Notice that the festival site is located not in Greenville but five or six miles south of Greenville on Highway 1. The wise visitor to JUNIOR'S JUKE JOINT can click the mapquest link, download a map with a larger scale, and find a back road to and from the festival. |
That's handy information, especially if your belly's filled with cold beverages. Also notice that the B & B Quick Mart is located just across Tate Road from the festival. It's an easy walk, even with an ice chest filled with cold beverages.
Emma and Curtis Bradbury own the B & B, and, y'all, they're some fine folks. On festival day, Curtis erects a big canvas awning over three or four picnic tables in the front yard of the B & B. You can sit out there in the shade and eat Curtis's great bar-b-que, drink his cheap and cold beer, and listen to someone like T-Model Ford, John Horton, or Farmer John Horton play the blues right beside you. In fact, if you're low on money, you can save the admission to the festival and spend all afternoon under Curtis's awning.
|The B & B Quick Mart.|
That's harp master Willie J. Foster's equipment van backed up to the B & B's side door.
The Delta Blues Festival parking lot is behind the camera.
Along about 7 pm they shut down the Jukehouse Stage at the festival, so I then stroll over to the B & B and some local blues people. Frankly, I ain't much on big-name acts; I much prefer the local acts. I seldom go to the festival's Main Stage. Back in ‘95 I was late getting to the B & B, so I missed old T-Model Ford. I sat under the awning and drank a few beers with some fine folks from the ‘hood. Had a great time. When I got ready to head home to my tent, I ordered a plate of bar-b-que and a beer to go.
Here's what I got for $3.25: (1) a 12 oz Miller Lite; (2) potato salad; (3) bar-b-que beans; (4) 2 pork ribs; (5) a link of pork sausage; (6) a pork chop; and (7) a chicken leg quarter.
On Friday, May 15, 1998, I caught harmonica master Willie J. Foster and his band at the B & B. Here's the old master himself in the process of putting on his harmonica belt. That's the rear wall of the B & B's dance floor you see behind him. |
Willie Foster is blind.
Only two years ago the VA Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, amputated his left leg just above the knee. He wears an artificial leg and walks with the aid of an aluminum walker.
|For much more on Willie Foster, see the interview and photos in the Bluespeople! section in an article titled Willie Foster's Garden. |
Here starts a series of four photos of Willie Foster taken rapidly and in sequence.
To our left in this photo, you can see Willie Foster's aluminum walker.
The colored object to our right is the jukebox.
Notice the pendant on Willie's necklace. It's a souvenir of his 1993 trip to New Zealand, a bone carved by a Maori tribesman. He has another souvenir of that trip, a missing leg caused by an infection he caught during that trip.
Here's most of the band, taken through the gray haze of cigarette smoke. From left to right, you see Mickey Rogers on guitar, Willie Foster on vocals and harp, and Frank Vick on drums. (Yes, that's a potted-plant hanging over Willie's head.)
Willie introduced Frank as "the richest black man in Mississippi." That's probably true. Frank's wife recently won $2,587,750.00 in one of Greenville's riverboat casinos. Neither of them quit their jobs. Frank drives a truck. We discovered mutual friends--Henry and Annie Mae McKeal of the Disco 86 Lounge in Waterproof, Louisiana. Frank drives through Waterproof once a week.
Guess where he eats lunch? You got it--Annie Mae's Cafe.
Out of sight to the left and to the right, you can't see white boy guitarist Barrington "Skeeter" Provis and white boy bass player "Guitar" Charlie Rickard. But in the upper right hand corner of the photo you can see the hand of a fellow I hereby christen "Camera Hogg" or "C.H." for short. More on C.H. a little further down the page.
|Here's Guitar Charlie. He plays guitar and bass and is a regular member of blues bands around the central Delta. I've heard him several times with John Horton's Special Occasion Band and on the Jukehouse Stage at the Delta Blues Festival. He's a fine guitarist. |
He opened the show with a couple of good vocals, then introduced Willie Foster. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen! Mister Willie J. Foster and his Mississippi saxophone!"
|Here's Skeeter and Mickey. |
Skeeter said this about himself: "They call me ‘Skeeter.' I play guitar."
I can verify that. He plays a hell of a guitar.
Willie Foster said of Skeeter, "He's a Caucasian playin' the blues--Stevie Ray Vaughan style."
