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CONTENTS 2014 • VOLUME 11 • NO. 8

features 48 Bridging the Blues 2014 Time again for the annual blues pilgrimage. By Lazelle Jones 54 More Grace Following singer Grace Askew down the road. By Corey Latta 60 And the Winner is... Southern foods take national awards. By Andrea Ross 66 Judging the Dulcimer Hon. Jess Dickinson doubles as dulcimer player. By Judy Smith

departments 18 Living Well Immunization talk with F.N.P. Beverly Weaver By Andrea Ross

72 Homegrown D to D Designs much more than jewelry By Chelle Ellis

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74 In Good Spirits The Mississippi Mule By Chere Coen

22 Exploring Art

76 Table Talk Hard Rock Cafe Memphis opens new doors By Karen Ott Mayer

The repurposed work of Willcoxon By Ashley Buescher The colorful world of H.C. Porter By Chere Coen

26 Exploring Books Preaching the true gospel in Mississippi By Chelle Ellis 30 Exploring Cuisine Follow the Hot Tamale Trail By Andrea Ross

78 Exploring Events 80 Reflections A Blues Peace By Karen Ott Mayer

34 Exploring Destinations Elvis’ Tupelo rocks on By Karen Ott Mayer 38 A Day Away… Clarksdale, Mississippi 44 Greater Goods

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editor’s note }


AUGUST 2014 • Vol. 11 No. 8 Yet, how many lives have been changed with those two words? Not sure I’m qualified to answer that question, so instead, this month at DeSoto we’re tapping our feet and chasing those stories that speak to all the musical hearts out there. It’s funny how we discover a whole other world of talents behind folks, like the Presiding Mississippi Justice Jess H. Dickinson whose introduction to the dulcimer ignited a passion equal to his dedication to the law (page 67). When we opened the pages of “The True Gospel Preached Here”, we couldn’t resist introducing you to the colorful world of the late Rev. Dennis and his wife Margaret. Read Chelle’s thoughts about this iconic piece of Mississippi on page 27. If the need to get your groove on just a little stronger than reading about music, it’s time to head downtown to the Hard Rock Cafe Memphis (page 76) at its new location in the former Lansky Bros. building and get ready to boogie. Filled with jaw-dropping memorabilia, Hard Rock Cafe Memphis doubles as a museum. I think more than a few kids will be singing the blues soon, as the resounding back-to-school refrain has cranked up. Family Nurse Practitioner Beverly Weaver leads an interesting discussion about immunizations in our Living Well department on page 18. It’s hard to talk about music without including food. As the Bridging the Blues




EDITOR Karen Ott Mayer

PHOTOGRAPHY Karen Ott Mayer Adam Mitchell Paula Mitchell Damien Blaylock

begins on September 26, music lovers can enjoy over two weeks of blues artists, rambling from town to town. Conveniently, many of those same venues run parallel with the Hot Tamale Trail, affording folks a chance to try authentic Delta tamales in between the beats. Finally, over in Tupelo, Elvis lives again. If not on stage, then definitely in the minds of boyhood friends like Guy Harris. It’ll take more than a tornado to dampen the spirits happening over there in cool eateries and on the bike trails. Pay them a visit this month and see for yourself. #Tupelostrong. Read and rock on!


on the cover A young Elvis Presley performing at The Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show on Sept 29, 1956. Tupelo, Mississippi.

Photo courtesy Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS Ashley Beuscher Cheré Coen Chelle Ellis Lazelle Jones Corey Latta Karen Ott Mayer Andrea Brown Ross Judy Smith

Published By Desoto Media Co. 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 Fax 662.449.5813

© 2014 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein to be reproduced in any manner. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email or call 662.429.4617. Visit us online at

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dear desoto } concerts & festivals Dear Readers: We love hearing from you. Drop us a line if you have comments, questions or suggestions related to our editorial features and/or departments. Email our editor, Karen, at or write to: 2375 Memphis St., Ste 205, Hernando, MS 38632. We’ve had a few great submissions of “Concert and Festival” photos for our Facebook contest! It’s not too late to submit your photo. Email your picture to, and you could win a $50 gift card to Best Buy . Contest ends August 15th. Here are a few staff favorites.

John Bell of Widespread Panic at Snowden Grove 9.21.13 - Bob Bayne

Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers at Tellur ide, CO. 7.14.13 - Kutcher Miller

Big Ass Truck at Minglewood Hall , 2.13.14. -Bob Bayne 12 DeSoto

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living well }


Back to School:

Immunization Season By Andrea Brown Ross and Beverly Weaver Photography courtesy of

School supplies, backpack, lunchbox, new clothes…all of these are items typically found on parents’ back-to-school list for their children. However, another important item on the back to school list is immunizations. Beverly Weaver, family nurse practitioner (FNP-C) of the Weaver Clinic, in Hernando, Mississippi, offers some insight and advice regarding immunizations.

The Importance of Vaccinations

Perhaps the greatest success story in public health is the reduction of infectious diseases resulting from the use of vaccines. As the incidence of infectious diseases continues to decline, some people have become less interested in the consequences of preventable illnesses and have become increasingly concerned about the risks associated with vaccines. Concerns raised by media attention questioning associated autism, diminishing immune system, increased rate of sudden infant death

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syndrome (SIDS), and antifreeze used in vaccines have all been dispelled. Vaccines are developed with the highest safety standards and years of testing are required by law before a vaccine is licensed and distributed. Myths and misinformation about vaccine safety abound and can confuse parents who are trying to make decisions about their child’s well being.  Over the last decade, improvements in vaccine production and administration have reduced the number of side effects and resulted in safer vaccines. The most likely adverse reaction one expects is redness and/or soreness at the site of injection and perhaps a slight fever for a day or two. Many areas of future vaccine research hold promise for improvements in vaccine efficiency and effectiveness as well as new vaccines to better protect public health. Vaccinations may play a future role in prevention of more types of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune, and inflammatory disease processes.

Immunizations in Mississippi

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of parents nationwide vaccinate their children, protecting them and others around them against deadly diseases. There are no federal laws mandating vaccinations. All laws requiring vaccination are at the state and local level. Mississippi follows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in immunizations recommended, and it is approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  Required vaccinations for children entering school in Mississippi include: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (Dtap); polio (IPV); hepatitis B; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); and varicella (chickenpox). There is also a requirement for children entering the seventh grade to receive the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccination. Forty-one other states require this update since immunity received from early childhood diseases against pertussis (whooping cough) weakens over time. Protecting adolescents can also protect infants who are too young for vaccination. Other suggested vaccinations for the adolescent include those against meningococcal disease, human papilloma virus (HPV) for boys and girls, and seasonal influenza vaccine. Parents must provide the school with a Certificate of Immunization Compliance (Form 121) from their local medical provider prior to school entry.   Immunization laws permit certain exemptions. All states permit medical exemptions for individuals who are immunocompromised, have allergic reactions to vaccine constituents, have moderate or severe illness, or other medical contraindications to vaccination. Certain states allow the philosophical or personal belief exemptions as well as medical exemptions. Currently, this represents less than one percent of the U.S. population. Mississippi does not permit exemption for religious reasons.

Helpful Hints for Parents

Assisting young children through the immunization process can make all the difference between a poor experience and a good experience. Love and reassurance as well as comforting the child with tough and soothing talk, distracting with a hand puppet or storytelling, giving praises and hugs or a surprise as a reward for good behavior can all diffuse an unpleasant experience. Always be honest about what to expect and allow the child to cry while soothing feelings. It’s a good idea to plan early to visit your local primary care provider or health department for early immunization updates to prevent waiting in long lines for the back to school rush.

The Weaver Clinic offers some immunization updates. For specific info, please call 662-429-5221. They are located at 124 W. Commerce St. in Hernando, Mississippi.

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living real } willcoxon’s willcoxon art

A Repurposed Life

By Ashley Buescher. Photo by Adam Mitchell


ess than one year ago, John Willcoxon worked as a workforce consultant with a Fortune 500 company. One day, he went into a meeting only to learn his position was being eliminated. As he prayed and pondered on income options, his focus turned towards a repurposed piece of art he made for his Hernando home a few years earlier. As he stared at his rustic yet elegant artwork, an idea formed as he remembered the reaction to the piece. “Everyone that walked in my home asked about it and loved it. I thought to myself maybe I could sell a couple of these,” he said. His interest in repurposing came at young age. Willcoxon

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first learned woodworking and metal carving skills from his father who made folk harps. Willcoxon utilized these skills to ornamentally carve a piece of aluminum and fix on a piece of repurposed wood. Little did he know where that first effort would lead him later in life. Willcoxon effortlessly sold a couple of works which led him to set his sights on retail. “When I started looking to expand into different markets, I called an old friend from Jr. High, Gina, to meet for coffee and discuss stores to approach in the area.” After encouragement from his childhood friend, he took a few pieces of his art to local stores.

