THE BLUES HIGHWAY: Take off your overcoat we can see your moves

Published: June 19th 2015
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THE BLUES HIGHWAY: Take off your overcoat we can see your moves.

When Denise drives really fast...and my body tenses...she threatens to put me in the boot.

The boot of the Cadillac SRX is quite it's not too bad when she puts me in it.

But today is a special day.

Denise says she's going to get an esky...put it in the boot...and make it into a bed-sitter!

Threaten all you like my own pad...I can hardly wait.


It's Sunday.

Leaving Memphis Tennessee...the BB King All Stars ringing in our ears.

Playing their CD as we enter Mississippi...farmlands and heaps of big "Have fun at our casinos in Tupelo" signs.

I tense...Den stops.

Zillions of birds rising like a puff of smoke.

Me thinks Den has stopped to put me in the boot...but she smiles and asks if I want to drive.

Not sure what to job's to change the music...who's gonna do that?

I'm not one to complain...tell someone who I take the wheel...start driving my way...if you don't speed up we'll never get there...ringing in my ear!



The voice of Morgan Freeman in my head today...gotta get to his Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale before the end of the day.

Memphis glitsy but our quest from now on is rustic and grey.

A lone shack with "Gateway to the Blues, Tunica MS"...maps for sites of birthplaces and graves of Blues musos along the way.

We're certainly on the Blues Trail...but its the music we're lookin' for.

So we turn off the highway...pass broken machinery by the road...into Clarksdale...not a soul around.

Like a ghost town...not a fresh coat of paint anywhere.

There's Ground Zero Blues Club...two long black Ground Zero limos...pull up alongside...stepping's freezing cold.

My info says it is open for lunch...but the only sound is silence...looking through shop windows... no one there either.

Guess we're in the Bible Belt and everything is shut on Sunday!

Suddenly a guy crossing the road to a car so I call out...gallop over there.

"Anywhere around here where we can hear some blues?"

"Red's will be open tonight."

"How do we get there?"

Pointing "Just turn right down there, then first can't miss it."

Sounded pretty simple but we drove and missed it...turn back.

The area is poor and iron and wooden shack with roofing drooping...this is it...Red's Blues Club.

There's a small whiteboard with something scribbled in red with "Sunday" and "Mark" I wander around the back.

Hear a car door shut...a guy in there...tap on the window...""Do you know if there's any blues here tonight?"

"Red's inside watching football. Why don't you ask him?"

So we approach..the door opens and a big black guy in a tracksuit & sunglasses steps out.

"Are you Red?"

"I'm sometimes known as that"

"We've come to hear the blues. Are you open tonight?"


I show him the whiteboard and he walks to his car, pulls out a red marker pen...rubbing the board with his sleeve "I guess I'd better rewrite that".

Now reads "Sunday Mark 'Muleman' Massey 7pm".

"See you then."

The icy air cuts through me but a warm feeling is surging through my veins.

This is the real deal. This is what we've come for.

Time to find something to eat and somewhere to stay...both feeling excited.


Driving up and down the highway...motel this, hotel that...eatery this, restaurant that...settle on Wendy's as it advertises burgers and looks the cleanest.

Never eaten at a Wendys in Oz...but some things are meant to be.

Inside chomping...Den on the ipad trawling for digs to stay...reading out reviews.

Then she saw it.

Someone stayed at a hotel because they couldn't get into Shack Up Inn.

Look up Shack Up Inn...huts on a cotton plantation!

BOOK IT. We are on our way!!!


Shack Up Inn

Turn right at the Crossroads sign...crossed guitars on a tall pole...marks the spot where legend says Robert Johnson (1911 to 1938) sold his soul to the devil in exchange for attaining guitar mastery.

Several miles down the road through cotton fields...turn right over rail tracks...old rusty cotton gin with ancient cars and drays outside...sharecroppers shacks in a cluster out the back...welcome to Shack Up Inn.

You love the blues...about $80 a night...not cheap, but this is where you stay.

