Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

What's on View at the Delta Blues Museum

Clarksdale, Mississippi

Just as New Orleans is inextricably linked with jazz, Clarksdale, Mississippi is ground zero for its soulful sister, the blues. Here, deep in "the land where the blues began," the Delta Blues Museum is dedicated to preserving and teaching this uniquely American musical form. Housed in Clarksdale's historic freight depot, the museum features 5,000 square feet of permanent and traveling exhibits, as well as a classroom for music education. Below, museum staff Shelley Ritter and Lee Commer Pharr took us on a virtual tour of what's currently on view at the Delta Blues Museum.

Image courtesy of the Delta Blues Museum

Mississippi: State of the Blues Exhibit

This exhibit of photographs by noted Mississippi photographer Ken Murphy is taken from the book of the same name. The display features 30 large-format photos of blues scenes in and around Clarksdale, from performances at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival and Red's Lounge to portraits of Super Chikan and Jimbo Mathus. The exhibit, like the book, attempts to show what a traveler to the Delta would find today. The blues is still very much alive throughout Mississippi, and Murphy’s photographs showcase its current state.

The Son House exhibit. Image courtesy of the Delta Blues Museum

Son House: A Retrospective Exhibit

The Delta Blues Museum’s most recently opened newest exhibit focuses on Son House, the renowned bluesman who taught Robert Johnson how to play guitar. The retrospective features the work of Blues Hall of Fame photographer, archivist, and Oxford, Mississippi resident Dick Waterman, who is largely known for his work with The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. Waterman is one of the men credited with “rediscovering” Son House in 1964, and was his manager and close friend until House’s death. There are several fantastic photographs of Son House on and off stage, along with information about the blues man’s journey and legacy.

Exterior of the Muddy Waters cabin. Image courtesy of the Delta Blues Museum

Muddy Waters Exhibit

This display features the core of the former Morganfield family home (Waters's real name is McKinley Morganfield), once located on Stovall Farms, just outside Clarksdale. The original home had several additional rooms but the dwelling had fallen into disrepair until this central part was saved by the House of Blues foundation and donated to the museum in 2001.

Inside, a life-size (and eerily lifelike) statue of Waters, dressed in his trademark sharp suit and holding a ‘50s vintage electric guitar, sits exuding its own brand of “mojo." Plaques with information about Waters’s life and music are fixed to the cabin’s walls; excerpts from the A&E biography of Waters play on a monitor inside. Also featured is a “Muddywood” guitar, made from salvaged wood from the cabin, courtesy of Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

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Charlie Musselwhite's piano. Image courtesy of the Delta Blues Museum

Charlie Musselwhite Exhibit

The Charlie Musselwhite exhibit displays the piano, shoes, signed harmonica, and other memorabilia of the harp master, a Chicago blues scene veteran and longtime compadre of blues legend John Lee Hooker. Musselwhite’s exhibit is special because it is constantly growing. He is still playing and actively participating in today’s blues scene, and is a representative of the highest order of the continued popularity of the blues.

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The museum's music education classroom. Image courtesy of the Delta Blues Museum

Delta Blues Museum Arts and Education Program

The purpose of the Delta Blues Museum’s Arts and Education Program is to continue the great musical tradition born in the Mississippi Delta: the Delta blues. The Arts and Education program teaches students to play music and keeps the history of the Delta blues alive. Students are taught to play the blues on the instrument or instruments of their choice. Instruments---drums, guitars, and keyboards---are provided by the museum for use in the classroom and authorized performances. However, we encourage students to purchase their own instruments. Instructors utilize the oral tradition, recorded music, video, instruction books, and handouts to educate the students in a classroom environment. The students progress from learning the basics of playing music to working together as a band. While in the gift shop, visitors can purchase a copy of the students’ first CD: From Clarksdale to Kansas City Vol. 1 (released spring 2011). Also, visitors lucky enough to come Monday through Thursday, between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00, can observe the classes in session.

Delta Blues Museum
#1 Blues Alley
Clarksdale, Mississippi 38614

Please visit the Blue Star Museum website for more information about the program and to find participating museums.

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