Those railroad tracks mark the location of probably the most important spot in bluesdom--Where the Southern Crosses the Dawg.
Go to the Side Trip! section of JUNIOR'S JUKE JOINT for info and pictures of that spot. For now, let's take a look at Gully's Alley Inn.
Here's a shot of the Alley Inn taken from the parking lot across the alley and with the camera facing south. Out of view to your right, there's another juke joint. There's several more over on the next street, East Delta Avenue. I will soon return to Moorhead with my camera, so stay tuned.
The awesome Saturday night I spent in Gully's Alley Inn was like going back in time. If Robert Johnson had strolled through that door you see on the right, it wouldn't have shocked me at all. The atmosphere of everything--the music, the people, the place--was like 1938.
On the left side of the picture on the right, that's Terry Bean blowing the harp. He lives in Pontotoc, Mississippi, and, y'all, that man can blow a harp, especially for someone so young, about 27. He learned by listening to Little Walter.
The weekend before, Terry walked up to T-Model at the Delta Blues Festival and said, "Mister Ford, I can blow a harp."
T-Model was about to get on stage. For some reason he said, "Come on up and let's see."
They played like they'd been playing together for years. But T-Model can be hard to get along with, so they soon parted company. That's a shame because I believe the three of them--T-Model, Terry, and Smilin' John--could have played Carnegie Hall.
In the picture with Terry, the guy holding the microphone was a customer. Half the men in the juke joint that night sang with the band. T-Model didn't care. In fact he kept saying, "If any of you young bucks think you can play, come on up. But you better bring yore own gittar ‘cause ain't nobody takin' this here long-necked gittar away from this old man. I'm tha boss of this here long-necked gittar. I'm tha Taildragger!"
I wonder what Robert Johnson would have said about that?
Wow, what a night!
A funny thing happened a few minutes before I took the photo of T-Model and his trailer. I arrived early, and so did Terry Bean, the harp blower from Pontotoc. We stood on the sidewalk outside the Alley Inn's front door and chatted with each other and the customers while we awaited the arrival of T-Model, Stella, and Smilin' John the drummer. An elderly man walked up to us. He wore ragged brown shoes, neat but ragged brown pants and shirt, and a brown leather belt. Looped around the belt, a pair of silver handcuffs sparkled in the dim light.
Due to his advanced age, his ragged dress, and his intoxication, he certainly wasn't an officer of the law, so I don't know the purpose of the gleaming silver handcuffs. I didn't ask, and, Yes, I wanted to ask. He started talking. I quickly realized that in addition to the normal speaking problem of intoxication, he also had a speech impediment.
I could understand maybe half of the words he spoke. And he was full of words, mainly because he wanted to satisfy his curiosity about the bizarre sight of a white man outside Gulley's Alley Inn. But with the help of Terry Bean who understood maybe half of the other words the old man spoke, we carried on a 3-way conversation. The old man started telling me about a juke joint in another town. A blues band played there up until a few months ago, he said. Well, I think that's what he said.
I asked the location.
The only thing I could understand, including the name of the town, was ". . . past the Collet School."
I asked myself, What's a ‘Collet School'? Ain't a collet the doohickey down inside an electric drill's head that holds the bit? Why tha hell would anybody have a school on or for collets? I couldn't answer myself, so I asked the old man, "Collet School?"
"Yeah," he answered. "Collet School."
I looked at the old man for a long silent moment. Then I asked, "What's a collet?"
He looked at me for a long silent moment. Then he said, "Collet! Collet!"
I turned to Terry. I said, "Terry, what in tha hell is he saying?"
"Cull it School," Terry plainly informed me.
Oh, F@#$, I told myself. Cull it is what you do if you're sorting eggs and find a bad one. This is hopeless. Then I had a brilliant idea. "Terry," I said, "spell it."
Terry looked at me for a long silent moment. Then he said, "C-o-l-o-r-e-d S-c-h-o-o-l."