A Night at Ground Zero Clarksdale by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 5/10/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) After a long afternoon in the sun playing with the Eric Hughes Band at the new Harley-Davidson dealership in Southaven, Mississippi, my brother, Jeffrey, and I re-grouped and headed even further south down the blues highway, Highway 61, to Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Photo above is of my friends Brandon Santini of Delta Highway and Josh Roberts of the Reba Russell Band. I had seen Delta Highway members Brandon Santini, Tom Lewis, Derek Bonn and Elliot Sowell at our gig in Southaven and these guys performance got canceled so Brandon decided to drive down to hang out with us at Ground Zero.

Here's an article I wrote about Delta Highway:

Here's a link to their site:

I will be writing an upcoming article on Delta Highway's live recordings that are taking place this week

After loading in we get down to business, playing for a sold out crowd of kind revelers and blues fans, many who had come from out of town and even some who had traveled from out of the country to visit the most famous juke joint in the delta.

The Reba Russell Band is releasing their new CD on the 15th of May and it is the band's best effort yet. It is being called "8" as it is their eighth CD and it is full of new bluesy songs and a couple of surprises. Get your copy at

Wayne Russell behind the throbbing bass

During a break I shot this picture of Reba Russell and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Luckett

Bill Luckett and award winning actor, Morgan Freeman, own Ground Zero and Bill has been a friend for many decades. He is currently running for Governor of Mississippi and it was great to see him and play one of his favorite songs, Albert King's "I'll Play the Blues for You." Ground Zero also has several well appointed rooms upstairs from the club which they rent out. It is a favorite place to stay for blues fans and travelers along the blues highway. The whole building is an old cotton grading warehouse and is a genuine piece of southern history.

Reba Russell sings the blues off the band's new CD, entitled "8."

That's Josh Roberts playing slide guitar above.

The party thrives at Ground Zero.

Doug McMinn behind the drums

Reba Russell

Reba Russell

Reba Russell

The Reba Russell Band without the keyboard guy who was taking the picture

Brandon Santini and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

If you ever get the chance, visit Clarksdale and the delta as it is rich in traditional blues, has a fine blues museum and is not fraught with all the tourist trap repugnance that is currently plaguing Beale Street. I love Beale Street more than anybody and have played there for over 25 years, but karaoke, dj's and club owners who only want to pay 5 piece bands $200 a night have degraded the experience considerably. Jesus, how cheap and trifling can you get? Beale is a historical gem but the better musicians cannot afford to play there. They still come to Clarksdale's Ground Zero.

Sorry, Beale Street, but you have done this to yourselves and I am not going to lie for you. It's not too late for Beale to come back to it's glory, but that's probably best left for another article. At this point the club owners are starving out the music scene to squeeze out higher margins for themselves and it has become just another alcohol experience for most visitors rather than the zenith of the blues mecca that it is purported to be.

our friend, Belinda Moore

that's Jay Moore's sweet mother, Doryce Moore, who comes often to see the band.

Brandon Santini, Jeffrey Tooms, Jay Moore and Brian LaPrade

Reba Russell, J. T. Lauritsen and artist/songwriter Sally Raburn

J. T. sat in on a few numbers. He hails from Norway and is booking the band for a Norway tour there this year in October. He is a good singer, harp player and organ player.

My brother and I stopped by Delta Donut after the gig, but sadly, they weren't open yet

World famous Abe's Bar-B-Que as seen on the Food Network

The crossroads where the two highways intersect

Here's a link to Clarksdale's Ground Zero blues club, Delta Cotton Company Apartments, Madidi Restaurant and a link to their club's live audio/video stream :


© Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010

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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