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Big Don Valentine and the Hollywood All-Stars at a Fayette County, Tennessee Juke
Big Don Valentine and the Hollywood All-Stars at a Fayette County, Tennessee Juke

Big Don Valentine and the Hollywood All-Stars at a Fayette County, Tennessee Juke

Juke joints are a dying breed, but they loom large in blues history as well as in the popular image of blues culture. Eagerly sought after by blues tourists, they are also celebrated in the lyrics of Southern Soul songs, such as Mel Waiters’ “Hole in the Wall” or Terry Wright’s “Backroad.” Saine’s Blues Club, located in a remote stretch of Fayette County, Tennessee between Moscow and Somerville is perhaps the last rural juke joint in West Tennessee, at least the last to feature live musicians rather than merely a DJ or a juke box. Fayette is a county that demographically and geographically is a continuation of the Mississippi Hill Country. Once 96% African-American, it was the birthplace of Mississippi Fred McDowell, and home to such bluesmen as Lattie Murrell, William Davis Floyd, Little Buddy Doyle, Homesick James and Johnny Wilson. It was also home to fife and drum bands, including the Broadnax Brothers and Fredonia bands, and massive picnics, such as the Owens Picnic near Oakland where people recalled seeing David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Memphis Minnie.

Like most jukes, Saine’s is nothing fancy, a fairly plain cinderblock building with a long, circular driveway. Were it not for the cars piled in front of it during weekends, it would be easy to miss. But real fans of the blues in its authentic habitat should not miss it, because nearly every Saturday night, Memphis blues veteran Big Don Valentine performs there from 10 PM to 1 AM with his band the Hollywood All-Stars. The original All-Stars featured Don’s dad, Carl Valentine, and a musician named Ben Wilson from near Rosemark in Shelby County, and a young Don Valentine ended up playing drums for the band after the original drummer “Chicken George” Walker had left. Today Don is a singer and has a first-rate band to back him, and a crowd of older Fayette Countians comes out to party and have a good time in a congenial atmosphere.

Inside, the club is fairly small, but big enough to have fun. The front room contains a pool table, a jukebox and the bar, where chicken wings and burgers can be ordered. The stage is at the back of the club, and there is a third room to the side of the stage. Although the dance floor is small, it is large enough for folks to get out of their seats and party. A typical night features not only Big Don, but female vocalists Sunshine and/or Joyce Henderson, and guest singers such as Sonny Holley and Charles Cason. Between band sets, DJ Chill Will plays the latest Southern Soul and some oldies.

Technically, Saine’s is a private club and members only. In reality, $10 will get you in the door, and the club’s owner Terry Saine, who was an important figure in the county during the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1960s, is always on hand to ensure that everyone behaves themselves and enjoys themselves. Come ready to party and you can have the time of your life….a slice of rural America that is rapidly disappearing.

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