Places I Remember with Lea Lane

Mississippi To Memphis, BB King To Elvis: Chasing The Blues -- Plus, Craig Sings!

February 15, 2022 Travel writer Josephine Matyas and her husband, economist and musician Craig Jones, created a book about music, travel and the black experience in the heart of the South. Season 1 Episode 52
Places I Remember with Lea Lane
Mississippi To Memphis, BB King To Elvis: Chasing The Blues -- Plus, Craig Sings!
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Travel writer/musician authors Josephine Matyas and Craig Jones share stories and experiences from their book about music, travel and the black experience in the heart of the South.

Major Delta destinations include Clarksdale, Tunica, Greenville, Dockery Farm, Greenwood and Tupelo, in Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee. Museums, homesteads, gravesites, juke joints, frolicking houses, Beale Street, Graceland and Sun and Stax recording studios  are just some of the sites discussed in relation to the blues and the music it influenced. Artists range  from Robert Johnson and BB King to Elvis Presley.

Civil rights plays a part as well, from the  grocery store in  Money Mississippi, where Emmet Till meet the woman who would lead to his murder, to the Lorraine Motel, where blacks and whites stayed together during are discussed as part of the experience that related to the music.

"The Blues are the root. The rest are the fruit." And Craig ends with a fine rendition of a blues song.
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Josephine Matyas has published in every major Canadian newspaper and specialized magazines, including a number of American-based publications. Jo specializes in history and culture, soft-adventure and eco-tourism. She loves to talk travel.
 
Craig Jones holds a doctorate in International Political Economy from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. His main gig – and lifelong passion – is as a full-time musician, bandleader, and music teacher. Craig has stepped onto bandstands to play bass and guitar in jazz, blues, rock and roll, Motown, Zydeco, and soul.
 
Chasing the Blues: A Traveler’s Guide to America’s Music  is their first book together. The book’s Facebook site is: https://www.facebook.com/ChasingtheBluesTravelersGuide
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Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to guidebooks.

Contact Lea 
@lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; on  Facebook, it's Places I Remember with Lea Lane. Website: placesirememberlealane.com

New episodes every other week, on Tuesdays. Please follow, rate and review this award-winning travel podcast!


*Transcript edited for clarity.

Lea Lane  0:04  
Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 Countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. Beyond the beauty that we see, all of our senses are engaged when we travel, the smells of the ocean, saffron in the marketplace, the feel of a rocky beach on our feet, the taste of just picked fruit, the sounds of street hawkers, thundering waterfalls, different languages, and of course, local music.

Lea Lane  0:58  
Travel writer Josephine Matyas and her husband, political economist and musician Craig Jones, are co-authors of Chasing the Blues: a Traveler's Guide to America's Music. They combine their backgrounds to create a book about music, travel, and the black experience in the heart of the South, from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis, Tennessee. We'll talk about where they traveled, and along the way we'll learn about the blues, one of the stars of America's musical heritage. And as a special treat, Craig will end the podcast performing a great song influenced by the blues. Welcome Jo and Craig to Places I Remember. 

Craig Jones  1:37  
Nice to be with you, Lea. 

Josephine Matyas  1:38  
Thank you. 

Josephine Matyas  1:39  
So Jo, you're both Canadian. How did this project start and how did it develop into a book?

Josephine Matyas  1:45  
Well, we're both Canadians, but we are interested in history and cultures from around the world. And music is a part of that as well. I've been a full time travel writer for about 20 years now. And as part of what's been a wonderful career, I've been able to travel around the world learning about different cultures, meeting many wonderful people, seeing lovely, amazing landscapes. And I was on the road quite a bit of the time, probably around 140 days a year. Craig is also a writer, a lot of it has to do with social justice and political and music themes. And one day, about six or seven years ago, I came home and said why don't we try doing an overlap. We'll take my travel background and your music background and see if we can write for some newspapers and magazines, on music travel destinations. So we got ourselves a little camper van and we outfitted it with a little tiny office and we hit the road to explore the roots of American music, largely in the southeast of the US. Out of that came many, many articles that were very well received in newspapers and magazines. And then we were approached by a publisher who said, you know, we'd really like to take a look at doing a book. Is there any one of these particular trails or music genres, jazz, you know, we'd looked at jazz, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, zydeco folk, country. And we thought, yeah, there's a there's a few books here, but we thought the one to start with was really the music that was at the roots of a lot of American music. And that was the blues.