“Each store I took my art to, bought pieces on the spot. This encouraged me to start traveling around Mississippi to visit more stores.” John shared another ironic part of the story. “Not only did my business start to bud as a result of that afternoon coffee with Gina, but so did a love story. Gina now travels with me to make business calls. She has an artful eye and is in tune with what people like. She is a source of inspiration. We are working together to build Willcoxon into a flourishing business.” In a matter of months, the Willcoxon Collection has expanded from Willcoxon’s apartment to a friend’s barn and to space in his brother’s shop. His initial desire to watch the business grow seems a reality. Now grateful for the skills he once may have taken for granted, he reflects on his work. “I am my father’s son. I use my father’s drill press with each piece I create. I think about my father every time I turn the press on.” Willcoxon salvages materials from old barns, old houses and old pallets. There is no doubt his father would be proud to know Willcoxon delivered a piece of art to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s office, only to have Governor Bryant personally display the piece on stage one week later before giving a speech in front of the Mississippi Economic Council. Overwhelmed by the recognition Willcoxon said, “I have received many accolades throughout my 30-year corporate career and praise for designs when I owned my own sign company. However, this was a first for me. I was blown away!” Looking at the meticulously cut pieces of Willcoxon’s work, one would assume the most important skills would be the actual woodworking and metal design he learned as a young boy. Although those skills are certainly important, another skill remains essential. “The most important skill in turning my art into a business is listening to people, learning what people want and anticipating what people want.” A visit to the Willcoxon Collection website reveals just how well John listens to his clients. His immense collection of artwork includes musical instruments, crosses, sorority images, college symbols, wildlife and much more. In addition, he accepts commissions for custom pieces. Willcoxon ships anywhere in the country. To view the collection, visit

Where to Buy Willcoxon Mississippi The Mississippi Gift Company Howard & Marsh Mississippi Madness The Green Door Montage Marketplace Downtown Marketplace Martinson’s Garden Works Interior Market Mississippi Craftworks Special Treasures Locals

Cat Head Buon Cibo Feathers Interiors in Olive Branch Cynthia’s Boutique in Hernando

Tennessee The Brooks Collection First Fruit Collection

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exploring art } h.c. porter

B.B. King by H.C. Porter

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Southern Vision


By Cheré Coen Photogrphy courtesy of H.C. Porter

We caught up with Vicksburg artist H.C. Porter as she was traveling the art show circuit through the heartland of America. She had been on her way to Denver when we called and found her hunkering in a convenient store bathroom. A tornado had touched down outside of Des Moines and was heading their way, so they took shelter until it passed. “We heard it was six miles away and it was headed toward us,” Porter told us by phone. “There was some serious praying going on.” Luckily, the tornado bypassed them and Porter was able to return to the road and better weather. But the Jackson native is no stranger to disaster. She spent a year on the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, photographing residents and taping thousands of hours of audio for an exhibit that opened in Jackson in 2008, then traveled. “The 81 paintings (in the Katrina exhibit) depict who we are as Mississippians,” Porter explained. “This was the first exhibit to allow people to experience not only the visual but the audio too. “It was an incredible journey and an incredible opportunity to get Mississippi’s voice out there.” Documenting the people and places of Mississippi is Porter’s life work. She began her career in her grandmother’s Jackson basement in 1987, later moving to an artist community

on Millsaps Avenue. While she created, she interacted with children of the neighborhood, later forming “Avenue for Art,” a grant-funded neighborhood summer art program helping underprivileged children learn an appreciation for art and ways to explore their creativity. In the process she developed a relationship with the kids and their families, and documented many of them in her art. “Soon I had this body of work that was narrated and I was able to share this community that was sometimes misunderstood,” Porter said. She calls her work “social realism,” vibrant mixed media that starts with a photograph and becomes a painting or serigraph. In many cases, her exhibits include audio. She never wanted to work in just one genre, she said. “I have the love of all three and I really enjoy putting it all together.” Her latest documentary project is “Blues @ Home,” a collection of mixed media portraits featuring 40 of Mississippi’s living blues legends accented by live field recordings of the paintings’ subjects. Porter had captured blues musicians before but came up with the idea for a full exhibit as she was driving through the Delta on a Sunday evening and realized she had never fully told the story of the blues. “We aren’t losing the blues — there will always be the blues — but we’re losing the characters,” Porter explained. “You’re DeSoto 25

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talking about the original storytellers. Each person has a unique personality. They are performers for a reason.” Like the Katrina exhibit, “Blues @ Home” features accompanying oral histories. “This project not only allows you the opportunity to hear the blues but see the blues, because you get a behind-the-scenes look,” Porter said. Two of the exhibit’s subjects, T Model Ford and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, have since passed and both were in their 90s when Porter interviewed them. “It reiterates the fact that these guys aren’t going to be around forever,” Porter said. “Blues @ Home” opened this spring at the University of Mississippi Museum in Oxford but moves Aug. 21 to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola. The grand opening of the exhibit on Aug. 21 will include an “after-glow jam session” at the Ebony Club in Indianola, Porter said, “and have a real throw-down with all the musicians.” As for tornadoes, Porter does get calls when disaster strikes. She was asked to document the damage following the Yazoo City and Tuscaloosa (she attended the University of Alabama) tornadoes. She insists she’s not up to experience such devastation again. Still, she hopes the Katrina exhibit — of which pieces of artwork are now in the hands of collectors in 28 different states — comes back together for another show. “There’s healing in the telling,” she said.

Porter sells her artwork at H.C. Porter Gallery within a 19th century building at 1216 Washington St. in the historic downtown district of Vicksburg, a site that once housed a shoe store. For more information on Porter, her colorful artwork and her Vicksburg gallery, visit

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exploring books } the true gospel

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Only One True Gospel By Chelle Ellis. Photo Courtesy of University Press of Mississippi

“The True Gospel Preached Here” is a beautifully compiled photo documentary of Bruce West’s unique experience with the Reverend H.D. Dennis and his wife, Margaret. Starting in 1994, Dennis’ photographs and written accounts offer a seamless look into the lives of these well-known residents and the impact they had on the world around them from the small piece of earth they called home in Vicksburg. Margaret’s Grocery & Market was once a small, home-run, community market. The Dennises added The Seven Day House of Prayer (Home of the Double Headed Eagle), where the Reverend promised to tell “the true gospel”. The grocery became a roadside attraction that drew visitors so the Reverend could deliver fiery sermons from his church, which also happened to be an abandoned school bus parked on premises.   Over time, the Reverend converted Margaret’s Grocery Store and the bus into a one-of-a-kind, non-denominational church.   His personality and brand of folk art flare was sure to enrapture its visitors, if not by his sermonizing sounds and mythical tales, then by sight. The Reverend considered himself to be God’s appointed “Spiritual Advisor to the World” and

created a brightly-painted world heightened by added brickwork columns and randomly accentuated with plastic Mardi Gras beads, fishing bobs and Easter eggs. An array of excited signage of biblical, Masonic and evangelical words screamed from the premises and ultimately welcomed all to enter as a visitor and leave as a friend. Inside the now deserted Margaret’s Grocery hangs one of the Reverend’s oldest surviving installations: A large red heart made from plastic tubing with a smaller white heart in its center, both wrapped in Mardi Gras beads. The Reverend claimed the larger red heart symbolized the physical heart that pumps blood through the body while the white heart represented “the spirit heart of Jesus Christ”. As the Reverend grew older and unable to add to his visual work, Margaret Dennis would add her own folk art touch, adding bright pinks and canary yellow to his red and white theme. The product of 20 years labor and multiple site visits, West’s photographs are both intimate and transparent, tenderly revealing the Reverent and Margaret’s love of God and for one DeSoto 29

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another, their commitment to their work, and their shared transformation while aging together. The images offer unique insights into the role of spirituality in southern folk art and creativity and the joys and demands of an ascetic and inspired life. In “The True Gospel Preached Here”, West’s photographs celebrate the Reverend and Margaret’s profound spirituality and imaginative abilities, that allowed them to transcend their poverty and live an incalculably rich and beautiful life. A life that people from all over the world traveled to share, including West. Over the years, the Dennises grew to think of West as their “white son” and themselves as his “black papa and mama“, documented in letters and cards exchanged between them through the years. Before he died, the Reverend tried to persuade West to come to Mississippi, start preaching, take over the place and continue his work. While he was honored by the offer, West declined the offer telling the Reverend he could never preach as well as him. The Reverend believed that God wants us to live in harmony and practice being perfect, and held no restrictions for anyone wishing to visit and listen to his words. The Reverend and Margaret Dennis proudly opened their home and premises to one and all, and inclusion of all races was important to them. As told to West in one of the Reverend’s sermons: “God don’t have no white church, God don’t have no black church, only one church. And the church is in you!” Author and photographer, Bruce West, is a professor in the Department of Art and Design at Missouri State University.  His photographs have appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe and are included in museum collections such as the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Library of Congress, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. His photographs have also appeared in “American Photography 14”, “The next Generation: Contemporary Expressions of Faith”, and “For, From, About James T. Whitehead: Poems, Stories, Photographs, and Recollections”.

