The Berklee Mississippi Exchange Band headed to the Delta Blues Museum’s outdoor stage, ready for their first set of the day. It would be during the Juke Joint Festival debut by a Berklee group when the summer scholarship winner would be revealed. Both contenders, with family members and close friends were stage side, waiting, smiling politely, keeping cool. The two young women in all of their composure made an impression, and were an example to emulate when, suddenly, we realized that there were no drums or backline on stage.
Year three. The principal mission of the trip to the most Southern place on earth remains the same: finding two young musicians qualified for the Five-Week Summer Performance Program and awarding them full scholarships. What is new, is that now I have company down here. No longer is it just I, Allen Bush/Berklee PR guy/deep fan of Mississippi music and culture, but now a team of students, faculty and another administrator. Continue reading
Crystal Springs is more then 200 miles south of Clarksdale. It is 10 miles north of Hazlehurst, where Robert Johnson was born. A grandson of the most legendary Delta blues musician is Steven Johnson. He and his family make their home here. Steven’s father, Claude, Robert Johnson’s son, and his mother live close by. At one time, Steven was a teacher at the Crystal Springs High School, where he also attended. He is now vice president of the Robert Johnson Blues Museum and Foundation. The storefront museum is in the Crystal Springs historic district. Among its items is an upright piano that a local resident donated after a family member admitted seeing Robert Johnson play it.
Fried steak and pork shops. Field peas. Barbecue chicken tenders. Lima beans. Turnip greens. Baked beans with hamburger and barbecue sauce. Corn bread. Sweet tea and peach cobbler. Filling-up on the Ranchero’s lunch buffet on Rt. 161 at the edge of town, I’m now ready to commune with Clarksdale, Mississippi. This is the day when one teen from the Delta Blues Museum will be called to the stage to accept a summer scholarship, and when the town rolls out the annual Juke Joint Festival. Continue reading
I’m Allen Bush, director of Berklee’s public information office, and, at the moment, bridge-builder to Mississippi. I’m here in the Deep South this weekend to find teen musicians or singers and award them scholarships to Berklee’s five-week summer performance program. My partners will be the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the Robert Johnson Blues Museum, in Crystal Springs. Continue reading