Lea Lane  3:25  
Yes. I know down in the South is someplace called the Crooked Road, which I took through Virginia. And that's another one. I see a series here for sure.

Josephine Matyas  3:34  
Yeah, we've done that road and it's a wonderful tour.

Lea Lane  3:37  
Yeah, the whole South is a wonderful place for early music for America. There's no doubt. Now the Mississippi Delta is a rural flatland 0f fertile cotton fields, small towns and former plantations. When and why did the blues originate in the Delta?

Craig Jones  3:54  
Well, we're not making the claim that the blues originated only in the Delta. But the particular kind of blues that migrated north to Chicago, and from there to the world, largely came from the Delta. And the the story is one of brutal exploitation under a particular form of capitalism that was unprecedented in its time, and really unprecedented, even today, that produced an extraordinary melange or, you know, combination of cultural and social and political and ethnic and racial and, you know, all these forms of oppression coming together in one place. And what we have come to call the blues was the outgrowth of this attempt of people working under these conditions of brutal oppression to find relief in this world, rather than waiting for relief in the next world. So music, as in any culture, is a form of therapy is a form of diversion, is a form of psychological comfort. And the blues is just another expression of that need.

Lea Lane  4:56  
Yeah, tell us about the Mississippi Blues Trail and where does that go?

Josephine Matyas  5:01  
Well, the Blues Trail is a series of 200 plus markers that have been established to recognize important spots in the history and the development of the blues. So there isn't a specific roadway that you follow. The blues trails markers are scattered largely over the Delta, but not only the Delta. I mean, towns like Memphis and Muscle Shoals also have them. They bump up against the borders of Mississippi and more influential towns in the development of the blues. I think there's even blues markers as far north as Chicago, but they are concentrated in Mississippi and largely in the Delta. So you could, you know, take a look at the Mississippi Blues Trail map or the Mississippi Blues Trail website, and it's not going to plan out a specific route, it's not going to show a specific roadway to follow. But the markers will be located and you can zoom in on any of those markers and you can decide what's of interest to you. Maybe someone wants to see everything to do with Charlie Patton. Maybe another person is interested in later stage blues like BB King. So you really can personalize your tour, and each of those large distinctive blue markers has the history and the importance of that location. So it's really kind of fun to go from one spot to the next. And, you know, you may be interested in birthplaces or grave sites. I think for us, what one really strong feeling that came out of our travels to Mississippi, and we did three long research trips as long as six or seven weeks apiece, in order to prepare for the book. But what came out was that Mississippi, more than any other spot I've been, is a place of living history. The blues is still alive there. The history is still shown and celebrated by everyone - local people, blues lovers, people that own businesses, restaurants. So you see it in the food, you hear it in the music, you see it in the literature, you see it everywhere around you. So in that way, it's very much of a living history. And that made it a very unique place to go to.

Lea Lane  7:14  
Let's start with the Upper Delta of the Mississippi in the north of the  Delta. What are some of the places that shouldn't be missed?

Josephine Matyas  7:22  
Well, everyone knows about Clarksdale, any blues lover knows about Clarksdale and that's the town where they tend to go because that's where the mythology is. Clarksdale claims that it's the location of the famous crossroads where Robert Johnson went in at midnight to meet the devil, and in exchange for his soul the devil would give him mastery of the blues guitar. That's the myth. And everyone who's a blues lover knows that and they go to the tiny town of Clarksdale, and it's a wonderful spot to start. I would go to Cat Head Blues and Folk Art store there because the owner, Roger Stoll, is the mover and the shaker in town on everything to do with the blues. You can find out who's playing where. His store is completely dedicated to the blues. 