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exploring cuisine } hot tamale trail

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Hot on the Trail Story by Andrea Brown Ross

Photography provided by Southern Foodways Alliance

As common as cotton or catfish in the Mississippi Delta, the tamale is an important part of the culinary culture. Celebrating the diverse food culture of the American South, the Southern Foodways Alliance, located in Oxford, Mississippi, has established a trail of tamale vendors. The Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail, as it is referred to, extends from Tupelo to Vicksburg with more than 20 vendors along its path. Although the tamale is often thought of as a Latin American

dish made of starchy dough filled with cheeses, meats, vegetables and/or fruits and boiled or steamed in a leaf package, historians believe it came to the South more than a century ago, perhaps from soldiers in the Mexican American War or Mexican migrant cotton workers. Historians theorize that tamales ended up in the hands of African American workers sharing the fields, possibly because of its portability. Through the years, the tamale has adapted to be not only economically viable, but to satisfy particular taste preferences. From the tamale’s initial introduction to today’s tamale street vendor, its surprising place on the menu of many Mississippians DeSoto 33

intrigued Amy Evans of the Southern Foodways Alliance. “In 2005, I set out to document the Delta’s tamale culture. I was just going to do interviews with a couple of tamale makers in four of the Delta’s larger towns--Clarksdale, Cleveland, Greenwood, and Greenville. But once I started doing interviews, I just kept doing them. There were simply so many to be had, and everyone I stopped to visit with had some time to sit with me for an interview. Before I knew it, I had 20 interviews.” Evans quickly realized the tamale’s significance to the Delta’s culinary culture. “When it came time to process the tamale interviews, it was clear this project should have a life outside of our online archive—its own domain with interactive elements that really paint a full picture of the Delta’s tamale culture to be used as a tool for culinary tourism. And the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail was born.” In fact, the Southern Foodways Alliance collaborated with the Mississippi Blues Commission to place the first culinary marker in Mississippi. In 2011, Marker #138 on the Mississippi Blues Trail, entitled “Hot Tamales and the Blues”, was unveiled in Rosedale, Miss. Steven Goodwin, owner of Steven’s Bar-B-Q in Greenwood, Miss., speaks to the unique flavor of Delta tamales. “I use a freelance tamale maker. He sells tamales to a lot of places in town. However, I was looking for a particular flavor that would remind me of a place in South Greenwood where we all used to go and get tamales, Lucas’s Barbeque. So, I season my tamales in a particular way that gives it the flavor

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which reminds me of what I ate growing up. “ Goodwin serves a house special, tamale pie, on Mondays. Born from a disappointing batch of tamales from a previous vendor, Goodwin was determined to create an appetizing dish without letting the tamales go to waste. Goodwin shares his tamale pie ingredients. “Tamales, whole kernel corn, black beans, diced tomatoes, olives, cheese, and Fritos. I think it’s something unique for our customers.” So what makes a Delta tamale a Delta tamale? Evans explains. “Tamale recipes vary from place to place, person to person. In the Mississippi Delta, no two people make hot tamales exactly the same. As it turns out, there are as many stories about how Deltans acquired tamale recipes as there are ways of making them. Still, a Delta-style tamale is quite a specific thing.” For the novice tamale maker, making this dish may seem daunting at first. Paul McWhorter offers extensive guidance on his website, Ingredients, equipment, and step-by-step instructions accompanied with photos, will help beginners. McWhorter recommends serving tamales at different meals. “Tamales are good for just about any meal. They really spice up breakfast if you have a couple along with your scrambled eggs. For lunch you can throw a couple in your bag and take to work and warm up in a microwave. For dinner, they can be served as part of a larger Mexican style meal. They go very

well with nachos, salsa and guacamole salad. For larger get togethers, they can be served as a finger food.” As with some of the vendors on the Hot Tamale Trail, tamale making can become a family tradition. McWhorter comments on his family’s tradition. “My family still makes tamales every year. We usually make them in the fall/ early winter and try to fill the freezer with them. My mother is in her 80s and she makes them year round.” Ready to hit the tamale trail or try your hand at homemade tamales? Either way, find out why the Mississippi Delta finds the tamale so tantalizing.

Check out to view the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail map and find out more information about the vendors. Delta Hot Tamale Festival October 16 -18, 2014 Greenville, Miss.

Evans’ Tamale Trail Picks Ground Zero - Fried hot tamales Hick’s - A great illustration of the texture of a Delta tamale made with corn meal, not the traditional corn flour Scott’s - Wonderful family-operated stand Reno Cafe - Tamales wrapped in parchment paper and served in a tomato-y sauce. Different from most Doe’s - Iconic steakhouse known for their tamales. A must-visit, if you’re in or around Greenville Joe’s White Front - A tiny cafe along the Mississippi River and the catalyst for the whole tamale project

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exploring destinations } elvis’ tupelo

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A Good Boy and his Town


Story by Karen Ott Mayer. Photography by Paula Mitchell

t’s August in Memphis, a time of year that has become synonymous with all things Elvis. Just south in Tupelo, Mississippi, the memorials and festivities kick up, particularly at the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum where lifelong friends of Elvis mingle with newcomers who know little about Tupelo, Elvis or the South. This Elvis season arrives following the devastating tornado that hit the town in April. Months later, however, Tupelo, is making its full comeback--just like Elvis did in his lifetime. “We’re definitely open for business. Ninety-five percent is back open with the exception of two hotels that are going to be razed,” said Jennie Bradford Curlee, public relations director with the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. For folks like Guy T. Harris, one of Elvis’ best friends since boyhood, understanding Elvis means understanding the very Tupelo landscape from which he came. “It was a great time growing up. But people worked hard for what they had. Elvis’ dad would wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. and walk to Tupelo for work along with others around here,” said Harris. Gladys Presley walked Elvis down to the Harris house where

Harris and his mother would pass time on the front porch in the afternoon. “I remember Elvis started picking on me and we started playing together,” he recalled. The pair sang together in the Assembly of God church just across the street from Harris’ house. From the days spent swimming together in the creek or making cars from pieces of wood to the later Sunday afternoons spent at Graceland with Elvis, Harris and Elvis kept in touch nearly all their lives. “Elvis would come back to Tupelo to visit some, but when he moved to Graceland, we’d spend almost every Sunday up there, playing touch football or singing gospel around the piano.” Elvis’ last visit with Harris was in December 1970 at the Tupelo police station where Harris worked. Elvis needed a pen and didn’t have one on him. “He asked if I had one and I got tickled and said, ‘Elvis, you got millions but you haven’t got a pen?’ We laughed about that one.” Although Harris knew Elvis had health issues, he too was surprised at his sudden death. After all the years, he knows one thing that many people can’t possibly know. DeSoto 37

“He was a good boy. The hardest thing we have getting people to understand is that Elvis came from nothing, that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was a good boy, a Mama’s boy like we all were in those days.” Today, Harris contributes his time and stories at the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum, helping people understand Elvis and his hometown which is greatly changed and continually evolving since Elvis’ childhood. From food to biking, Tupelo pleasantly surprises with innovative moves like the Tanglefoot Trail, Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails conversion over 40 miles long. Over at Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, the crew serves only what’s fresh and in season in a quirky, funky atmosphere. Opened in late 2013 by Mitch McCamey and Seth Copeland who wanted to open a restaurant focused on local foods, Kermit’s is also known as KOK. What about fried black-eyed peas? At Blue Canoe, visitors can choose from over 100 beers on tap or grab a burger, recently voted one of the Top 10 burgers in Mississippi. Or if that’s not tempting enough, Connie’s Blueberry Doughnut Bread Pudding guarantees to entice. With live music and bar food, Blue Canoe is the place for blue suede shoes to tap away the night.

