Authentic blues in an authentic environment is hard to come by these days, and when the Memphis juke joint Wild Bill’s closed in December, it became just that much harder to find. But in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on the occasions when The Hut is open, great blues musicians hold forth for a local crowd in the kind of rough, non-descript setting that is appropriate.
The Hut is a former American Legion post in the Black community of Holly Springs. Located near the intersection of West Valley Avenue and Boundary Street, it is a small, white building set down in a ravine far from the street, a structure which looks as if could only hold about a hundred people. Yet it is cozy, has a kitchen, has ample graveled parking, and on a recent Friday night was full to the rafters, with the great Robert Kimbrough Sr. on stage as I walked in.
Robert, a son of the late Junior Kimbrough, is a favorite musician around these parts, but despite all the enthusiasm for his performance, the order of the night was to highlight female blues performers, an event organized by Fancy! Magazine owner Amy Verdon called “Lady’sNight at The Hut.” The original band consisted of Robert Kimbrough, J. J. Wilborn and Artemas Leseur, aided occasionally by Johnny B. Sanders, who had come up from Jackson. These men backed singers Iretta Sanders, and Lady Trucker, whose performances brought many dancers out, including R. L. Boyce’s daughter Sherena. There were also a number of visitors from other parts of the country who traveled to Holly Springs to see the show. Robert Kimbrough came back on stage to close out the first set with a version of his dad’s song “You Better Run”, and then the band took a break.
Unfortunately, during the intermission, two women in the crowd got to fighting, which led to the police being called, and an early end to the evening, as a lot of people chose to leave. But that too has always been part of the blues. Authenticity is not for the squeamish.
People walking home after the fights and shooting, Orange Mound Block Party, July 30, 2011. I will never understand why people would come to a recreational event in a mood to pick a fight with someone, or why anyone could think that it was ever justifiable to shoot a gun into a crowd of people. But the end result is that the city will prevent events like this from taking place, so all of us will be the losers because 6 or 7 people would rather fight and shoot than have a good time.
In the aftermath of the fights and shooting, the police cleared the park, and people began slowing walking back home, Orange Mound Block Party, July 30, 2011
Late in the afternoon at the Orange Mound Block Party, a string of fights developed. One young man that had been onstage with several of the acts was beaten unconscious and had to be carried back behind the stage, and then two girls got to fighting. Shortly after that, everyone broke into a full run at the sound of gunfire. We later learned that someone had fired a shotgun into the crowd, and a young woman was hit. The police quickly flooded the park, but I could hear gunfire continuing, now coming from the northwest corner of Park and Pendleton. The ambulances came, and police began clearing out the park.