Josephine Matyas  8:10  
There's a wonderful Delta Blues museum there that has all kinds of old pieces of history, but it's very much brought alive. But they're, you know, a lot of people go to Clarksdale, and that's the only place they go. And that's really a shame because there's wonderful history all across Mississippi. So in the upper Delta, I think I would also make sure to go to the amazing Gateway to the Blues Museum in Tunica, which is just south of Memphis. So it's in the far northwest corner right up against the Mississippi and in Tunica, Mississippi. And it has six or seven galleries that are absolutely stuffed with fantastic pieces of blues history, as well, right up to the present time. You've got guitars signed by Eric Clapton and BB King. You've got, way back in time, gravesite markers from some of the old blues players, pieces of sheet music, but also it walks you through the history chronologically, how the blues started, and where it started, and how it spread. And all those stories, and also in the upper Delta, we made sure to go to Greenville, Mississippi, which is right on the Mississippi River. It's, you know, seen better days, for sure.

Lea Lane  9:31  
Wasn't that where the flood was, the 1920 flood?

Josephine Matyas  9:34  
That's why you should go there. The total game changer that we knew nothing about was the Great Flood of 1927, which completely inundated large parts of Mississippi and Arkansas, and all the way down the Mississippi River, and caused or spurred a lot of the great migration. People couldn't make a living there anymore. Everything was flooded. It was a horrible time to live, and they went north to places like Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, to get away from these conditions and with it, they took the blues. So the levees have been fortified now, built by the Corps of Engineers and it's worth it to go and stand on those levees and look out over the Mississippi and really be in awe of the power of this, and the power and the history of this amazing waterway. 

Josephine Matyas  10:26  
So I would start with those two spots and, of course, in the north, Dockery Farms. 

Lea Lane  10:30  
Yes, I was there. 

Lea Lane  10:32  
Another place that many people skip over, and BB King considered it the birthplace of the blues. It was a major plantation of its time. All of the major blues players, Charlie Patton, Son House, BB King, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters as well. They all cycled through there. And we had a wonderful tour there with the director. His name was Bill Lester. And he was able to tell us some amazing stories about the history. And this is something else that I think is unique about our book is we tried to engage with local people as much as possible. It could be someone who was just a blues player who played weekend gigs, or could have been an archivist, or a director of a museum, and we got them to tell us their stories. And we wove a lot of their voice into the book. So they will tell you the story, Bill Lester will tell you the story of Dockery Farms.

Lea Lane  11:32  
I know they had their own money, didn't they? 

Josephine Matyas  11:34  
They did, they had special commissary coins, and the most popular was the 25 cent piece because that's what you would pay pay the blues players with, and he told us some hilarious stories about what were called frolicking houses,

Lea Lane  11:50  
What are frolicking houses? What I think?

Josephine Matyas  11:52  
Well, it's where people dance and drink and frolic Friday and Saturday nights when they finally had some time off. And it was their way of letting off steam, and a lot of that had to do with music. 

Lea Lane  12:06  
Well, I visited one, I think, it's called Po' Monkey Lounge. And I think that must have been a frolicking house. I was there about 10 years ago, and I met the owner Willie Seaberry, and he was quite a character. It looked like Saturday nights, it must have been something else, because this was a Monday morning and it was pretty ... a lot of action going on even then.

Josephine Matyas  12:26  
Po' Monkeys was one of the last standing juke joints, which is, you know, basically like a frolicking house where people went to hear music and let off steam. It did close about, oh, I think about six or seven years ago. So it's no longer operating. Mr. Seaberry passed away. And so there was a little bit of wrangling about what was going to happen with the property. I'm not sure, I think it's still closed at this point in time, but it is a historic, historic spot for sure.

Lea Lane  12:56  
Absolutely. And there are a couple of other juke joints I went to, and I know they're pretty famous, one is called Reds. 

Josephine Matyas  13:02  
Oh, yes. 