In all endings, there is a new beginning somewhere. On August 9, Harris will spend time at the Elvis Birthplace, sharing stories like the one below. On the Elvis Driving Tour, visitors can actually re-trace the King’s steps, stopping at the Tupelo Hardware Store where Elvis bought his first guitar or eating a hamburger at Johnnie’s Drive-In. Harris and Elvis used to eat burgers at Johnnie’s but not frequently because they were expensive for the young boys. Harris shared another story. Standing together at the fair, Elvis told Harris he went to Sun Studios to see about making a record. “I remember asking him how it went and he said they wanted to know if he could sing or play the guitar.” Elvis told Harris that if he could record a song, the title would be “That’s Alright, Mama”, with his mother in mind. “I told him I thought that was a good title. In July 1954, he recorded it and it got a lot of play time. The first time I heard it I was at a local garage with a friend who hollered for me to come hear the song. He asked me to guess who was singing it, and I didn’t know. Even when he told me it was Elvis, I didn’t believe him. I went home and called the radio station to ask,” laughed Harris. That’s just the kind of Tupelo story that makes everyone want to hear more.

#tupelostrong Tupelo didn’t miss a beat following the tornado, hosting over 800 classic cars and 100 baseball teams. In typical Mississippi fashion, people came together and soon, the hashtag #tupelostrong carried news. In July, 3,000 volunteers with 8 Days of Hope descended on the town, helping do everything from clear brush to rebuild houses. To check the latest happenings in Tupelo, visit Jennie and the rest of the team at the Tupelo CVB. 38 DeSoto

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Clar ksdale, MS d. 9am - Breakfast at Rest Haven. Fueled up for a very full day ahea all the hot spots for 10am - Ped icab ride thr ough downtown. Great way to hear and see t the hist ory of food, music and shopping. Learned so many interest ing facts abou the town and it’s resi dents. 11am- Sho pped Do wnt own bout iques and art museums. with meat and just ked Pac good so are ales tam The Q. BB oat amb Dre at ch Lun 1pm the right amount of spice. and the Rock ‘N’ Rol l 2pm - Spent the afternoon visit ing the De lta Blues Museum Blues Her itage Museum. the locals where to go, 6pm - Enj oyed the most amazing fried shrimp at Ramon’s. Ask and this is the place you hear again and again. e together. 7pm - Dr ove to the Cro ssro ads, where Highways 61 and 49 com Sai d to be the place where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devi l. 8pm - Foll owed the Mississippi Blues Trai l visit ing the mar kers in C larksdale. So much great blues hist ory in one place! 10pm - Popped into Red’s Blues C lub to hear some real deal blues at a true juke joint. Per fect way to the end the day. 40 DeSoto

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If you have more than a day in C larksdale:

Book a custom-guided adventure on the Lower Mississippi with Quapaw Canoe C ompany. Remote wilderness locations accessed by canoe or kayak. They offer outfitti ng, guiding, cooking, shuttling and cleanup. No previous experience necessary. Choose your section of the river or let them choose their favorite. larksdale.cfm

Attend one of the many festivals throughout the year. The Juke Joint Festival scheduled for April 11, 2015 features over 100 blues acts on a dozen small stages and juke joints over 3 days. The upcoming Sunf lower River Blues and Gospel Festival will take place August 8-10. The 27th annual celebrat ion honors Big Jack Johnson, one of C larksdale’s most beloved musicians and songrwr iters. www.sunf 42 DeSoto 662-645-9197 Ramon’s (Steaks and Seafood) 535 Oakhurst 662-624-9230 Tue - Thur: 5pm – 9pm Fri – Sat: 5pm – 10pm Yazoo Pass 207 Yazoo Avenue 662-627-8686 Mon - Sat: 7am – 9pm Dreamboat BBQ and Tamales 232 Sunflower Ave. 662-645-2501 Wed - Sun: 11am - 3pm Fri and Sat ‘till 10pm

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gift guide } back to school

awesome get to class on time with these Tokyo Bay Watches! $68 - $136 Mimi’s on Main MS 432 West Main Street. Senatobia, 662-562-8261

backpacks and slings to carry your books and gear. Perfect for a day hike too! Patagonia Atom Sling - $45 Patagonia Backpack - $85 SoCO (Southern Collection) 2521 Caffey Street. Hernando, MS 662-298-3493

xes Vera Bradley Lighten up Lunchbo are available in 5 patterns! - $28 The Pink Zinia 134 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 662-449-5533

Arrive to class in Style with Gingersna ps and n. Gil bags and backpacks. Gingersnaps bag - $80. N. Gil bags - $25 - $27 Bon Von Gift Shop 214 W Center St. Hernando, MS 662-429-5266

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gift guide } off to college

Show your school spirit with these great college totes and coolers! Totes and coolers - $32 Bon Von Gift Shop 214 W Center St. Hernando, MS 662-429-5266

ets and keep a drink ck po eir th y pt em n ca ys gu ather accesories. cold with these stylish le 8 White Wing Desk Caddy - $6 - $34 White Wing LEather Coozie Mimi’s on Main tobia, MS 432 West Main Street. Sena 662-562-8261

you Scout Bungalow bins will keep too! on them neat and organized. You can sit Mimi’s on Main MS 432 West Main Street. Senatobia, 662-562-8261

Get cozy in this vera Bradley Pajama tank & Short set shown in pink swirls - $42 Vear Bradley Knit robe shown in Ziggy Zaggs - $48 The Pink Zinia 134 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 662-449-5533

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gift guide } free music apps

Guitar+ DJ Studio 5

DJ Studio is a free, robust and powerfu l party-proof virtual turntable for DJs which ena bles you to mix, remix, scratch, loop or pitch your mus ic in the palm of your hands. Designed to be user friendly, social and responsive, you now have the keys to mix your mus ic and rule the party.


sound Equalizer lets you adjust get the effect levels so that you Audio best out of your Music or . Apply coming out of your phone Music Equalizer Presets based on ur own Genre, or quickly create yo band custom preset with the 5 ional Equalizer controller. Addit de: lu Audio Effects supported inc d Bass Booster, Virtualizer an Reverb Presets.

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Perfect learning Guitar app for you. This guitar tutor is one of the best virtual guitars for Android.

Guitar Tuner your elecner helps you tune tu ar it gu c ti ma ro ion This ch high level of precis a h it w r ita gu ic tric or acoust es the app itself determin e Th . se ea le ib ed and incr e direction in which th u yo s ow sh d an tuning string deviation includes a built-in so al p ap e Th it. to adjust 0 hz) for a from 1 hertz to 2205 r to ra ne ge e on (t fork ng. more advanced tuni


In the case of Songza, the mood sets the music. The app showcases high-quality audio spanning numerous genres and allows you to choose from a variety of curated stations based on the time of day and specific scenario, whether it’s working out, driving, or cooking.

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By Lazelle Jones. Photos Courtesy of Bridging the Blues


Bridges connect more than land in the Mid-South. With the third annual Bridging of the Blues, blues aficionados from around the globe can embark on a musical pilgrimage throughout the tri-state region of the Mississippi and Arkansas Deltas and Memphis, Tennessee. During the last week of September and into October, Bridging the Blues will again sprout up along the Big Muddy. From Memphis to Vicksburg and from Helena to Greenwood, the landscape blurs with endless blues concerts, impromptu jam sessions, street artists, and live performances by local favorites. Happening along downtown streets and in the quintessential

juke joints, visitors can choose from a highly-flexible schedule, opting for day trips or catching shows during the two-week interval. Bridging the Blues brings together a concentration of blues artists like nowhere else. The musical mix reflects this genre which has morphed with country, the urban grit of Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis, R & B, folk, gospel, and big band swing. A prime example of this musical collage comes from the Mississippi-raised blues artist Steve Azar who DeSoto Magazine caught up with in Nashville between recording sessions. DeSoto 51

