Memphis, Tennessee! It's the jewel of the Mississippi, a musical crossroads where the rural sounds reach an urban audience. Here the Blues found a forum, Rockabilly a stage. And tonight, we celebrate this musical city with a triple-feature of music, exploring the lineage of Delta music from one of he last great Jug bands and two of the first great Blues musicians! And a drink, of course.
First, it's the Memphis Jug Band, last bastions of this crossroads music that influenced the Blues, Ragtime, Western, and Bluegrass. A raw, rustic sound with palpable roots in Africa but distinctly American, the Jug Band sound, though coopted and discredited by Minstrel Show abuses, holds a deep soulful sound worth keeping alive. Buit don't take our word for it:
How 'bout some Rukus Juice? (see cocktail!)
Up next, the Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey herself, shows us her Black Bottom. One of the earliest recorded Blues women, she shows why the Ladies deserve as much credit as the boys for bringing this sound to the world:
She's talking about a dance, of course.
What could top that? Nothin' really, but here's a friend of hers who followed in Ma Rainey's footsteps, yet made a name all her own, as the Empress of the Blues, the one and only Bessie Smith! Jazz singers the world 'round trace their lineage to her, for she helped shape the Blues and Jazz vocal sound in a profound way:
Who could possibly stay away?
After such a musical tour de force, we need cocktail as deceptively simple, yet ultimately layered and complex, as the Memphis sound itself. How about a Sloe Gin Fizz? Not too many sloe berries on this side of the pond, but some wild plums enfused into homemade gin will do nicely.
Sloe Gin Fizz:
- 1.5 oz Sloe Gin (try to find the real stuff by Plymoth or another reputable distiller, not the cheap sugary Kuyper stuff)
- 1/2 Lime
- Seltzer water (or Club Soda)
Fill a highball glass with cracked ice. Add Sloe Gin. Squeeze and drop half-lime in grass. Fill to brim with seltzer.
Okay, I lied...it's a Quadruple Feature! How could we stop in Memphis without a visit by the enchanting Memphis Minnie herself? Here she is for our encore, puttin' that Hoodoo on us one more time: