School of BluesAnyone who has ever learned anything from a proudly misspent youth can tell you that some nights last for years. Each ten-minute increment s a massive .zip file of memories and lessons that the mind spends months unzipping and processing. If it so happens that the night works well asa s tory, the story grows and changes with each retelling, inching closer and closer towards legend status in the teller’s heart with each repetition.
Our last night in Clarksdale was just that sort of night. I’m going to try and sum up the night in words and photos, but I know I’m going to be disappointed…nobody can absorb second hand the sort of life-affirming excitement I got from being right in the thick of it, and I’m going to have to resort to the coda for all lame stories to fill in the cracks: you just had to be there.
Clarksdale public schools actually teach the blues in music class—children are taught blues riffs, drum rhythms, all the ingredients that it takes to play the blues. The photos below are of the end-of-year project: a kid-run blues band playing a real show at a juke joint during the Juke Joint Blues Festival…
These kids were incredible…I defy any five of you to start a band of any kind and have a battle of the bands with them after six months’ practice.
I went up to the drummer after the show and shook his hand. I told him “I came all the way from Washington, D.C. to see this band, and you guys were fantastic. You are one of the most amazing drummers I have ever seen…” He turned his head and looked at the floor, digging an imaginary hole with his shoe. As soon as I let go of his hand he ran off into the back of the juke joint.