Two years ago he organized the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival & Highway 61 Blues Stage. “I’m kind of a mutt because I marry country, folk and rock with Delta blues,” he said of his own work. He calls it Delta Soul. His fourth album “Slide On Over” made it on Oprah’s 2011 Christmas gift list, and the album’s song “Sunshine” was noted in June 2013 by US Weekly Magazine as one of the most popular celebrity wedding songs. Azar is expected to perform in Greenville, Miss. on August 3. A significant historical stop in Helena, Ark. is the 1000-watt radio station KFFA where King Biscuit Time has been broadcasting for 75 years. Walk in and experience a slice of history before it’s lost to the ages. Another site is Bubba’s Blues Corner, a record shop steps from the Delta Cultural Center. Here, Bubba Sullivan, one of the original founders of King Biscuit Festival, offers everything in music that’s “Delta blues”.  He knows, and has known, 52 DeSoto

many of the blues artists like the great James Cotton who will perform at the KBF on Saturday, August 11. Sullivan told DeSoto the first King Biscuit Festival held in 1986 was hosted on a Main Street stage that was purchased from a preacher for $25. His stories are priceless. In Indianola, Miss., the B.B. King Museum enthralls and informs visitors with its impressive collection. Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. will host symposiums that dissect the rich heritage of the blues. Shakers and movers of the Delta blues, past and present, will be discussed. Another important stop is at the Pinetop Perkins Homecoming in Clarksdale, Miss. where one of the greatest blues piano players ever is honored and blues workshops are held. Bridging the Blues wouldn’t be complete without the iconic culinary and visual arts. In every venue local artists line the streets to reveal their perspective on Delta life. Provincial Southern fare from deep-fried catfish to hushpuppies and funnel cakes creates a local food festival that’s authentic. Bridging the Blues is not just about music, it’s about Delta culture, showcasing a lifestyle that can’t be replicated. For more information and up-to-date schedules, visit

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HIGHLIGHTS Friday, September 26 - Saturday September 27 Live Music with Dr. Who’s Blues and Mark Doyle, and Grady Champion. Vicksburg, MS Delta Busking Festival. Clarksdale, MS Saturday September 27 Indian Bayou Arts Festival, Indianola Live Music by BluesGate Musician’s Co-Op, Greenwood Sam Chatmon Blues and BBQ Festival. Hollandale, MS Tuesday, September 30 Live music @ Hambone Gallery, Clarksdale Soul and Sounds Unlimited. Vicksburg, MS Friday, October 3 Downtown Fall Festival, Vicksburg Live Music at Club Ebony and The Blue Biscuit, Indianola Live Music with Mr. Sipp “The Mississippi Blues Child”, Vicksburg Mighty Mississippi Music Festival / Highway 61 Blues Festival. Greenville, MS Saturday, October 4 Live Music by BluesGate Musician’s Co-Op, Greenwood Mississippi Blues Fest. Greenwood, MS

Tuesday, October 7 Central Mississippi Society Band. Vicksburg, MS Wednesday, October 8 Art Alfresco + Antiques, Greenwood Blues TweetUp!, Tunica International Blues Challenge Semi-Finals, Memphis Blues Society, Memphis, TN Michael Burks Memorial Jam. Helena, AR Thursday, October 9 King Biscuit Blues Festival. Helena, AR Friday, October 10 Live Music with Eddie Cotton. Vicksburg, MS Octoberfest. Cleveland, MS Saturday, October 11 4th Annual King Biscuit Call and Response: the Blues Forum 2014. Helena, AR Second Street Blues Party. Clarksdale, MS Sunday, October 12 14th Annual Pinetop Perkins Homecoming. Clarksdale Cat Head Mini Blues Festival III. Clarksdale, MS

Monday, October 6 International Conference on the Blues. Cleveland, MS Calendar subject to change. Visit for updates.

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Grace Askew at Sun Studio

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GRACE Grace Askew is going places, soulfully, gracefully. Story by Corey Latta. Photography by Mike Stanton

A love for that imperfectly-perfect first take, the ability to capture those magical moments in the studio, and a strong soulful spirit, singer Grace Askew embodies the creative energy of a musician with a dream. Like most musicians, Grace’s world is filled with tour dates, album release parties, and wanderlust for a bright future. And she is stepping into that future gracefully.


orn into an artistic family, Grace felt the draw of her muses at a young age. “My family always encouraged me in music,” Grace said. “Writing was my first passion, then I picked up a guitar at 13.” Throughout her teenage years, Grace followed her newly realized dream to be a musician and continued to hone her craft. Grace’s growing love for writing and playing was coupled

with a taste for music of depth, music not appreciated as much by Grace’s friends. Grace’s early musical influences include Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Joni Mitchell.   “I’ve always been drawn to music of the past,” Askew said. “I never listened to the music my friends listened to.” Grace’s love for music with deep soul might have something to do with her ties to the Mid-South. A sixth generation DeSoto 57

Memphian, Grace’s soulful influences reveal themselves in her writing. “I write my own material, all original work,” Grace said. “It is a blend of blues and country. I call it ‘bluntry’,” she continued with a laugh. Not only does her style of music capture that same soulful spirit of southern music so often produced by Mid-South artists, even Grace’s latest album boasts strong ties to Memphis. Grace’s most recent and yet-to-release album, “Scaredy Cat,” was cut in one day at the world famous Sun Studios. Sun Studios’s most famous artists include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Add Grace Askew to the list of artists, who’ve offered their sound to Sun. “I cut 11 songs in four hours!” Grace exclaimed. “I’m not a perfectionist. I believe in the magic of that moment, the magic of a first take.” With its evocative use of emotion, powerful lyrical style, and experiential subject matter, Grace’s work bears her belief in capturing the moment as well as capturing those universal moments that resonate with listeners. Perhaps that’s due to Grace’s openness to authentic creative expression. Grace’s non-acceptance of perfectionism opens her work up to an honest feel, and her love for older music with deeply resounding soul pours into her own honesty.

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In 2013, she released her single “Empty Rooms” at Tweed Studios in Oxford, Mississippi. Playing with her were Memphis’ musicians Jana Misener on the cello and Wroten Combest on the violin, Jesse “Big Breakfast” Dakota on drums and Daniel McKee on up-right. Grace’s soulfulness is not just a matter of musical taste. It’s a lifestyle. Grace was touring by 22 years old. Taken by a case of wanderlust, Grace loves the road and the thrill of live performance. As viewers of the hit show The Voice can testify – including its popular judge Blake Shelton, who first chose Grace after her 2013 performance of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’”– Grace thrives on the stage. She hopes her future includes performing more often and on grander stages. When asked about her future goals, Grace replied, “I want to tour Europe! I want to tour with other, really well-known artists. I want to make it big. Play Letterman! Saturday Night Live! The same goals most all musicians have.” Grace is on the road to meet those goals. Presently in a life stage Grace describes as transitional, Grace lives in Nashville but plans to move back to her hometown of Memphis. “I’m constantly touring and never home. It makes more sense to be closer to my home base, closer to family.” This month and next, Grace will be playing in Texas and California. Grace is also transitioning away from the bar scene, beginning to refocus where she plays her gigs, thinking more intently on the trajectory of her career. One thing remains constant amidst transition; Grace Askew is going places, soulfully, gracefully.

The national release date for Grace’s next album, “Scaredy Cat,” is August 11th. “Scaredy Cat” will be available on iTunes. For more, visit

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“I write my own material, all original work,” “It is a blend of blues and country.

I call it bluntry’” - Grace Askew DeSoto 61

Big Bob Gibson’s Pork Chicken Combo

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Hog & Hominy

MEAt The Winners 3

Southern restaurants take food awards home

Story by Andrea Brown Ross Images courtesy of Hog & Hominy, Latham’s Hamburger Inn, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q


ith summer’s end approaching, three Southern restaurants are still cooking up award-winning seasonal favorites. If you have a hankering for a hot dog, hamburger, or barbeque, you’re in luck. From Memphis, Tennessee to North Alabama and in between, these folks are cooking up the best of what the South has to offer.

