Geeshie Wiley

Our 18 stories about blues songs travel far and wide but it’s no surprise that some are set in the home of the blues.

The Mississippi River is big. Really big. I knew it would be, but standing here on the bank, Arkansas is a long ways away. ‘The Mississippi River, you know it’s deep and wide. If I stand right here, I see my baby on the other side.’ I’m looking at the same view that Geeshie Wylie might have looked at. Alice Bishop’s tender, broken hearted love story based on Last Kind Words by Geeshie Wiley

The Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church is an unadorned white weatherboard building, sitting by a road a couple of miles north of the town of Greenwood, in the heart of Mississippi’s delta region. Beside the church building is a cemetery, which contains a marker commemorating the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. John Butler recalling a 3RRR tour via Hellhound On My Trail.

In 2016 I’d planned a trip with my partner Gina to the USA to attend The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Arkansas, staying over the river in Clarksdale Mississippi. Just before we left Australia the line up for the Deep Blues Fest was announced. A four day festival that follows Biscuit, Cathead and The Pinetop Homecoming Festivals, The Deep Blues Fest had Gabe Carter playing on the last day at four o’clock in the afternoon. Dan Firth on meeting Mississippi Gabe Carter in Chicago.

Rijn Collins, however, takes us to Iceland, where a song by Etta James calmed the nerves of driver and passengers in a fearsome blizzard. Crawling King Snake, a blues classic, has countless versions. A tale of inappropriate men and absolving women, the snake crawls in and out of his lovers’ lives with each verse. When I hear the murmur of ‘Well, well, well’ it’s a comfort stronger than liquor and warmer than blood. Chris, driving, nods. I settle back into my seat, and listen.

Closer to home, John Butler pays tribute to the late, great Chris Wilson. A big man stalks the stage. He prowls. Shaved hair. Baggy t-shirt. Faded jeans. A denim jacket if he was feeling fancy. Clothes you can sweat in. This ain’t no fashion show. This is the blues. This is country. This is Chris Wilson music. In case you’d missed the point, a finger would jab the air. Then a harmonica blast might leave your mouth agape.  Then that big, deep soulful voice would kick in. It might growl, it could roar, but it could also cajole. Entice. Beguile. Persuade. Comfort. Captivate.

Our blues collection also has stories by David Oke, Luke Davies, Kevin Densley, Peter Crossing, Paul Dufficy and, perhaps, most curious of all, a story by Dawn Corrigan about an Aerosmith soundcheck in Salt Lake City, Utah. Yes, Aerosmith. The techs had been tuning the instruments and jamming a little. Perry picked up a guitar and joined them, launching without preamble into a blues riff. After startled glances between them, the drum tech, bass tech, and a second guitarist rushed to follow his lead. They played for awhile, and then Perry walked over to his microphone and started singing. Though the mic wasn’t even on, he continued, completing the first verse of a blues song…

The Blues collection

Etta James

Editor: Vin Maskell Assistant editor: Louise Maskell Web legend: James Demetrie, of DISKMANdotNET