singer at the Tutwiler train depot. He was mesmerized by the music, slide playing and more importantly the lyrics "I'm goin' where the Southern cross' the Dog." This experience inspired Handy to write "Yellow Dog Blues" Charley Patton also sings about this location in his 1929 recording of "Green River Blues."
Our next destination would be the grave site of Charley Patton in Holly Ridge. I wanted to pay tribute to a man who, by all accounts was the wellspring of Delta blues and spirituals. I was spooked by the starkness of the rough scraggly, uneven terrain and feeling of isolation at the graveyard. The cotton gin standing like a sentinel was looming overhead.
After listening, appreciating and playing some of his songs for well over a decade, I came to respect and admire this man who single handedly paved the way
for the many who followed including, Son House, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf and others. People would walk for miles to see him play. His style was rooted in the pre-blues songster tradition.
He and Bertha Lee lived and performed in the area for two years before his death in April,1934, just three months after his last recording session in New York City. Prior to his passing, he told Bertha, "You're going to have it rough from now on."