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."