Josephine Matyas  13:02  
Yes, that looks like when you go in there, it looks like an attic or something. It's a fire hazard. But the music was unbelievable. It was real stuff, and we didn't even care. You know, you go in there and you think, I don't know, but you come out and you're happy. 

Lea Lane
How about Ground Zero? Ground Zero is a famous one, I think that one is well known. Tell us a little about that one. These are both in Clarksdale.

Craig Jones  13:30  
Ground Zero is a more typical, you know, large bar or tavern, great sound system. You know, dollars are stapled to the walls and people, you know, autographing and everywhere. So it's much more typically, in contrast to Red's Lounge, which, as you said, looks like a fire trap. But it's very authentic.

Lea Lane  13:50  
It is, I loved it.

Josephine Matyas  13:51  
So Ground Zero was co-owned by Bill Luckett, who was the the mayor of Clarksdale. He unfortunately did pass away just a few months ago, and his co-owner was the actor Morgan Freeman. And together they run this property, and it's very well known. It's very large. It's right across the street from the Delta Blues Museum. Everything in Clarksdale is walkable, one of the best times to go to Clarksdale is in April. I think it's the third Saturday in April. They have a large festival called the Juke Joint Festival. And it is stuffed with blues players playing in every club, on every street corner. And they like to say it's part music festival, part family festival, and all about the Delta. It's an amazingly wonderful community family-friendly event that's centered around the culture and the music, the blues music of the area.

Lea Lane  14:49  
It sounds great. Tell me about Indianola. That's all about BB King, right?

Craig Jones  14:55  
Indianola is a little town. It's kind of off the beaten path, but it well worth going to because it features this extraordinary center., what's it called?

Josephine Matyas  15:05  
BB King Museum and Delta Culture Interpretive Center. 

Craig Jones  15:07  
That's it. And towards the end of his life, BB King began diverting more and more of his personal effects and materials, his own record collection, his little home studio, of course, his touring bus, half a dozen guitars, his huge collection of records and various other personal effects, to this establishment. And it is a world class, beautifully curated museum exhibition in Indianola that is well worth anybody's time to go to.

Josephine Matyas  15:35  
Yeah, I'd like to add that all of these museums that we mentioned, Indianola, the Gateway to the Blues Museum, the Delta Blues Museum, all of these are not only filled with different archival material and pieces of history, but they've been very careful to tell the history as well, to tell the history of African Americans brought to the continent against their will, enslaved in plantations, what the plantation economy was like, the years of Jim Crow, after emancipation, this sharecroppers' economy, and then the movement of the blues outward, not only north into towns or cities like Chicago, and Detroit, New York, but overseas. When the blues was waning here in North America, the sailors were taking those records to different ports around the world, and for some reason ports like Liverpool and other ports in the UK. People gobbled that music up, and the blues was dying in North America. But people like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and Nick Sleet and Eric Clapton gobbled that stuff up, revitalized it, repackaged it as rock and roll, and shot it back over to North America. And in that way, they say that, you know, the UK, the British saved the blues by infusing rock and roll with it. Another big part of our story as well.

Lea Lane  17:08  
One thing I noticed when I was there that most of the tourists were from overseas. They were absolutely enraptured by everything, and there were very few Americans. And I thought, what a waste. They don't realize it, how special this is.

Josephine Matyas  17:22  
It's a beautiful, special living history with wonderful, friendly people right in our backyard.

Lea Lane  17:29  
I also, in terms of BB King, I have to say I actually met him, but I didn't meet him in the Delta. I met him in Italy at a jazz festival. He was one of the people invited. It was 1993, I think, it was the Umbria Jazz Festival. He was a king. And I actually was in the room, I was on a press trip, I was in the room next door. So I watched Lucille, his guitar, being taken into his room every day. He must have slept all day long. I had to be very quiet, as the manager was going around, don't say anything, he's sleeping. This was well, well into the afternoon. But I remember meeting him. He enjoyed himself, and you have a quote in your book, where he said the blues are the three L's - living, loving, and hopefully laughing. And he did all three, I can tell you, I watched it.

