It was January 2006 and a snowstorm had descended on our house in central Wisconsin. Bud, my spouse, was out in the worst of it, stacking cordwood.
I was inside, ruminating on how to break us both out of the funk that had swept in since our only child had passed away in 2000. The hole in our home and hearts was gaping and often paralyzing. It took distractions—major ones like the storm—to move the grief to the back of our brains for a bit of respite. But Bud's birthday was coming up on March 2. Then I had a thought.
We both loved blues. Bud's passion began in the mid-1960s when he was an undergrad at Penn State and happened upon a campus performance by the recently "rediscovered" Son House. From then on he was hooked.
When we met in 1979, Bud took me to see Albert King, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Bobbie "Blue" Bland, BB King, Robert Junior Lockwood, and other greats. His passion for this authentic music, most of it born out of the rural Mississippi Delta, was something Bud passed to me by osmosis. I became a convert, and my new creed was intense and undeniable.
So what could I give Bud for his 2006 birthday? A trip down the Blues Highway through the Mississippi Delta. What came of that trip was life-changing for both of us.
It's one thing to appreciate the blues from a distance. It's another to retrace the steps of the great blues musicians in the actual places that gave birth to them, their culture, struggles, their authentic music. If you've been there, you know. When the five days were up, neither of us wanted to come home. We felt like we already were home.
Fast forward to today. It's been 14 years, and my fervor for the blues has only grown. Back in 2006 I created a scrapbook to memorialize our Delta trip. This blog features portions of it with photos and stories behind them. But the scrapbook is just a jumping off point, an anchor to new stories I'm unearthing about the river and the Mississippi Delta, its people, music, culture, history and heritage.
Posts will feature my interviews with people both known and obscure, but each with a story to tell about Mississippi, the blues, and its roots.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Writer, freelance journalist, trainer, communications practitioner, all borne out of an undergraduate degree in chemistry. Go figure. The takeaway? We gravitate toward our strengths and what we love. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, living in Wisconsin. Looking to change my address to Mississippi sometime soon.
Since he was a child, Jay Kirgis has had an insatiable interest in art and music. He was inspired by his mother's record collection, and taught himself to play harmonica when he was just twelve years old.
Jay earned an undergraduate art degree in California, then moved to Mississippi in the mid-1990s and obtained a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Mississippi.
His multimedia art, some of its forms drawn from the symbolism and imagery indigenous to the Mississippi Delta and its blues culture, can be found across the U.S. and overseas. Jay has earned Best-of-Show at a number of regional art shows and festivals. He was one of several artists commissioned to produce large murals of legendary Delta blues musicians, painted on the walls of downtown buildings of cities along Highway 61.
Among those owning Jay's works are Hollywood actor Bridget Fonda; actor, producer and film director Eric Stoltz; and Susan Tedeschi, the multiple Grammy Award nominee and singer/guitarist in the Tedeschi Trucks band with her husband Derek Trucks.
In addition to his artwork, Jay is a singer, songwriter and blues musician. He currently works out of his home studio in northern Louisiana.
Many thanks to Jay Kirgis for licensing his work on our home page as a signature graphic for Delta Download.
See below for more from Jay Kirgis. Contact him here to discuss purchasing or commissioning his work.
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