Inside and out the most eclectic collection of brick-a-brac of the blues imaginable...big stage for with plenty of beer of course.

A sharecroppers wooden shack called "Crossroad"...tiny room...original plank floor...torn stained curtains...piano and bed one end...rustic kitchen & bathroom at the back door...TV playing blues day & night...a heater...and a rocking chair.

Perfect...two nights please.

When you come to Clarksdale you now know where to excuses...this is where to stay.

Oh...and the Blues' top harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite owns the cottage you can see just over there!


Red's Blues Bar

Having a beer with Bill & Jennifer from Missouri so we head off together to Red's for 7pm.

Only about eight others when we get there...greeted by a black guy called Dingo and four whites watching football on TV.

Red shuffles over and gets us beers and a Coke for Denise as she ain't into beers...looks Denise up and down...indicates he likes what he a gentlemanly way of course!

A white guy in a cap starts tuning a guitar...another setting up keyboards.

And then the band starts...just two of them.

And wow...can they play...Mark 'Muleman' Massey on lead guitar and vocals and Billy on keyboards...filling the room with glorious sound.

A phone rings and Red brings his mobile next to the guitar and has a chat with someone on way in the world he could have heard anyone...hands it to Mark when the track finishes..."Yeh I wish you were here too baby..."

Hands it back to Red...tells us her story...laughs and launches into the next track.

About six others join us...then a nod, a smile from two who rise...cross the stops, raises her hand and signals he join her...legs pumping, shoulders rolling...the rest cheering...the band cranking it up...the Dancing Duo shaking their socks off.

The Band

When North Mississippi Bluesman, Mark "Muleman" Massey was 19, he was an inmate at Parchman Prison.

Another inmate Junior Kimbrough's son, David, showed Mark how to play guitar.

Then a doco maker discovered a blues band playing in the jail and took them on a tour of the USA.

When Mark got out of Parchman Prison twenty years ago, bluesman Big Jack Johnson became his mentor and dear friend, and gave him the nickname, "Muleman".

Mark and his band have played with BB King at his homecoming in Indianola, MS, The Howlin Wolf Festival in West Point, MS, The Chicago Blues Festival, Bentonia Blues Festival, Juke Joint Fest in Clarksdale and many others.

He has also won two different International Blues Challenge qualifiers in Indianola and Rosedale, MS.

Mark is the youngest white bluesman on a Mississippi BluesTrail Marker (Parchman Prison Band).

His CD "One Step Ahead of the Blues" was produced by Memphis songwriter and recording legend, Don Nix and features special appearances by Bobby Rush, Willie Clayton, Eric Gales and Don Nix.

I'm playing my autographed copy now.

The guy on keyboards has visited Australia about 5 times.

Turns out Billy has been a member of the Mighty Rhythm Aces for about 40 years!

The Dancers

Jennifer joined us for one track but for the rest of the night the floor was ours.

And did the band love it!

But all good dancers need a rest every now and then...and these young dancers need more than most.

And when they rest the cold cuts in so coats back on...the band grooving along.

It's getting late...patrons filter out...but the band plays on...and Den & I get up to dance some more.

The track was "Green Onions"'s playing now...infectious groove.

A big booming voice cutting through the icy night air.

Its directed at Denise...Red standing there...calling out to her.

"Take off your overcoat we can see your moves."

She obliges...he smiles approval...the band ups the groove...and we danced...and they played till we could dance no more.

In fact it was just us and the band...and Red and Dingo of course...when we eventually danced out of there!

