"Boy, if you ever go to Greenville, please go down on Nelson Street
Where you can laugh and have a lot of fun with, most everybody you meet..."

DATELINE:  April 19, 2001
Greenville, Mississippi


"Walk right cross the streets man while you is all full of vim,
To the Deluxe Barbershop and get you a sharp fat trim..."

hen Mrs. Lillian McMurray, at Trumpet Records in Jackson, recorded Willie Love singing his Nelson Street Blues back in 1951, she wrote out the words to the song as told to her by Willie.  The Farrish Street Museum in Jackson now has those handwritten notes.  We called up Woody Wilcox at the museum.  He sat down and read off the words we were having trouble understanding.  They say, "Now you can start at North Fab-Ba-Lee and walk about one block down."  Lillian had spelled the street out phonetically.

We arrived in Greenville a little after 12 noon and went up to 910 1/2 down on Nelson Street to the Deluxe Barber Shop. Culley Miller, one of the proprietors, was expecting us.  Frank, Jr. was in the chair getting his haircut and Frank, Sr., his dad, was waiting on the bench.

The Deluxe (with emphasis on the 'D') Barbershop looks just like the shop where I got my first real haircut, same shape room, shoeshine stand and barber chairs all in the same relative positions.  Southern barbershops, now that's the real world.  When I made my first visit to a barbershop back in the 50s, it was a special occasion, and the day I'd grown tall enough not to need a booster seat, well, that was truly a right of passage.  Visiting the Deluxe brought back familiar memories, especially in light of the warm, easy way we out of towners were greeted

Eddie and I came to the Deluxe because it's one of the only stores mentioned in Willie Love's walk down Nelson Street that's still in business.  We began setting up our equipment, and Eddie asked Culley and the two Franks if there was a street around that sounded like North Fab-ba-lee.  They said that would be Theobald, since the locals pronounce it Thee-ble.  It works, and that's what Eddie sings in his recording of Nelson Street Blues made there at the Deluxe that day.

Culley got interested in our maybe recording a fellow around there known as 'Mississippi Slim.'  So Culley went in search of Mississippi as we recorded a couple of takes with the other two Franks in audience.  Eddie was listening through headphones and singing along with music tracks he'd prepared back in our studio.  That meant the two Franks could only hear Eddie's singing, without the music.  When we got through we let them listen through the headphones to one of the takes complete with the music.  They were gracious with their compliments.

Like I said, Culley put the word out on Slim and came back for the last few takes. After we'd finished, while we were taking down our equipment, Mississippi Slim showed up. Passing the headphones around one at a time, we let everybody listen to Eddie's last recording of
Nelson Street. James McKinney, the other barber, listened through once and told Eddie, "That sounds really good, you almost sound black." Eddie said, "We've been workin' on this thing for 5 years, on and off, and that's about the best thing anybody has said to me yet."

By the time we got packed back up, we'd told and heard a few barbershop tales, learned a bit of Nelson Street history and made the acquaintance of some genuinely friendly folks.  "If you ever go to Greenville, please go down on Nelson Street, where you can laugh and have a lot of fun with most everybody you meet..."

Copyright 2001 Thomasfilms, Inc.