Hog & Hominy, Memphis, Tennessee Hog & Hominy. Although the name is catchy, it’s more than the name catching attention. Since opening its doors in 2011 in East Memphis, Hog & Hominy has received notable acclaim

throughout the restaurant world. This summer was no different. In May 2014, their beef and cheddar dog, stuffed in a pretzel bun with yellow mustard, was recognized as one of America’s best hot dogs by Travel & Leisure. Owners/chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman are also owners of the Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. Ticer discussed the inspiration behind the name Hog & Hominy. “We were looking to show our Memphis roots and embrace our hometown heritage. In the 1800s, Tennessee was known as the Hog & Hominy state as it was a leading producer of both. We thought that it showed our belief in Southern food culture. Not to mention that it’s pretty snappy.” DeSoto 63

Besides the name, what makes the restaurant unique is the blending of cultures, according to Hudman. “It’s a blend of our Italian heritage and our love of the food in the American South. The restaurant is unique because it bridges those cultures.” Additionally, the menu changes frequently. “We change the menu all the time. There are major overhauls each season but we tinker with a dish or two every week to keep the experience fresh for our guests.” Ticer elaborated about a few of the new items on the menu. “We’re really excited about a new Gulf shrimp dish that we’ve added. It’s these big head-on Gulf shrimp that we serve with a poblano purée, corn, bacon, hominy, and peanuts. We’ve also got fantastic squash blossoms that we gather from the garden at our other restaurant, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, right across the street. We stuff the blossoms with a smoked hamachi dip, then tempura batter it and fry them.” Hog & Hominy is located at 707 W. Brookhaven Circle in Memphis, Tennessee. They are open for lunch and dinner. To learn more about the restaurant, including operating hours and menu, check out their website,

Latham’s Hamburger Inn New Albany, Mississippi Approximately an hour’s drive east of Memphis, New Albany, Mississippi boasts one of the best hamburger destinations in the region with Latham’s Hamburger Inn. Voted the Best Burger in Mississippi by online publication Business Insider, as well as being featured on Travel Channel’s Burger Land, their burger has history. At Latham’s Hamburger Inn, the deep fried dough burger has been satisfying customers since 1934. In 2009, Wally Rakestraw took over running the business, managing and cooking, for a family friend who still owns the business. Rakestraw commented on the history behind the restaurant. “Back in the Depression when large families had to take a little and stretch it to make it go further, the original burger was developed so the family could enjoy an affordable sandwich. It was so good, a little hamburger inn opened and the rest is history.” Rakestraw further explained how their award-winning burgers are prepared today. 64 DeSoto

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“Yes, the burgers are cooked the same as in 1934--in a black cast iron skillet.” And although the menu doesn’t deviate greatly from burger, fries, and Coca Cola in a glass bottle, Rakestraw said the customers keep coming back for a variety of reasons. “The old diner look, the plaques on the wall, the original bar stools and of course the famous Latham burger made from the original recipe. It’s the combination that gives the little inn its uniqueness. The customers keep coming back for the good food, friendly service, unique atmosphere and Wally’s outstanding personality,” said Rakestraw with a laugh. Latham’s Hamburger Inn is located on 106 West Main Street in New Albany.  They are open for lunch Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To learn more about Latham’s, like them on Facebook.  

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Decatur, Alabama

Three hours may seem like a long distance to drive from Memphis to Decatur, but not when the trip involves championship barbecue. Decatur is home to Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q , Grand Champion of the 2014 Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cook-off . Back in 1925, when Bob Gibson began making barbeque in his backyard, it was just a weekend gig from his full-time job as a railroad worker. In time, Gibson’s pork barbeque, cooked low and slow over hickory wood chips, became so popular that he quit the railroad and went into the barbeque business full time. Now over 75 years and four generations later, his traditions are still going strong, as evidenced by the multitude of accolades the restaurant has received. Gibson’s grandson Don McLemore, and his son-in-law, Chris Lilly, carry on the proud tradition. In fact, they have even collaborated on a barbeque sauce which went on to win first place in a previous Memphis in May competition. That sauce is one of their many sauces available on the retail market. However, it was Gibson’s white barbeque sauce that started it all. McLemore commented. “Barbeque white sauce. My grandfather, Bob Gibson, invented it. We baptize our chicken in it.” McLemore has even seen customers dip potato chips and bread in the sauce. 66 DeSoto

Don’t forget to save room for dessert. Employees arrive bright and early to bake from scratch a minimum of 100 fresh pies daily. During the holidays, the restaurant has been known to sell as many as 750 pies in a day’s time. But the barbeque is still the main attraction at Big Bob Gibson’s. “Pork and hickory. That’s North Alabama barbecue,” said Lilly. Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q has two locations in Decatur, Alabama. They also have their award-winning sauces, rubs, cookbooks, and other items available for purchase. Check out their website at for more information. Latham’s Burger and Fies.

“Yes, the burgers are cooked the same as

in 1934 - in a black cast iron skillet.”

Wally Rakestraw, Latham’s Hamburger Inn DeSoto 67

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Presiding Justice Dickinson and his Hammered Dulcimer By Judy Smith

Photography courtesy of Judge Jess Dickinson

The soul of a hammered dulcimer is as old as time, resonating with a sweet, pure sound that echoes from the hills and memories of a simpler time. The hammered dulcimer captured Jess Dickinson’s heart with its hauntingly beautiful tune, and he took up the instrument as if he had played it all his life. Playing the hammered dulcimer wasn’t always in Dickinson’s plans. In fact, it’s kind of a long and winding tale about how this Mississippi Supreme Court Justice picked up the ancient instrument and became a skilled musician. Today, he owns place to go for anything dulcimer related. Raised by his grandparents in Charleston, Mississippi, Dickinson’s grandfather taught him to play the guitar when he was 12 years old, and he was hooked. It was then that Dickinson’s dreams of stardom began. “I grew up in the Elvis-Beatles era, and I always wanted to be a rock star and play on stage,” said Dickinson. Dickinson seemed to be on his way as he quickly learned to play the blues that thrive in the Delta soil. With band in tow, Dickinson played at his own high school prom and then

headed to college, forming a rock band that shared the stage with notables like B.J. Thomas who was just starting out. With stars in his eyes, Dickinson dropped out of college and headed for California, working as a studio musician in Los Angeles for a few years. Still holding dear to his musical dreams, Dickinson moved to Little Rock and played in a band that opened for Jerry Butler at the Barton Coliseum, but it didn’t take Dickinson long to realize that he wasn’t going to get rich by playing gigs here and there. Joining up with David Corriveau, the pair opened Little Rock’s first disco, Cash McCools. After a few years, Corriveau headed for Texas and opened Dave & Busters, now an internationally-recognized brand; Dickinson journeyed back to Mississippi. After finishing up college at Mississippi State University, Dickinson headed to law school. After graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1982, Dickinson joined the Jackson law firm of Watkins, Ludlam, Winter & Stennis for a year before moving to Gulfport where he practiced law for 22 years. Dickinson served one year as a DeSoto 69

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specially-appointed circuit judge in Forest and Perry counties before he was elected to the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2004 and is now serving in his second year of service. Apart from legal prowess and musical genius, Dickinson also has the uncanny talent of brushing elbows with musical greatness. In his legal practice, Dickinson headed to Los Angeles with a client for a business meeting with a mutual friend, Mark Slotkin, owner of Antiquarian Traders, a rare antiques shop in Beverly Hills, but the meeting was interrupted when Michael Jackson, the King of Pop himself, stopped in to pick up a few antiquities. “While he was looking at whatever he was interested in, I sat at an antique piano and played,” Dickinson said. “He heard me and walked over and asked me if I knew any of his songs. I responded that I knew how to play ‘Ben,’ a song he recorded when he was much younger. He asked me to play it, so I did and he sang it. Mark took some pictures. A few weeks later, I received the pictures framed in silver from Mark.” During a 1980s trip through the Ozarks, Dickinson and his wife, Janet, traveled to Mountain View, the Mecca of traditional folk music. It is there that Dickinson became enraptured by the hammered dulcimer. “Everyone who hears a hammered dulcimer agrees that the sound is like no other instrument,” Dickinson said. “The clear, warm notes are unique. And arpeggio chords sound so perfect on the instrument. You really have to hear it to appreciate it.” Dickinson instinctively knew that he must have one of the instruments and vowed to share the Mountain View stage one day. Anyone that knows Dickinson should never doubt him. After hearing of a Mountain View search for talent, Dickinson submitted a recording of his music for consideration and was soon offered a spot. In November 1990, Dickinson blew the crowd away and received a request for an encore. Stunned for just a moment, Dickinson realized he didn’t know any more Christmas tunes on the dulcimer. He covered up by playing “Send the Light,” the first song that he learned to play on the instrument, convincing the crowd it fit because it rejoices in sending out the light to tell of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For Dickinson, playing the hammered dulcimer brings a joy like no other instrument. In Dickinson’s perception, the hammered dulcimer is probably his most favorite instrument to play. DeSoto 71

