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Vacation Blues  by Sam Chatmon

Houston Stackhouse told of hearing Robert Nighthawk and the Mississippi Sheiks at two different drugstores on two different street corners in Hollandale, Mississippi one Saturday afternoon in 1930.  Sam Chatmon was one of the famous Chatmon family that made up the musical group the Mississippi Sheiks, originally from Bolton.  After the Mississippi Sheiks broke up in the mid 1930s, Sam on guitar along with his brother Lonnie on fiddle recorded 12 duets for the Bluebird record label.  Sam, a wandering songster who played guitar, harmonica, banjo, bass, fiddle and mandolin, eventually settled in Hollandale, Mississippi.  He worked on farms in the area, but also played street corners and house parties, as well as minstrel and medicine shows.  Sam lived a long life and was rediscovered in the 1960s, making him a bit of an authority figure during that folk revival.  When Alan Lomax met Sam in the 1970s, he reported that Sam wore a long gray beard that reached down to his belt buckle.  Sam told him, "I always keep the blues, that's my daily occupation…"

The wind comes in gusts as we set up and record in downtown Hollandale.  It's not exactly the back alley and not really a street corner -- it's just an old foundation up against a brick wall where the wind gusts are tolerable.  I see a man with a dog for his companion.  They search the trash cans for treasure and are curious about what we are up to here in these back lots.  The man and the dog watch us for awhile from some distance.  "What are you all doing?" their distant gazes seem to ask.  If they would only come a little closer I'd tell them.  "We’re having a little Vacation Blues."