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outside the front of Ground Zero the night we played posters and pen scribbles on stage
Mark Rick BJ on drums
on stage on stage on stage
Mark on stage Eric, BJ and Mark
on stage on stage we left our mark
more posters and pen scribbles sat on the stage - true light the bar - true light
the food counter - true light    


On a hot October Monday morning in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi, two English blues musicians pulled up their rental car outside the run-down old hotel building that housed Delta Recording. Hearing the sounds of music and seeing the door slightly open they knew that someone had already opened up an so they unloaded the few instruments they had bought, rented or borrowed and carried them into the dark, stuffy interior. So began the recording session that resulted in the Made in Mississippi album.

The story begins nearly a year before that day when Mark and Rick started to plan a pilgrimage to Mississippi. Originally the plan was to 'do the Biscuit' (go to the King Biscuit Blues Festival, just over the Mississippi river in Helena, Arkansas) and to do the Tombstone Trail (visit the graves of some of the blues greatest names) and, of course, take in the local blues scene. As plans were made they gradually expanded to include a few gigs in and around Clarksdale - thanks to the efforts of Clarksdale's local blues scene guru Roger Stolle of the amazing Cat Head music and art store - plus a day's recording at the Delta Recording studio. Mark and Rick knew that some of the biggest name in blues would be in the area the weekend of the King Biscuit Festival as Clarksdale was only a twenty minute drive from Helena and had plenty of accommodation and the best live blues scene for miles around. They also knew that Pinetop Perkins, the ninety-plus year old blues piano legend, would be staying at the Shack Up Inn - where they were staying - on the Sunday night of that weekend because he did every year as part of his Homecoming Celebrations. They knew there would be a party there that night and knew they would get a chance to talk to him and be able to ask him if he'd like to come and join them in the studio for a few numbers. With that in mind they booked the studio for the Monday - the very next day. They also knew they would get a chance to ask another blues legend to join them - Sam Carr, one of the Delta's finest drummers and the son of Robert Nighthawk - as he was also in the area that weekend.

By the time the day of the recording came by Mark and Rick had spent over a week in Mississippi, soaking up the atmosphere and listening to the local musicians. They had also played a number of gigs themselves including Big T's Place (owned by top local guitarist Terry 'Big T' Williams), the Hopson Commissary (right next to the Shackup Inn), Ground Zero (co-owned and run by actor Morgan Freeman, Bill Luckett and Howard Stovall) and the Cat Head Mini Fest. The set of photos above were taken at the Ground Zero gig and outside the Cat Head store during the Cat Head Mini Fest. At Big T's Place they were joined by many other musicians during the long night (the music started at 8pm and went on til nearly 4am) including Big T's rhythm section, Eric 'Bassfingers' Lanier on bass and Jeff 'Drummerboy' Hayes on drums. These two exceptional musicians joined Mark and Rick at some of the other gigs and more importantly provided the tight driving rhythm for Mark and Rick in the studio.

Photo Set #2 - at Delta Recording

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Pinetop with Mark Rick trying out guitars looking into the studio room
studio room studio room guitars and amps - take your pic!
Rick still trying out guitars recording in progress recording still in progress

Studio Recording Session Info - part 2

The studio itself used to be the home of Clarksdale's WROX radio station. Many big blues names from the golden days have walked through that door to sit and give interviews, maybe even play live on air, and you really could feel that history and pedigree as you gazed around the single studio room at the old photos and instruments that hung on the crumbling discoloured peg-board walls. The amps and drum kit were quickly set up, spaced out around the room to help keep the sounds separate in the recording. Nothing was used to block off and muffle the sounds from the different amps, and given that the recording was going to be done live with no over-dubs it was clear that Jimbo and Will were going to have their work cut out getting clean individual tracks to work with. As Mark and Rick found out later, that was the way they always worked and that's how they got such a good sound!

Technical stuff here! So if you're not interested in the nitty gritty equipment details, jump to the next paragraph. When the radio station moved out into new premises they left much of the old equipment there and it's still used today in the recording sessions. What once became regarded as crude, out of date technology is now acknowledged as essential to get that old, magic sound and is revered with an almost mythical status. The studio has a fantastic selection of 1950s kit, including RCA ribbon mics and ancient Gibson and Fender amplifiers. If you want to know more about the studio equipment then click on the Delta Recording link at the bottom of this page and scroll down to see a detailed list. On the day Mark played harmonica through an old crystal mike - possibly an Astatic - out through an 1950s Gibson BR-6 combo amp. On "Cryin' Down in Clarksdale" Mark played an old Teisco K-4L and on "I Wish Somebody" he played a Teisco MJ-2, both through the old Gibson amp. For the whole session Rick played an ancient Gibson E330 through an almost-as-ancient Fender Champ combo amp. On "I'm Moving On", guest guitarist and song co-writer Terry 'Big T' Williams used a Gibson Melody Maker with very hot humbuckers that Rick bought in Memphis at a price he couldn't resist!

