Central Delta Region
Covering the Mississippi Delta between
Clarksdale and US 82 (Leland-Greenwood)
Here in June 1999, gone by May 2003. These greetings
were located on US 49 (each one was facing in opposing direction),
mentioning Tutwiler's claim as home of the blues. It should be
noted that sometime in the Summer/Fall of 2003 that new signs
were finally erected to direct traffic to their Railroad Blues
Here's Railroad Park, or at least some of it. The most
notable part of the park is the murals shown here.
left to right: the railroad, Handy meeting an unknown blues guitarist
here, farming/crop dusting, catfish ponds, and Aleck Miller, alias
Sonny Boy Williamson
Close up on the mural of W.C. Handy meeting an unknown
guitarist in this town (railroad park was created because of this
meeting) at the old train station here in Tutwiler. Handy when
describing this meeting, said the guitarist was singing, "Going
down to where the yellow meets the dog (which is in Moorhead,
This photo was taken by me in June,
Close up on the mural for Aleck Miller, aka Sonny Boy
Williamson (II). Aleck is buried outside Tutwiler and the mural
even includes a map to direct interested parties to his
grave site. I took this photo in June, 1999
As far back as 1976, people knew something important
happened here in Tutwiler. This monument is located at Railroad
Park in Tutwiler concerning Handy hearing the blues here for the
first time. Photo taken in June, 1999
The last remnants of the old railroad that were next
to the station. On the otherside of the murals above, there is
still an active railline through Tutwiler (going from Greenwood
to Clarksdale and beyond).
This group of buildings off on the horizon is Parchman
Farms, or better known locally as the Mississippi State Penitentiary.
Named after the crossroads in front of the main entrance (US 49E
and MS 32), this was one of those prisons you didn't want to be
sent to, up through the 1960s. You can drive through Parchman
Farms (I did so during my Mississippi trip in 1999), but be prepared
to be searched and interrogated, and don't stop your car while
inside the prison grounds.
The Shelby Depot closed as a train station in the 1960s
according to Steve Cheseborough's Blues Traveling. As the sign
above states, it was reopened as a library and according to the
same book, there are remenents from the railroad in the library
still. Both photos taken in June, 1999.
Cleveland, Mississippi (not Ohio!)
Cleveland, Mississippi has cleaned itself up
alot in the four years between my two visits here. Being a small
university town (Delta St. Univ. is located here) must have help
generate some funds for building restoration and streetscapes.
The Bolivar County Courthouse. Back in 1999, it was
being renovated (I have a picture of this building with a dumpster
of trash and a dust tube from one of the upper floors from back
then). In 2003, you can see it looks better. Best known for another
run-in W.C. Handy had with blues musicians (see below), and you
can look up all four of Charley Patton's marriage licenses in
here as well.
As mentioned above, W.C. Handy had an experience with blues
music here in front of the courthouse (see above). According to
legend, Handy was leading his orchestra during some festival here,
and someone from the crowd requested Handy and his band to perform
some "native music (codeword for black?)." Handy and
company must have not played the desired tune, for a second request
was sent up to him asking if he and his band would mind letting
a local (colored) group play a couple of dances.
Since Handy's pay was all the same if he played or not, he
let the local boys come up for a few songs. Supposedly, from the
historic marker (on the left here), this led to an epiphany for
Handy concerning the blues.
Another note about Handy and his enlightenment with the blues.
Tutwiler claims Handy's chance meeting with a guitarist at their
railroad station, led to him writing blues music, while Cleveland
here claims the same. Both towns' claims are based in fact from
Handy's own autobiography, it is just unknown (undocumented) which
incident occurred first.
I like what Cleveland did with the old railroad right-of-way
here through the old city square, turning this into a park and
What the Cleveland depot-library looked like in 1999
(with a malfunctioning shutter on my camera). It looked similar
to the Shelby depot above.
What the Cleveland (depot) library looked like in 2003.
Totally refinished on the outside with a new walkway and a tree.
Located along MS 8 between Cleveland and Ruleville,
Dockery Plantation holds an important place in blues history,
but some of its history is more myth than fact (starting with
that historical marker). Neverless, the painted barn (see above)
of Dockery Farms is one of the most well-known "trademarks"
of the blues. It should also be noted that Dockery Farms is still
in operation today, so don't get too carried away snooping around
Both photos taken in June, 1999
Other related pages on this site
Aleck Miller-Sonny Boy Williamson
All photos taken in May, 2003, unless noted otherwise
Page created on January 14, 2004/last updated on February
Questions, comments, and submissions can be sent to Sandor
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