Josephine Matyas  18:11  
He was known for his generosity. The people in Indianola often commented to us on how generous a spirit he was, how he had learned that from his mom. He lost his mom when he was very young, and that had a very big impact on him.

Lea Lane  18:27  
Now, we talked about Greenville, what about Greenwood? Which is where Robert Johnson, the the first famous bluesman, perhaps, that's where he died and is buried. Tell us about that.

Josephine Matyas  18:40  
Well, Greenwood is in the center far east part of Mississippi. It's a small town. It's known for its cotton production. It's on the confluence of two rivers, one being the Tallahatchie and the famous bridge that's in the song.

Craig Jones  18:58  
Where Billy Joe McAllister met his end.

Josephine Matyas  19:02  
It's right there. It's known for that. On what they would call the wrong side of the tracks, the poor area of Greenwood, is a neighborhood called Baptist Town. It's extremely historic. It is largely African American. The numbers have dwindled there quite a bit from its peak, but back in the early 20th century, it would have been full of juke joints and music, and Robert Johnson played there quite a bit. Now the story goes that he was poisoned, they're not sure exactly how, in one of the juke joints very close to there at Three Forks. And then he succumbed to the poisoning and he was buried. There was a lot of debate about exactly where he was buried, and there are three churches that lay claim to it, but apparently one, Little Zion Baptist Church, just outside Money, Mississippi, is considered the actual proper gravesite and marker. We did a tour with a wonderful guide. His name was Sylvester Hoover.

Lea Lane  20:07  
Yes, I met him as well. Wonderful man.

Josephine Matyas  20:09  
Wonderful man, quite a character. Boy, you've been around and seen everything.

Lea Lane  20:13  
I've been around.

Josephine Matyas  20:15  
Sylvester is well worth hunting out, he runs Hoover's grocery store there in town. Baptist Town, as I said, it's a small spot, wouldn't be difficult to find him. And he'll hop in your car and he'll take you around for several hours and look at all the different sites, and he told us a lot of stories that he had heard, I guess he had heard firsthand, from the wife of the woman that dug the hole to bury Robert Johnson. So we have a lot of those sorts of quotes that are, you know, just one person removed, but a fairly close tie to history. So he's got great stories to tell. It's a wonderful place to visit. If you're interested in civil rights history, it's also very close to the the grocery store. Well, not a far drive away, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, where the sad history of Emmett Till, the young African American boy who was beaten to death, and really was a was a catalyst for launching the civil rights movement into more mainstream media and more than just the African American.

Lea Lane  21:25  
Absolutely, think Greenwood is important for that reason alone. 

Josephine Matyas  21:26  
Oh, for sure. 

Lea Lane  21:29  
This will go for many people. This is a reason to visit, to see that grocery and to hopefully think about what encouraged the blues, it's soulful music that comes out of the problems, as you mentioned, that were in that area. Let's just go a little bit outside of the Delta to Tupelo, we have a very famous person who's from there, and tell us about who he is.

Craig Jones  21:53  
Well, Elvis Presley sanitized the blues for white people, and made the transition into a much, much larger audience, and brought it into the mainstream. So Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis. He grew up surrounded by the culture of black sharecroppers. His father was a sharecropper. His father did time in Parchman Farm. And Elvis was, you know, marinated, if you will, in the culture of the blues and black culture generally. And he expressed all of that in his music, and that's the Elvis that we all know from our childhood. And when he broke through, that's the sound that became the white version of the blues.

Josephine Matyas  22:36  
Many people associate Elvis only with Graceland in Memphis. And it's a fantastic spot to travel to, and we've gone there as well. But if you want more of a spot that shows the early influence, when he was younger, family, church, development in the music community, and is much more, I think, less glitzy and much more down homey. There's the Elvis Birthplace Museum, right in Tupelo. And it's a wonderful spot, again, filled with archives. The home he was built in, the little two room shotgun shack, it's still there on its original footings. They've moved the family Pentecostal Church, which was a few blocks away, it now has been moved to the grounds of the museum. So you really get to see authentic early Elvis and see what it is that influenced his life.