Here's a closeup of Skeeter's glass slide somewhere along about the middle of Hoochie Coochie Man played Elmore James style.
Of that moment, I wrote in my notes: Everybody singing along--damned wonderful . . . God. . . . God. . . . This is awesome. . . .
When that awesome moment and the song and the screaming and the yelling and the whistling ended, I walked up to Skeeter and said, "Man, you the luckiest damned white-boy guitar player in America--No! The world!
He grinned at me and said, "I know it."
Here's a shot of Mickey getting down to a really fast version of Muddy Waters's Got My Mojo Working. |
Like they did with Hoochie Coochie Man, the crowd went wild--only more so.
About six lovely dark-skinned ladies sat at a table in the right rear corner. About halfway through Mojo, three muscular dark-skinned guys got in the floor beside that table and proceeded to give those ladies a clothes-on Chippendale show.
Wild ain't the word. Feet stomped and voices screamed and lips whistled and hard-muscled bodies undulated and guitars rolled and drums beat furiously. I thought the building was gonna fall down.
No doubt about it--the Mojo was working.
Here's another shot of Mickey. Ain't that the coolest hat you ever saw? |
Before the band started, while they were setting up equipment, I walked over and introduced myself to the coolest-looking dude I'd seen in a while. I said, "You look like a bluesman."
"I am, "Mickey replied. "I live it every day. Livin' it right now. Can't find the drumsticks. Guess we gonna have to cut some wood and make some drumsticks."
"You from around here?"
"I was born in Hollandale," he informed me. "Left at two. Moved to Chicago. My Momma's from Greenville. I've been on the road with Bobby Rush for 12 years--tired of the road."
|Here's the rest of our old buddy, C.H. |
In the top photo, he's dancing past Willie Foster and toward the dance floor.
In the bottom photo, he looks like he's dancing toward the camera. He isn't. He's dancing backwards.
A few seconds after I snapped the bottom photo, C.H. danced backwards into Willie. Willie roughly pushed him aside and continued blowing his harp. C.H. continued dancing.
Every time Willie would blow one of those low and long notes on his harp, C.H. would yell, "Oh, tha train is comin! Tha train is comin'!"
During a break between songs, C.H., danced up to my table and said, "You only get one chance at this life, brother. You better enjoy yourself."
Before I could reply, Brother, that's exactly why I'm here in this juke joint, C.H. added, "If you tired, you better rest! If you outta breath, git some air!"
Then, from the bandstand, Willie blew a low long note.
C.H. yelled, "Tha train is comin'!" and danced in the direction of the lovely dark-skinned ladies in the corner.
|In this photo, Willie's singing another one of those songs that literally almost brought down the house. He calls the song Rub Me. |
It's actually Slim Harpo's Scratch My Back but with different lyrics.
Ahhh, I'm aching, baby, and I don't know where to rub.
Here's a white couple that know where to have a good time and probably where to rub.
There was another white couple sitting at a table directly to the camera's left. But I believe the antics of our buddy C.H. frightened them because they left after only a couple of songs. That was a shame because they missed a hell of a night, and they had absolutely nothing to fear from C.H. unless, of course, they had a camera.
Notice the B & B's pool table leaned against the wall beyond the white couple. That's the worst pool table I've ever played on. The balls look like they have skin cancer. When you break a rack of those pockmarked balls, most of them roll to the end of the table toward the bandstand. I once shot the cue ball gently toward the center of the table, and when it coasted to a stop, it rolled back to me.
I took this hazy photo while standing in a chair against the back wall. The dance floor and several tables of people are to the left. There's tables and people out of sight in front of and below the camera. The six lovely dark-skinned ladies and several tables filled with people sit out of sight to the right.
Notice the muscle-man with the hat and the cigarette. In my entire life, I've seen few men that well-built. Both of us happened to make a trip to the bar for a beer at the same time. I said, "Man, if I ever get in a fight, I hope to hell you're on my side."
He grinned and said, "Man, you ain't got a thing to worry about."
I now close with this haunting photo of harp master Willie J. Foster pondering something during a break.
I look at it and wonder what he's thinking. I wonder what those sightless eyes see. Yes, see, because they see something, even if only memories of things.
I wonder if he knows the pleasure he gave the people there that night, in particular, the pleasure he gave me, a white man and almost a stranger. I think I'll tell him the next time I see him.
I will see him again, even if I see only his memory.