Heading to the Delta .. With the Blues in Mind

Group Photo of the Down 2 The Crossroads Blues Workshop


I recently attended a guitar and bass workshop at the Crossroads, the cradle of the Delta Blues in Clarksdale Mississippi. I have never been a big blues guy, not that I disliked it, just never overly exposed to the genre – so how did this come about? It all started when a good friend and bassist, whom I regularly jam with, asked if I would be interested in heading to Mississippi for a week to immerse myself in the culture and music of the blues during a week long guitar/bass workshop.

At first I was on the fence, Mississippi has never been on my bucket list to visit and one

Blues Shack Student Housing

only has so many vacation days to enjoy. After a few weeks discussing the goal of the trip and listening to some blues “staples”, I decided I would like to give it a try – it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while.

This was my first experience traveling with my guitar on a flight, interesting tidbits to share… the first flight I carried it onboard, while dodging the rolling eyes of other passengers concerned they would not have enough overhead space since I was taking all the room with the guitar case. For the connecting flight, my buddy recommended that we gate check the axe – much better decision.

Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale

We arrived in Memphis, picked up the rental car and headed towards Clarksdale and the Down 2 The Crossroads workshop at the Shack Up Inn. What immediately struck me as we hit the outskirts of Memphis was the unfortunate economic depression that was prevalent throughout the region. We arrived a bit too early to check into our rooms so headed straight for Clarksdale and Abe’s BBQ, a Clarksdale institution since 1924, for lunch. It was the first of many pure southern comfort meals of the week.

Abe’s Barbecue

What I was most struck by when entering the “old” downtown portion of Clarksdale is how much it embraced its roots as a significant contributor to the foundation of Blues music. Clarksdale is a significant stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail that was created in 2006 and contains a number of markers and historical sites related to the birth, growth and influence of Blues throughout the state.

Clarksdale seemingly still exists today because of this tie to the Blues, the town is depressed, but there are a few businesses, restaurants, etc still around, all seemingly there to support the tourism business that exists because of the Mississippi Delta Blues. In fact, a few newer additions have moved in because of the musical influence of the area including; the Ground Zero Blues Club (owned by Morgan Freeman) and the Delta Blues Museum (partially funded by Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top). The town of Clarksdale was best summed up on the back of a t-shirt I bought at the John Lee Hooker Grocery and Eatery – “Clarksdale, Mississippi – home to – 49 Blues Legends, 107 churches, and 0 Starbucks.

Jeremy Visiting the Delta Blues Museum



Jeremy Ferral, a guitar and banjo student of Fretmentor, contributed this article.  This is Part I of a two part story on the Clarksdale Blues Experience.


About fretmentor

Born in Detroit, Michigan, David F. Jakubiak has been involved in music since the age of 7, beginning as a clarinet player and then at 9 turning his attention to stringed instruments. He earned trophies in group talent competitions while a student at the University of Michigan. The instructor earned a BA degree in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. At college, he also studied classical music and music history. His passion is teaching music and in performing as a musician. In addition to on-stage performances, David has played in various venues from outdoor festivals to small nightclubs. He plays, performs and teaches various styles of music, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical, country and bluegrass styles. He performs and teaches acoustic and electric guitar, five-string banjo, and mandolin. His styles range from Scruggs, melodic, Reno and old-time style on banjo, to finger-style and flat-picking technique on guitar, to various styles of mandolin. For over 45 years, Mr. Jakubiak has taught all age groups, taking a personal interest in each student to ensure that they receive the attention and lesson plans that meet their needs and interests. His lessons and instructional materials place a strong emphasis on the practical use or music theory to ensure that the student understands the instrument and learns how to improvise to develop their own style. Mr Jakubiak teaches group and studio classes, webcam lessons over the internet, and individual private lessons to students of various ages. He has compiled and produced eight instructional books on CD as well as numerous instrumental arrangements. David has written for Banjo Newsletter, a monthly publication for the banjo enthusiast and has published an article in Issue #37 of the Fretboard Journal. He is the founder of www.fretmentor.com. To contact David Jakubiak, please feel free to e-mail him at david AT fretmentor.com (substitute the @ sign for the word AT)
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