Mark recalls "The whole day was very relaxed. We played for a few minutes to let the amps warm up and to get into a groove then went straight into the first number - I think it was "It's Me". When we stopped, Jimbo - or maybe it was Will - shouted "Ok... that's a take. Next!" and that's pretty much how the whole day went. After a few more numbers Sam Carr dropped in and sat in on drums for three, then Jeff came back in and at pretty much the same time Pinetop arrived at the studio. We were going to do just one song with him - "Cryin' down in Clarksdale" - but when we stopped he shouted to Rick "C! This one's in C!" and started to play his own song "One More Time". We left that on the recording along with lots of other bits of chat to show how spontaneous things were in there. Well, we just went with the flow and joined in. If you really listen closely you can hear some faint singing near the beginning of the song. That's because the only vocal mic was in front of me - Pinetop didn't have one as no-one expected him to sing! I had to act quick and get the mic over to him in time for the second verse. Fortunately, Will could see what I was doing from the mixing booth and turned off that mic until it was in place, just a few seconds before the start of verse two. It was close! Pinetop's manager, Pattie, said afterwards that he must have really been enjoying himself as he very rarely sings, so that was an extra buzz for us! After the two songs with Pinetop we took a break to let Mitch Woods, a friend of Pinetop's and a great boogie-woogie piano player, pop in to the studio and record one or two piano duets with Pinetop. That's how relaxed it was in there - and everyone just seemed happy to go along with things. That laid back attitude has a name there - the locals call it "Clarksdale Time". Everything runs on Clarksdale Time. After Pinetop had left we went back in and recorded a few more songs, the last one being "I'm Moving On" which was a great bonus for us - having Big T drop by and join us there at the end of a great day. The night was young, so after eating we went to Red's juke joint to watch T-Model Ford play a fantastic set in to the early hours of the morning. Pinetop had come along too and stayed even later than we did, but that's another story..."

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Jeff on drums with Will in the mixing booth Mark sings Teisco MJ-2 guitar and a Gibson BR-6 amp
Rick, Jeff, Sam and Mark Mark, Eric, Jeff and Rick with Jimbo Mathus waving from the studio door Will Dawson, Delta Recording sound engineer
Rick and Mark playing at the Cat Head Mini Fest Rick and Mark Rick and Mark
Rick and Mark - Mr. Tater looks at the camera Mark plays his Regal resonator Rick on his borrowed acoustic
Rick and Mark  


Mark and Rick stayed in the Crossroads Shack at the Shackup Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi, for the three weeks of their visit. The Shackup is based at the historic Hopson cotton plantation, about three miles south of Clarksdale, and is a collection of eight or nine old sharecropper shacks which have been left pretty much as they were except for the addition of power, a bathroom and some great old features which include a gramophone record and an ancient Frigidaire refrigerator (in fact two - one in the shack and one on the porch, presumably for beer!) For an artist, writer or musician the atmosphere is nothing short of inspirational and both Mark and Rick knew they would have to record some songs there. So in the last week of their stay they used a mini-disc recorder, one bought resonator guitar and one borrowed acoustic guitar, and captured three numbers that Rick had written.

Two of the numbers, the ragtime-flavoured song "Clarksdale Strut" and the instrumental "Train Roll", were recorded late one night in the shack after a few beers and the warm sound was achieved by doing things 'the Robert Johnson way', that is, putting the mic in the corner of the room then playing and singing into the corner. Local musician and artist Stan Street sat in and played harp on "Train Roll" (Stan is also a very accomplished sax player) and Mark played the wooden Regal resonator guitar he'd bought in Memphis. The instrumental number "Pickin' With Phil" was recorded one morning sat out on the porch of the shack and if you listen closely you can hear the birds singing. Local carpenter and musician Phil Wooten sat in on second guitar - hence the title! Even though these recordings were a lot easier to set up than in the studio, Mark and Rick still had to spend time in trying test recordings, listening back then adjusting where they sat in relation to the mic in order to get everything in balance on the final recordings which appear on the album.

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Rick and Stan Street Stan Street on harp inside the Crossroads Shack
inside the Crossroads Shack Hopson plantation guitars on the porch
Mark on the porch Shackup Inn Shackup Inn
Hopson Commissary the Shackup Caddi the porch of the Commissary


Please support the blues in Clarksdale and click the links to visit these websites... thanks!

Shack Up Inn
The best place to stay in Clarksdale as you will see for yourself while browsing their many photos

Delta Recording
The best place to record in Clarksdale - just ask Elvis Costello who went there to record his single "Monkey to Man"

Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art
Great music and art and if you want to know what's on, look no further than Roger's excellent gig listing. Also the most comprehensive links page for delta blues and Clarksdale ANYWHERE!

The Delta Blues Museum
A must-visit place in Clarksdale and they do mail order too!

Blues Town Music
If you want to make music in Clarksdale but don't want to take your own gear this is the best place to buy or rent guitars, amps and more! Call in anyway - Ronnie and Richie are great guys and would love to see you

Ground Zero
The biggest and arguably most popular venue in downtown Clarksdale. We had a great time there - you will too. Make sure you take a marker pen to add your name to the wall (chair, pooltable, lamp shade, etc...)

Stan Street
See some of his wonderful artwork here and find out more about this talented artist and musician