By Panny Flautt Mayfield
CLARKSDALE – For years Clarksdale’s Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival has been his favorite; now quintessential harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite has bought his own building practically next door to the main stage.
It’s blue, two-story, and covers 50,000 square feet. It also borders the Sunflower River and stands across the street from Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club.
In a statement issued from their home in Geyserville, California, Charlie and Henrietta Musselwhite announce their purchase of the former Delta Wholesale building which has been vacant for several months.
“Intentions for the building as a whole are presently evolving. Half the fun is figuring out what to do next and which of our fantasies can become reality,”they explain.
“We are however, looking forward to putting down roots in the Delta and particularly in the Delta’s Home of the Blues, Clarksdale.”
“It will be good to be among the many friends we have found in the area and to be able to soak up all of that feeling from our own front porch. Also for Charlie, it is a return to his home state and to many childhood friends, relatives, and memories,” it continues.
The Musselwhites say they do not plan to leave their California home, but will be spending time also in Clarksdale.
The multiple W.C. Handy Award winner and recipient of the 2000 MississippiGovernor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts has visited Clarksdale numerous times since he first headlined the Sunflower Festival in 1995.
Interviewed for a profile in the July 2003 issue of Big City Blues magazine, he was asked to name his favorite festival, and replied,
“I like the Sunflower in Clarksdale because it’s free, and I think only people from Mississippi play there. You go there and see that blues is alive and well in the Delta.
“It’s another part of the south – where blacks and whites are all together having a great time. It’s real down home! And you get cheese grits.”
Born in Kosciusko, he moved to Memphis as a child, went to school there, and moved to Chicago where he began work driving an exterminator truck and learned the location of blues clubs.
He began hanging out to hear Muddy Waters and eventually began playing with them and other blues greats.
Clarksdale native John Lee Hooker was best man at the Musselwhite’s wedding.