Lea Lane  23:27  
And then you know, you have Memphis, you mentioned it, and that's a place to go in terms of the blues, because many of these people who sang locally went on to Memphis to sing in small clubs, to go on to recording studios, and one of them is BB King, of course, and another is Elvis. There are many, many others. But I've been to  Memphis, and it's a wonderful place to visit and spend a couple of days at least. You can ride a boat on the Mississippi for a day. You've got the Peabody Hotel with the ducks that come out, they live in the penthouse, they come down and everybody goes to watch. You can eat great barbecue. But Beale Street is the thing that interests me the most. Tell me a little about Beale Street and how that influenced.

Craig Jones  24:09  
Yeah. Beale Street is the main drag through the entertainment district in Memphis. And it is, you know, you can imagine, even now, it's just jammed with bars and live music establishments and curiosity shops and various memorabilia shops and stuff like, because it's absolutely thick with history, the history of blacks coming out of the Delta, on their way to larger centers, like Chicago and St. Louis and so forth. But staying in Beale Street, there's a famous quote, I can't remember who it was by but it was the quote is, "If you were a black person on Beale Street on a Saturday night, you never want to be anywhere else or do anything else again." So it must have been a really happening place in its time, and even today, you know, a lot of people are drawn there for the live music, so it it would have been a very active, vibrant cultural center. I don't want to sanitize it. I don't want to sugarcoat it, because it would have encompassed the entire human experience, from the very worst to the very best. But to walk down Beale Street today is to get a sense of what a powerful cultural center it would have been in its time.

Josephine Matyas  25:14  
It's also, should mention, the site of the wonderful National Civil Rights Museum. And it is, again, a world class museum about this very, very difficult, sad but important period of history that really changed things, changed the trajectory of things here in North America, especially in the US. And it's well worth going to. It was renovated or added to several years ago, maybe six or seven years ago. And it now encompasses the Lorraine Motel, which is the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony.

Lea Lane  25:52  
Absolutely. Two recording studios that I want to mention in Memphis. One is Sun Records, where Elvis was discovered by Sam Phillips, and you can go to the room where the Million Dollar Quartet performed Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis. It's quite exciting to stand there and think about that. And there's also Stax Record, I want to mention that because Stax Records is a very important studio that we don't hear as much about. Tell us about that.

Craig Jones  26:22  
Yeah, everybody who goes to Memphis should go to Stax, an absolutely must see. It's a completely restored reproduction of the original Stax recording studio, which was built in an old movie theater, and where some of the great R&B and soul productions in all of American music came out of, featuring people like Duck Dunn on bass and Booker T. Jones on organ and Steve Cropper on guitar. A host of people cycled through that studio. And they have done another wonderful job of restoring the interior of Stax and bringing bringing to life the feeling that would have existed at the time. There is a connection, too, between the Stax recording studio and the Lorraine Motel, because at the time that Stax was at its peak, the Lorraine Motel was the only establishment in Memphis that permitted white and black people to mix on its premises, in fact, to swim together in the swimming pool. So Steve Cropper and Otis Redding, for example, would adjourn to the Lorraine Motel in the afternoons, because Stax did not have air conditioning and the Lorraine Motel did. They would adjourn to the Lorraine Motel for an afternoon to sit in a room and write songs together. And then they'd go for a swim in the pool. Right? So the Lorraine Motel, it's kind of a one-two thing, you should go to the Lorraine Motel for sure. And you should understand the connection between the Lorraine Motel and the Stax recording studio.

Lea Lane  27:49  
Very interesting. Well, in the book, you point out that jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, country and western, and rock all come from the blues. You give a quote that bluesman  Willie Dixon says, "Blues are the roots, the rest of their fruits." I really like that. It's a great quote. Today, what are some of the artists that you like? What are the blues influences that you like today? 

