Blues in the Night

blues band in memphis

An impromptu band at a recent Memphis Blues Society jam session bears a resemblance to the Lil' Ol' Band from Texas, ZZ Top. Their music, vintage blues, played with primordial passion, crawled into my person. I welcomed the visitation. Musicians, left to right: Greg Gumpel, guitar; Brian Wells, drums, "Evil," bass; and Josh Roberts, guitar.

Blues, one of the few unique American art forms, according to numerous denizens of Memphis, got its start in their fair city. Nearby, their Mississippi brethren will probably argue that the birthplace was a few miles further south. Most of the rest of us acknowledge that the beginnings were in the neighborhood of both. Thank goodness I don’t have a dog in that fight. I just love the music and could care less about the geography thereof.

Before we venture further, this treatise got its start on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there and see a couple of blues pictures and read about the blues experience.

blues singer and bass player

Memphis blues singer Red Velvet is accompanied by bass virtuoso Leo Goff in the soon to be legendary September 16 Jam Session of the Memphis Blues Society.

Speaking of which, the September 16  Memphis Blues Society  jam session which I attended was one of those rare events for which the stars, the moon, asteroids, the shifting winds, the Mississippi River flow, the smog level, the mosquito reproduction rate, and the ghost of W. C. Handy all come together and sprinkle Neil’s Bar and Grille with blues pixie dust. Having breathed deeply of these unseen cosmic colloids, a hastily assembled, impromptu band held forth with a toe-tingling music session to remember. The audience, similarly entranced swayed with the tunes and lyrics. Especially the one couple on the dance floor clinging to each other and moving as one.

Josh Roberts

At the ripe old age of 13, Josh Roberts first laid his hot little hands on a guitar. It was like bacon and eggs, 'taters and gravy and, or coffee and a cup. They were simply meant to be together. As his fingers negotiate the fretboard like a spider and he plucks the strings with frenetic energy, the blues spew forth and wing their way around the room.

The Blues Society holds these sessions twice monthly at 7:30 – 11:00 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays. There is an open invitation for blues musicians to perform. A Blues Society band starts the action for one set and then the volunteers come forth to wail. Normally, at about 9:00 p.m. any professional musicians present are invited to come forth and do their thing. And on the 16th, did they ever. Like McArthur, ” . . . I shall return.”


Every week we shoot more pictures than we can post, so we put those suckers up in a high resolution galleries, one for folks with a PC and one for folks with Macs and I-Phones. This week there are 19 bigger and better pictures from this event. PC, click here. Mac, I-Phone or PC, click here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Arkansas City and points south

old office

This old building dating back to the nineteenth century in Arkansas City has the appearance of a former law office, at least in my eyes. I have seen similar buildings that were so designated.

This piece of machinery, the use of which remains a mystery, adorns the side yard of the old building above.

This piece of machinery, the use of which remains a mystery, adorns the side yard of the old building above.

The building resides in Arkansas City, Arkansas. Once, one of the crown jewels of Mississippi River commerce, the town fell from grace (well, at least for river commerce), when the great flood of 1927 shifted the mighty Mississippi main channel to the east leaving Arkansas City high and dry by far too many miles.

There’s more to this story than you see here. The good news is the story started on the photo of the week page at Corndancer dot com which is one click away. To see an old store, formerly a saloon,  with a balcony front, at Arkansas City and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

The town butts right up to what was the main Mississippi River levee until the flood. Remnants of the former river trade can be found at the Moore Farms entrance to Kate Adams Lake which partially sits where the Mississippi churned by prior to the ’27 flood.


These structures at the Moore Farms access to Kate Adams lake are on what would have been the river side of the levee. They are what’s left of a part of the docks for the river boats which plied their trade at Arkansas City. Placid, game fish laden Kate Adams is lake is in the background.  The lake is named for one of the boats which made regular stops at Arkansas City. Captain Adams, master of the boat, named the boat after his wife Kate. Reportedly there were three boats named Kate Adams. The last one was destroyed in a explosion and fire.


To give you some idea of the scale of these huge relics, I am 6′-4″ tall in shoes. For long-term acquaintances, you may remember when the numbers were 6′-6.”

Checkin’ the levees

Continuing southward on the gravel road which tops the levee, I smirked when I recalled one of the standard goofing off terms, used by southern good ol’boys, to wit: “Checkin’ the levees.” The term could be used to cover a multitude of sins, some nefarious and some just for fun.

One of the better fun ones was to grab a six pack, pick up a buddy and drive around in a pickup truck with the windows down listening to Lynard Skynard.

It was perfectly permissible to substitute Led Zepplin, Jimmy Buffett, or another favorite performer. Or two, Then when a call comes in, your receptionist tells the caller, ” … he’s out checkin’ the levees hon.” My experiences along these lines of course, are from a former life.

On the way to Arkansas City, I saw this barn and gave in to the urge to shoot. This barn is sans the usual  explanation. There was a house close by, perhaps with people who know. After visually reconnoitering the premises, the word “Deliverance” came to mind so I eschewed the visit. One never knows.

Great looking old barn. Not many details available

Great looking old barn. Not many details available.

A thirsty lake

Eventually I arrived at the shores of a thirsty lake. Yes there was a lot of water, just not as much as one normally expects. Of course one generally wants to see lakes at their robust levels. However, when the levels drop, sights not normally available become, well, available. Such as the substructure of cypress trees. We had that opportunity back in March at Enterprise Lake. Also look here. In this case, the tree is not as big as found on the earlier trip, but it is off the chart on the dry scale. Can cypress get psoriasis?


Calling all dogs. Help!

The lake also reveals other artifacts and or junk as the levels drop. I wonder how many Ray Bans have been recovered since the the level has dropped. Will Jimmy Hoffa surface?


You can never tell what will show up when the lake drops. Looks like this one was a victim of a bicycle chop shop, with subsequent evidence disposal.

This doesn’t happen often

The new Mississippi River bridge connecting Lake Village on the Arkansas side and Greenville on the Mississippi side is taking shape. The shot below is from the temporary exit to the Cow Pen steak house on Highway 82 on the Arkansas side. The projected opening date is in “2009,”  but we are in the fourth quarter, so we’ll see. The bridge will be the longest cable stayed bridge on the river. A new bridge over Ol’ Man River ain’t an every day occurrence.

The "soon to be open" new Mississippi River Bridge near Lake Village AR and Greenville MS.

The “soon to be open” new Mississippi River Bridge near Lake Village AR and Greenville MS.

For those who use monkey wrenches

For those who use monkey wrenches

As promised, here’s another sign from Joe Webb’s collection, a work in progress. He’s always on the prowl for new stuff.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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