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“I think my favorite feature of the hammered dulcimer is that it allows me to play percussion, chords, and melody at the same time,” Dickinson said. “Unlike any other stringed instrument, the hammered dulcimer allows the player to employ all drum rudiments on the strings with the hammers. This produces wonderful rhythms using the melody notes and chords of a song. There is so much a player can do that is completely unique to the player’s style. No two players play any song the same way.” Although his main occupation has been the law for quite some time, he has never given up his music. But why should he? The man is proficient in over 30 instruments. Music will always own Dickinson’s heart, and he loves to spread that love of music to others by teaching hammered dulcimer workshops for about eight weekends each year. Dickinson’s band, The Bluegrass Appeal, released its first CD, “From Dublin to the Delta,” in 2011, a lovely combination of Irish and gospel music and the Delta Blues. He has also found a way to combine his music with his legal profession. “As a matter of fact, my bluegrass band-the Bluegrass Appeal--will be playing in Washington, D.C., for the 50th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation,” Dickinson said. “We also played for the Mississippi Bar Association’s annual convention in Destin, Florida, several years ago. I have played for numerous functions for the Bar and for Mississippi College Law School, where I teach two courses.” Dickinson’s wife Janet is also a musician and the couple has performed music together for over 30 years in churches, weddings and banquets. Dickinson has her own musical talents as an accomplished singer, and just so happened to have recorded two albums as a college co-ed. Through the years, the couple has shared their love of music with their five children and nine grandchildren. Although the musical Dickinsons make their home in Madison County, Miss., there’s a pretty good chance of catching them on the stage or sharing their talents whenever needed because Dickinson has no plans of hanging up his musical chops any time soon. With such amazing musical gifts, it seems only fair that Dickinson share his wealth of knowledge and talent with the world, teaching generations to love this timehonored instrument that has enchanted the world for centuries. DeSoto 73

homegrown } d to d designs

From Diesels to Diamonds Story by Chelle Ellis. Photos Courtesy of Amelia Davis Massengill


melia Davis Massengill started D to D Designs in 2011, as a second income to help raise her three sons. Within three years, her hobby turned into a family-run operation that supplies her handmade jewelry and hand stamped heirloom spoons to 10 locations in Mississippi alone. Raised in Baldwyn, Mississippi, Massengill has worked as a speech-language pathologist for Tupelo Public Schools, since earning her Masters of Science degree at The University of Mississippi in 1994. “I started out in long term care in a nursing home then after the birth of my twin boys, I went into the public schools and I’ve been there ever since,” said Massengill. She named her business D to D Designs in memory of her father, Gayle Davis, who passed away in 2006. Davis was an instructor of diesel mechanics at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, Mississippi, with a second job as a jeweler. Massengill’s mother and retired nurse, Charlotte Davis, casually mentioned one day that Davis went from “diesels to diamonds”. “My dad is always on my mind, I often reflect on the dynamic and talented person he was. He, unfortunately, passed away 74 DeSoto

before I began this journey. I use many of his jeweler’s tools in my work today,” shared Massengill. As Massengill was considering a name for her business, her mother’s descriptive words about her father revisited her, thus D to D Designs emerged. Words are an important part of Massengill’s creative process. Most of her work is stamped with an inspirational phrase that birthed each piece. Music and religion also speak to her soul. A song will come to mind from which she will borrow a couple of words; or maybe a one or two word inspirational phrase that she’s heard in church during a sermon. “Some pieces are nature inspired like when I‘m outdoors and see a dandelion and think of my childhood memories of making a “WISH”, then free hand the dandelion with the lower case “L” and period stamps.” Made from silver, copper, antique and bright colored brass, Massengill’s stamped jewelry has a “Southern Charm” that has been an instant hit in this state and region. Her Tupelo Honey pendant necklace, made from a flattened vintage serving spoon, stylishly hand stamped in a well formatted type and accentuated with a jewel crusted honey bee remains locally popular.

Of course, like any good Southern girl, Massengill is inspired by college football. Cheers of “Hotty Toddy!”, “Hail State!”, “Rammer Jammer!” and “Geaux Tigers!” are filling her head now as she gears up to fashion these fan favorites. “I just got an order from Hover, Alabama, and even they are ordering Hotty Toddy jewelry!” Massengill’s pieces can be found for sale in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee and Florida. “Last month, my jewelry was sold in New York City at the Mississippi Picnic in the Park. That was exciting!” Specifically, her Mississippi shaped pieces, hand stamped with “Hey Y‘all” were displayed and sold by About the South in Central Park at the celebrated annual event. “Other orders have been sent to California and North Carolina, including customordered flight attendant luggage tags that read ‘Stop! I’m not yours’.” The business that started with her father in mind has grown with the help of her husband, Ricky Massengill, and three sons, twins Jack and John Boatner and the youngest Brock Boatner. She credits her family with helping her balance D to D Designs with her full-time job as a speech language pathologist. “It’s a family affair! My husband Ricky designed and transformed his office into a studio for my work area. My sons are there to help whether it’s delivering or buffing. I can’t count the many miles my mother, Charlotte, has driven delivering local orders. They are always there to help whether it’s delivering, buffing - you name it, they help me,” she said. D to D Designs offers personal, unique and affordable jewelry, ranging in price from $15 to $45. Stamped jewelry pieces are regularly available at About the South in Tupelo, Mississippi, where Massengill also has three to four trunk shows per year to take custom orders. Additional information can be found on Massengill’s Facebook page by visiting D toD It’s apparent that Massengill finds inspiration and fulfillment creating the personalized pieces for her clients. “This is something I never dreamed would happen. Without the support of my family, I don’t think my success would have been possible. Mind you, this started out as just a hobby for me, but I absolutely love it!” Apparently, so do many others. DeSoto 75

in good spirts } mississippi mule

Mississippi Mule

A Mississippi Take on the Russian Mule

By CherĂŠ Coen. Photo by Damien Blaylock

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The Drink: Mississippi Mule

History: The Moscow Mule, one of the first vodka cocktails, remains a simple drink to make — and a refreshing one for summer. Simply squeeze lime juice and drop the lime into a tall slender Collins glass or an original Moscow Mule copper cup (we advise using the glass). Add a couple of ice cubes, then two ounces vodka mixed with four to six ounces of ginger beer. The drink that became popular in the 1950s was named for its vodka ingredient, which is associated with Russia, but we offer a distinctly Southern take on the Moscow Mule, adding a touch of sweetness and renaming it Mississippi Mule. Fondren Public in Jackson and Cathead Vodka use a recipe that calls for Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka and specialty ginger beers such as Barritts, Goslings and Reeds, mixing them together over cracked ice much like the original drink.

The Mixology:

Cathead Mississippi Mule

1/2 ounce lime juice 2.5 ounces Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka 4 to 6 ounces ginger beer Mint sprig, optional

Stir all ingredients together. Serve in a copper mug, or low-ball glass, and dress up with a mint sprig. Make sure to keep the lime wedge in the cocktail. Absolut’s Mississippi Mule prefers a mixture of gin, lemon juice and peel and Black Currant Liqueur instead of vodka and ginger beer. (You can even watch a video on how it’s made on the Absolut web site.) We’ve also seen Southern Comfort used instead of vodka with a dash of bitters and ginger ale instead of beer. There’s also a sweeter Mississippi Mule that gets its sugar kick from crème de cassis. Here’s a recipe compliments of

Mississippi Mule

2 measures gin (Seagram’s with lime is a nice choice if you want some extra citrus flavor) 1/2 measure crème de cassis 1/2 measure fresh lemon juice

Chill a small lowball glass by filling it with ice cubes and cold water. Set it aside to chill while preparing the cocktail. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Pour in the gin, créme de cassis, and fresh lemon juice, then shake the mixture vigorously until it is well frosted. Empty the ice cubes and cold water from the lowball glass. Strain the mixture from the cocktail shaker into the chilled lowball glass. Serve with a straw and enjoy. DeSoto 77

table talk } hard rock cafe

Hard Rock Memphis Rocks On Story by Karen Ott Mayer. Photography by Isaac Singleton for Hard Rock International

At the corner of Beale and Second Streets in Memphis, Tennessee, music, food and history merge to tell a new, exciting story with the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe Memphis in the historic Lansky Bros. building. While cafe may imply only food, it’s hard to concentrate on the signature Nachopalooza or a Hard Rock Cafe burger when the walls distract with displays of Elvis’ clothes or original lyrics by Johnny Cash or Carl Perkins. It’s a music-lover’s feast for the senses. “The pieces in this collection are the things that must be in Memphis,” said Jeff Nolan, Hard Rock’s Music and 78 DeSoto

Memorabilia historian. “They have outdone themselves with the memorabilia.” The two-story building will also house a new Lansky Bros. retail location and the new Memphis Music Hall of Fame, set to open later this year. Known as “The Clothier to the King,” Bernard Lansky also sold clothes from this location to Johnny Cash, David Porter, Rufus Thomas, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. Founded in 1946, the Lansky Brothers gained a reputation for unique products with Lansky himself traveling the nation to find outrageous fabrics, colors and styles.

