I expected my juke joint pilgrimage to feel like a peripatetic wake. Decades ago, blues luminaries like Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and Sonny Boy Williamson traveled across the South, guitar or harmonica in hand, from joint to joint for just enough money and food to get to the next one. In doing so they laid the foundation for nearly every form of popular American music that would follow.
But today, juke joints, once too numerous to count, have slipped away as their owners pass on. When I asked Roger Stolle, a founder of the Juke Joint Festival, held annually in Clarksdale, Miss., how many such places still exist, he replied: “With actual real, live blues music at least sporadically? Maybe five.”
Taking a route through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, I set out to find some of these spots and discovered that where juke joints still exist jubilance remains. Traditionally seen as dens of the devil’s music — jook is believed to originate from an African-derived Gullah word meaning disorderly — the surviving joints have become redefined as sanctuaries. Within their ramshackle walls, a sense of community and a love of soul-searching rhythms reign supreme.
print on shoji screen
rainy May morning-
sets in muddy garden
Frenchman Street, New Orleans
Napoleon’s boudoir upstairs.
Django patiently waits
of man cave
“A flash from the past”- Mike Friedman and Michael Zimber on a climb of the the Mace in Sedona, AZ, circa 1978.
Early Morning Sitting