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave

Additional photos below
Photos: 84, Displayed: 28


19th June 2015

Shake up or Shack Up
Either way sounds like a great time was had by all... you really are an adventurous pair. It all looks a bit scarey to me but obviously wasn't. Looks a bit like that movie with Burt Reynolds .'.Deliverance' country.
19th June 2015

Shake up or Shack Up
One of the joys of travelling when looking for music Lynne, is to find a Blues joint like Red's that is the real deal. To find a place to stay as atmospheric as Shack Up Inn by an absolute fluke is serendipity in its brilliant glory.
19th June 2015

What a marvelous excursion you two are on. And of course Denise drives fast - most excellent drivers do! ;) And thanks for the Green Onions clip; it's one of my favorites.
19th June 2015

"And of course Denise drives fast - most excellent drivers do! ;)". Right on Karen. As Denise has a perfect driving record (no blemishes against her licence) no doubt she'd agree with you. But when my body tenses...we need Green Onions playing when that happens!!!
19th June 2015

Brave, brave souls
WOW! I would never have the courage to go in one of those places or even stop near one. It is so great to hear your love and enthusiasm for what is right under my nose. You are teaching us all a lesson. Carolyn/Gunga
20th June 2015

Brave, brave souls
Love & enthusiasm Carolyn...together with a few dance steps...amazing where it takes us. We're not known as the Dancing Duo for no reason!
20th June 2015

For a Blues lover...
it can't get any better.
20th June 2015

For a Blues lover... it can't get any better.
So right Bob. We are still buzzing from the brilliant highs of finding the Blues in Clarksdale of which I'll share further blues guitar licks and notes.
20th June 2015

He dances to his own tune, but not her...
Green onions. Gotta love it. How can you not move to that melody! Some great music & have to say some great dancing! Nothing better than being in the moment just moving to the groove, transported to another realm...wonderful memories! All I can say David is - if you drove any slower you would be in reverse!
22nd June 2015
Shack Up Inn

The Shack Up Inn
What a fantastically quirky looking place... no wonder you felt you had to go and stay there, I would too - it looks great! Thanks for sharing
22nd June 2015
Shack Up Inn

The Shack Up Inn
Thanks Nomads. It even has a stage and blues gigs and festivals are featured there. At those times I'd really like to be staying there. The vibe would be sensational.
23rd June 2015

Let us see your moves!
Welcome to Mississippi, the heart and soul of the blues-- and where else could a bluesman like you and your lovely wife end up. Red's Blues Club sounds perfect. Wish we had been there with you. We will follow in your footsteps and stay at the Shack Up Inn. (you dog) Glad you found such great places at the Crossroads of the blues.
23rd June 2015

Let us see your moves!
Wish we had been there with you guys as well. But we had to stay appropriately for a tasty entre to prepare for our meeting with you guys for a blueslicious main course.
23rd June 2015
I Will Always Love You

Denise on the blues highway
Pedal to the metal.....glad the blues lady was behind the wheel!
23rd June 2015
I Will Always Love You

Denise on the blues highway
And kinda appropriate when you see what song she was listening to!
24th June 2015

You guys have the best adventures! The Blues highway sounds pretty awesome, what a fantastic experience for a music lover.
24th June 2015

You guys have the best adventures!
You just can't have a bad time when you follow the music Rachael. Some of our best adventures have happened because we did just that. me goose bumps just thinking about them!
3rd July 2015

Grooving to the Blues!
Your grooving to the Blues are getting you and Denise to some interesting spots and across some interesting people! So many good stories of life to be found on this trail you're following!
6th July 2015

Grooving to the Blues!
I cannot properly express in words and pics what an absolute blast we have travelling down the Blues Highway Per-Olof. Hope the blog gives you a taste of the vibe and the music transports you there.
25th June 2017

Love it.
I took down several notes in order to take them into account for a future trip. It will be one of the best trips of my whole life. My plan will be to start in New Orleans: jazz, blues, rok and roll, country, wow!!!!!! Thank you. Good life! Hugs from Argentina.
26th June 2017

Love it
I had to read my blog and check out the photos before I could reply Graciela. And what fabulous memories came flooding in! We often talk of travelling the Blues Highway again...taking more time to discover more authentic juke joints...swoon in the blues...and stay at Shack Up Inn again. Don't just dream Graciela...just do it!!!

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