Craig Jones  28:11  
Well, the blues forms the foundation for most of what, you know, what we understand as popular music in North America. Not exclusively the blues, because obviously, lots of different influences came to North America from Europe, classical music and so forth. But Joe and I are both products of the mid 1950s, you know, 55 and 56, 57. And that's when rock and roll really comes on as a force in our lives. And so we grew up listening to rock and roll, of course, right? But it was years later before we realized that, you know, the blues is the foundation of that. And that continues to be the case, because the stories and the themes, and the sensibilities that come out of the blues have infused themselves into all popular music. And the most obvious example is, today, I'm not a huge fan of hip hop and rap, but without the blues, very little for hip hop and rap to build on, right? So if you're drawn to that kind of music, and you want to understand where that came from, then you really need to visit the Delta to see where the blues came from. That's our thesis, if you will.

Josephine Matyas  29:18  
Now, this is also a good time to mention that we wrote the book so people could use it as a dip in, dip out kind of travel guide if they're on the road. But not only a travel guide when you're on the road, if you never want to leave the armchair in your living room, but you're interested in music and culture and history, the book is designed that way as well. We wanted people to understand more factors like the sharecropping and plantations, and the role of the Mississippi River, and the farms like Parchman Farm, and we wanted them then to have a better context and understanding so that they had a richer experience when they read about the blues, listened to the blues, or saw the blues.

Lea Lane  30:06  
You succeeded. I liked your book very much and enjoyed it. Craig, you have generously offered to perform live just for Places I Remember. Tell us about the song you chose.

Craig Jones  30:16  
Well, this is a song attributed to Blind Willie Johnson, who was a son of a sharecropper in the Delta and whose mother died when he was very young. And the story goes that his stepmother threw some kind of corrosive substance at him and accidentally blinded him, and that's how he became Blind Willie Johnson. And this song speaks to the experience of, you know, there was a lot of women died in childbirth during this time, and this speaks to that experience. It's called Motherless Children.

Craig Jones  30:48  
Motherless children have a hard time when the mother is gone. Motherless children have a hard time when the mother is gone. Motherless children have a hard time, there's all that weeping and all that crying, motherless children have a hard time when the mother is gone.  Father will do the best he can when the mother is gone, father will do the best he can when the mother is gone. Father will do the best he can, there's so many things that he don't understand, motherless children have a hard time when the mother is gone. People say that a sister will do when the mother is gone, people say sister will do when the mother is gone. People say a sister will do, she'll get married, turn her back on you, motherless children have a hard time when the mother is gone. You know, friends will treat you like your mother do when the mother is gone. Friends will treat you like your mother will when the mother is gone. Friends will treat you like amother will, then they'll turn their back on you, motherless children have ahard time when the mother is gone. Little children walking from door to door looking for someone to hug 'em. Motherless children.

Lea Lane  33:16  
Thank you so much, Craig and Joe. The book, again, is Chasing the Blues: A Traveler's Guide to America's Music.

Josephine Matyas  33:23  
Thank you so much for having us. It was a pleasure.

Lea Lane  33:31  
Thanks for sharing travel memories with us. My book, Places I R,emember is available on Amazon and at bookstores, in print and Kindle, and I read the audio version. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. Until next time, join us wherever in the world we're going.


How the Blues project started
American Music in the South, including "The Crooked Road"
Where, when and why the Blues originated in the Mississippi Delta
Mississippi Blues Trail
Not to be missed to see and do in Clarksdale, Tunica, Greenville and Dockery Farms
'Frolicking houses' including Po' Monkey
Juke joints including Red's and Ground Zero, and the Juke Joint Festival
BB King in Indianola, and his museum showcasing Jim Crow
Influence overseas, and Lea's personal story about BB KIng in Italy
Greenville, Baptist Town, Robert Johnson, Civil Rights and Emmet Till
Elvis in Tupelo
Memphis, including Beale Street, Civil Rights Museum, Sun Records, Stax Records
Blues influence on modern music
What the book Chasing the Blues hopes to accomplish
Craig sings the Blues!