Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Road Trip, Part three

Keith Murphy

Doug and I leave Helena and scoot back to Clarksdale to enjoy a night of great music at the Ground Zero Blues Club. We first check in at El Patel Motel and then head on over. We arrive at seven, but learn the music doesn't start till eight. I tell Doug there is a historic blues club, called Reds, nearby and maybe we can catch a beer there and then return in time for the music at Ground Zero.

"Cool, man," Doug says.

The club looks like it has been condemned and is falling in. Yet there are a couple of cars parked out front, so we carefully make our way to what appears to be an entrance. I push on the door and suddenly come face to face with four grown...I men. They are sitting in the middle of the room around a table decorated with a half-full fifth of Evans Williams.

"How ya'll," I say.

Next thing I know we are sitting with these guys, one of whom is Red, and listening to and telling more BS than you will ever hear at a VFW. Technically, the club is closed this particular night and it is just Red and three of his friends relaxing, and a more hospitable goup I have never encountered. We laugh and talk and drink for an hour in this real live juke joint, with these black men of the Delta. Four things in particular are said by Red or his friends:

1. Don't worry, I run this place, and nothing is gonna happen to ya while I'm around.

2. Y'all brought some of that good ole Georgia shine wif ya, didn't ya?

3. I once had Pinetop Perkins play the piano against Jerry Lee Lewis, and Pinetop smoked ole Jerry Lee. I had four cameras filming and none of them could keep up with Pinetop's fingers as he hit up on that ole piano.

4. Business is a little slow, but I got the [Sunflower] river to my back and the graveyard to my front and I got no choice but to make it.

We leave Red's after promising we'll be back on Friday night to hear T-Model Ford, a legendary bluesman, now in his 90s, who will be performing.

We get back to Ground Zero about the time the band starts. Sean Apple and the All Night Long Blues Band. They have a harmonica player who can't stop dancing. We see the co-owner of the club, a man called Luckett who owns Ground Zero with Morgan Freeman.

The next morning we are up bright and early and take off for Little Rock. I had purchased a four-foot by eight-foot Pabst sign on ebay and need to pick it up in Alexander, a little place outside Little Rock. We start out cross-country with the intention of picking up I-40 near Brinkley.

Between Helena and Brinkley, we encounter duck and goose hunting country . . . lots of flat grain fields, flooded fields, and flooded woodlands, and thousands of Canada geese flying around. We don't see hunters; the season had just ended the last of January.

We stop in Binley to drink coffee at Gene's BBQ and Family Restaurant. Here we discover two things: First, the ivory-billed woodpecker and second, the nice waitress from Romania.

It appears there was a magnificent bird that inhabited the big woods of Arkansas for ions of years, until the bird became extinct as a result of logging operations during the first part of the twentieth century. Then in 2004, after sixty years, someone saw the ivory-billed woodpecker near a section of virgin woods outside of Brinkley. Gene's restaurant is the meeting place for a lot of the scientists who come to see the bird, so Gene decorated his walls with artists' drawings of the splendid bird. You can also order an Ivory-billed Cheeseburger. There have been a number of videos and photos, but yet no absolute proof the bird really lives.

Our waitress is a lovely young lady with a strange accent. Turns out she is from Romania and was working on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean when she met a handsome young man from Brinkley. You know the rest of the story.

We boogie on to Little Rock, retrieve the sign, and head back east to Memphis. We plan to be on Beale Street this night.



Keith Murphy is a twice-divorced, thrice-married senior citizen, born and raised in Georgia.  He got his education on a South Georgia farm during Jim Crow days, as well as a BA and law degree from the liberal, liberal arts university, Mercer, located in Macon.

He has a daughter that is a lawyer, a son who is a jet pilot, a dog named Merle, and his first wife is happily married to a wonderful guy, named Mike.
Keith retired from a lucrative law practice several years ago, recently went busted a la real estate, and now concentrates on having fun, espescially nurturing his Cooter Brown Emporium business in the scenic north Georgia mountains.

His most recent loves are his new Brazilian wife, and the Delta blues.

Editor's Note: Keith Murphy recently took a roadtrip from Blairsville, Georgia, through Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Memphis, and then back home to Georgia. This is an accurate account of his trip, so he claims.

© Keith Murphy

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012