Along with clothing, Gibson guitars played or owned by famous musicians also grace the walls. “We have a shirt that Tom Petty wore which is signed on the collar, as well as the suit Isaac Hayes wore in 1971 to the Academy Awards when he won an award for the theme from Shaft,” said Nolan. Nolan stressed more than once the entire Hard Rock organization committed to choosing the memorabilia that just had to be in Memphis. A room on the second floor is dedicated entirely to Elvis, displaying some of the singer’s most interesting artifacts, including the sign that once hung at Elvis’ Mississippi ranch. The Circle G Ranch sign dominates a full wall. “How cool is that to have this sign? You know those guys passed some good times at that place!” said Nolan. While paying tribute to the musical giants of Memphis’ past, the Hard Rock team also pointed out memorabilia belonging to contemporary artists like Justin Timberlake who was born and raised in Memphis. The menu itself offers a wide range of options from appetizers to desserts. Early choices may include Hard Rock’s Rockin’ Wings, dry rubbed and slow cooked or the Jumbo Combo, a collection of almost every appetizer on the menu. For dinner, it’s tempting to order the Twisted Mac, Cheese and Chicken just for the name itself. Seating is both downstairs and upstairs, with the early lucky diners grabbing a second-floor table overlooking the stage. Hard Rock International now operates a total of 185 venues in 57 countries and is one of the most globally-recognized brands in the retail, merchandising and entertainment markets. Memphis, along with iconic cities like London, New York and San Francisco, attract music lovers worldwide who enjoy live music and musicrelated merchandise. Officially opened in July, the Hard Rock Cafe Memphis celebrates Memphis’ musical roots, the Lansky clothing legacy and the enduring mix of food, friends and fun.

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exploring events } august

Tunica Roadhouse Casino & Hotel Free Concert Series August 2 - Cowboy Mouth September 6 - FireHouse 1107 Casino Center Drive Tunica Resorts, MS 800-391-3777

Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival August 8-10 Downtown Clarksdale, MS This festival focuses on Mississippi’s musical heritage, featuring entertainment by local and nationally known blues and gospel artists. For more info call: 662-902-2587

Orpheum Summer Movie Series: Jaws August 8 7:00pm 203 S. Main Street. Memphis, TN 38103 901-525-3000

Mississippi Delta Dragon Boat Festival August 8-9 Lake Ferguson. Grenville, MS Lake Ferguson, an oxbow lake off the mighty Mississippi River, will host the first Dragon Boat Festival along the river in the state! Start the weekend with our kick off Chinese Gala at the Greenville Yacht Club on Friday evening.  Wake up early for a 5K race along the levee to warm up your muscles, or gather at Schelben Park for Tai Chi class.  Then race with your team for the top prizes or cheer for your favorite boat as a spectator on the levee.  Entertain the kids with free activities all day long, culminating in an afternoon parade and awards ceremony.  Relax in the evening with downtown shopping and entertainment and complete the magical weekend with a Chinese Lantern Send-Off over the lake.

Elvis Week August 9-17 Elvis Week is a celebration of the music, movies and life of Elvis Presley. Join Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis for a full week of special events that offer something for everyone to enjoy. Also, don’t miss out on new events such as Elvis A Cappella and be sure to get your tickets to Conversations on Elvis which will feature special guest Priscilla Presley this year. For a full schedule of events and tickets visit: 80 DeSoto

Weezer August 13 7:00pm Snowden Grove Amphitheater 6275 Snowden Lane. Southaven, MS Tickets available at Snowden Grove box office and online at 800-745-3000 Mary Poppins August 15 - Sept 7 Playhouse on the Square 66 South Cooper. Memphis, TN 901-726-4656 Freedom Summer and Beyond August 16 West Oak Grove Church of Christ 3455 Highway 51 South. Hernando, MS Hernando DeSoto County Museum and the DeSoto County AfricanAmerican History Symposium, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, MS present “1964: A Shared Experience.� Come hear personal accounts of The Freedom Summer, as it happened here in DeSoto County 50 years ago. For more information, visit or call 662-429-8852. Styx August 22 8:30 pm Live at the Garden, Memphis Botanic Gardens 750 Cherry Road. Memphis, TN 901-576-4107 Kenny Rogers: Through the Years World Tour Saturday, August 23 8:00 pm Gold Strike Casino - Millennium Theatre 1010 Casino Center Drive Tunica Resorts, MS 38664 888-747-7711 43rd Annual Germantown Festival September 6 and 7 Germantown Civic Club Complex 7745 Poplar Pike Germantown, TN More than 400 local and national arts and crafts vendors along with foods, games, kiddie rides, community attractions, live stage entertainment and new car exhibits will be on display. 901-757-9212 DeSoto 81

reflections } blues

a blues peace Story and photo by Karen Ott Mayer

My friend John called at the last minute, greeting me in his signature style. “Heeey Karen!” It was not unusual for him to call from out West, asking me to join in a kayak adventure or hike in the Sipsey wilderness. Answering his calls felt like an adventure itself. “Come with me to Greenwood and Itta Bena to a party in a bean field!” Relatively new to Mississippi life, I had no idea what an Itta Bena was or why someone would hold a party in a bean field. I questioned him further. “It’s to hear the blues and meet T-Model Ford.” Meet a car? Obviously, this afternoon sounded too intriguing to pass up. I drove to Greenwood, following directions to a small worndown house hidden in a maze of side streets. “Is the party here?” John laughed, explaining that we had a chance to sit and visit with the legendary blues singer T-Model Ford. In a cramped humid kitchen men gathered, talking in low voices and laughing. I immediately felt like an intruder. Introductions and polite conversation followed. A short aging black man sat on a chair, rambling on to his neighbor, oblivious to my presence. People moved fluidly about with a casual friendliness. At some point, the black man noticed me. I don’t remember a lot from that day, but I’ll never forget his words or the mischievous look in his eyes. “You married?” he asked. I told him no. “Hmmmmm….mmmm.mmm. Well, if I was any younger, you’d be in trouble!” The room erupted in laughter as I felt my cheeks warm over. Someone asked T-Model about his living situation. As best I could follow, he was living with a woman but was thrown out. All his stuff on the street. Everyone laughed at his colorful interpretation of a routine domestic dispute. He’d been married several times but not now. We soon packed up, heading to the cars. Turn here, turn there, 82 DeSoto

another dirt road…no map could help me now. Soon, an expansive soybean field filled the landscape to the horizon, and like an island, a mint-green clapboard house floated in the middle. T-Model disappeared, whisked off to the stage--a long hay wagon set where mown grass met the field. Inside, people buzzed about like flies, carrying drinks in hand, sweating in the heat. I met the host, a young man with a shock of curly brown hair, sunny eyes and wide smile. No sharp edges in this kind of living. Outside, music filled the sky. Loud and raucous. People sat in lawn chairs, stood under trees or moved to the rhythms. Two young muscled black men filled the stage with their presence and voices. Guitars mixed with drums. “Those are the Burnside brothers from Holly Springs,” John yelled to me. I would see the pair again in life but my first encounter sticks vividly in my memory. As they played, people rose. John began swaying with a woman in an innocent groove. As the afternoon wore on, I began to understand and to see what intrinsically happens when the blues fill a bean field. I’d like to say after all of my encounters with the blues that I have developed a natural passion for this music. But I haven’t. Perhaps it’s my 20 years of classically-trained piano that keeps my brain from completely relating or perhaps it’s just I was born too far North. On that day, however, John gave me an intimate view into this world and its characters. T-Model Ford died in 2013. My friend John is gone, too, dying unexpectedly without my permission. I miss his calls. Mississippi born and a fellow farm owner, John lived and breathed those raw-bone moments. And captured them. John’s stunning photography often hit my inbox. Images from The Cape. Images from a western canyon. Images of those blues players gathered in a bean field. The music from that bean field may only live in my mind, but as John would no doubt remind me, it lived large. “Peace,” said John each time he signed off. Rightfully, so. Rightfully so.

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Desoto Magazine August 2014  

Playing music. It’s just a phrase. Two words Yet, how many lives have been changed with those two words? Not sure I’m qualified to answer th...

Desoto Magazine August 2014  

Playing music. It’s just a phrase. Two words Yet, how many lives have been changed with those two words? Not sure I’m qualified to answer th...