To many a blues man it was the street that
identified the town. Beale Street meant Memphis, Tennessee,
Cherry was in Helena, Arkansas, Farish -- Jackson, Mississippi, Fannin
-- Shreveport, Louisiana, Basin, Rampart or Perdido -- New Orleans.
Well, in the Mississippi River town of Greenville, the place was
Nelson Street. One blues man who made his way down Nelson Street
was a boogie woogie piano player whose music has been described with
words like “beautiful," "boisterous,"
"wistful," "exciting," "unorganized,"
"unpredictable," and "galvanizing." That man
was Willie Love. Born in Duncan, Mississippi in 1906, Willie
wandered the Delta performing his blues. He met up with Rice
Miller (Sonny Boy II) in 1942, and they became fast friends and fellow
performers. Willie performed with Sonny Boy on his King Biscuit
Time radio show in Helena. He eventually had his own 30 minute
show on WGUM in Greenville and later KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Early in the afternoon, Eddie and I arrive at 910
1/2 Nelson Street, the Deluxe Barbershop. Proprietor Culley
Miller expects us. We’re here to record Nelson Street Blues
inside the shop. In his song, Willie Love described a trip down
Nelson Street in 1951, stopping at shops and stores along the way,
getting ready for a night on the town. The Deluxe is the only
business he mentions in his song that is still here. Our trip of
discovery that brings us here has had many twists and turns, but the
chance to meet and talk with Culley, James, Frank Jr., Frank Sr.,
Mississippi Slim and others has been rewarding beyond our expectations.