Ground Zero, Clarksdale , MS by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 10/05/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Ground Zero Blues Club

Owners Morgan Freeman and Bill Luckett

(Memphis, Tennessee) This week we venture south from Memphis down old 61 Highway (a topic of the famous Mississippi Fred McDowell song) to play at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. This place is a converted cotton grading building and warehouse where samples of cotton from growers were assembled and graded upstairs by holding them up to a skylight in the roof. Now the upstairs area is furnished with nice apartments which are available for rent. It is known as the Delta Cotton Company apartments and here's the link:

The downstairs area is a big juke joint replete with rustic delta food and furnishings and graffiti on every surface of the place. It is a warm, inviting place to play the blues.

The club is owned by famous actor Morgan Freeman and my old friend Bill Luckett, who is a fine attorney. I believe Bill is running for Governor of the state. He is an exceptionally friendly man who is often to be seen in the club with his wife on Saturday evenings, greeting folks and tripping the light fantastic on the old dance floor.

Jumping James Cunningham and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

After about an hour and a half ride through the verdant Mississippi delta, my brother and I arrived at the club and met our friend Walt, the club's superb sound engineer. We loaded in the gear and checked the sound as patrons arrived. This club, which I have played many times, most always has a good crowd of friendly blues fans and weekend revelers.

Eric Hughes and Leo Goff

On this night the Eric Hughes band was joined by my longtime friend Leo Goff, who is one of the few true geniuses I have been fortunate to meet in this lifetime. Among other accomplishments, Leo, known as the "freight train of pain" holds 5 land speed records, has lectured at MIT, worked for NASA, and spent a good part of last week rebuilding a 1959 Maserati engine in his shop. Not only is he a great bassist, but he can also rebuild your Ferrari for you or engineer some stuff to take you to the moon and beyond. Leo is currently being talked into building me a three wheeled motorcycle using eight feet tall airplane tires which I will drive down Beale Street on Wednesday bike nights.

Memphis Mike Forrest on his '68 Stratocaster

Ground Zero stage loaded with gear

The Leo Goff Signature Model bass by Barker

Leo is endorsed by the Barker bass company who makes his signature Leo Goff upright electric bass. It sounds tremendous and he plays it with a ferocious fluidity of manual dexterity.

Leo's inlaid signature

Eric Hughes on stage

James Cunningham on the drums

The Eric Hughes band took the stage, playing an assortment of original tunes and some classic old blues. The rollicking crowd danced, drank and ate from a menu of southern delights such as catfish and fried green tomatoes. This club is always fun. If you can't attend their shows they have them available as a live worldwide streaming feed to your computer. This month they will have Super Chiken, my old friend and band mate Butch Mudbone, more old friends Earl the Pearl and the Peoples of the Blues( I have been one of the "Peoples" many nights), and my buddy Blind Mississippi Morris who was seen in last week's blog. Also my friends in the fine Jimbo Mathus band will be appearing at the club and a fine blues jam is hosted there every Wednesday night.

Ground Zero is the crux of the blues happenings in this part of the delta. The live feed is available at:

Mike Forrest and Leo Goff

Dancers hit the floor before the set begins

Eric Hughes blows a tune on harmonica

Eric Hughes Band(photo by Jay Moore)

author, brother Jeff Tooms, Mike Forrest(photo by Jay Moore)

Razor Blade sits in for a couple of numbers(photo by Jay Moore)

During our last set our friend, Clarksdale blues man, Razor Blade sat in with the band for a couple of numbers. Razor has a great voice, is a local favorite and a sharp dresser. It capped off a great night of blues, dancing and a club full of friendly folks. Tourists from all over the world come to Ground Zero to experience some legitimate juke joint atmosphere and they are always welcomed with open arms by the friendly down home folks of the delta.

Eric Hughes(photo by Belinda Moore)

We were delighted to see our old friends Jay and Belinda Moore and we missed seeing our buddy Brian LaPrade who was down with a back injury. Get well, Brian! You could not ask for more genuine kind friends than these folks and they have become like members of my family.

Getting ready to pack up the show and head for Memphis(photo by Jay Moore)

Photo by Belinda Moore

Ground Zero is the real deal. It is located next to the Delta blues Museum and the area has several old time real juke joints. If you are a lover of the blues and want to see where it all came from, visit Clarksdale. The food, music and friendly folks will make you glad you came. Just don't linger at the crossroads and let a guy named Old Scratch tune your guitar and hand it back to you.

After arriving back in Memphis we prepared for some fun gigs we played this past week, the Mid-South Fair and a benefit at Neil's on Sunday where my brother slipped in the pouring rain while carrying my 1958 Fender Bassman. He hit a brick wall hard and will be at the doctor's office tomorrow but he never let the Bassman hit the ground. What a guy. Get well, Jeff!

Tonight we venture to the roof of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to play with the Reba Russell band. This Thursday I travel to Helena, Arkansas to play with John Primer at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. Friday I play at Ernestine and Hazel's in Memphis with the Ernestine & Hazel's band and then back to Helena on Saturday for a double with Reba Russell on the main stage in the afternoon and then Papa Don McMinn at the Robert Jr. Lockwood stage that evening.

If you can find a way to get there, the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival is the undisputed destination of choice for true blues fans from around the globe. More on this event in next week's American Blues News.

Here's a link:

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©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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