Documentary 1982/remastered 2021
Cast (interviewers and guests) Robert Palmer (music reporter), Junior Kimbrough, Jessie May Hemphill, Wade Walton, Booba Barnes and Dave Stewart (from the band Eurythmics)
Director: Robert Mugge (music historian)
Commentary: Robert Palmer from his book “A Film Movement”
Old Factory/Radio Active Films
Running length: One hour and 30 minutes
Watching the documentary, “Deep Blues,” is like going back in time. Many of the people featured in this film have passed away, and we get a glimpse of history of almost 40 years ago. Author Robert Palmer (“A Film Movement”) and Dave Stewart from the band “Eurythmics,” toured the state of Mississippi from top to boom, the northern section down to the Mississippi Delta region. Music everywhere, and if you don’t have an instrument, but have music inside you, you make an instrument. You must find your mojo. The two men meet people, ask a question to get things started and then film and/or record.
You see 333 Beale Street as it was then, and blues records sold three for one dollar. What exactly is the “blues?” Or is there not a specific “blues,” but more “the blues,” to indicate a mood that comes over a person at the end of the day. When all is said and done, tomorrow will be the same as today, and you may still be down and out on your luck. The men visit many people who sit on their front porch and sing, with old cars in the yard and chickens and dogs strolling by. “. trouble on the line, something on my mind…white lighting went to my head…”
In northern Mississippi hill country, popular music is fife and drum and there are five generations that have played this type of music, that looks like something from 1776. Going into central Mississippi, we meet a woman guitarist who sings about "… that man of mine.”
Then the musicians travel to southern Mississippi, which is cotton growing country. This is Delta Blues and Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters country. In a motel, even the water from the tap comes out brown. In Greenville, there is the Playboy Club with the headliner being Roosevelt “Booba” Barnes and The Playboys. This is more like Elvis Presley music. In a barber shop, even a leather strap provides music. Clarksdale, Miss. has Big Jack Johnson singing “Catfish Blues” and “When Momma Coming Home.” One musician plays a “diddley bow”, and made it himself because he couldn’t afford to buy a guitar. This instrument is a wire on a pole and played with a slide. An economical instrument.
“Deep Blues” shows it as it was almost 40 years ago. If you can’t buy an instrument, you made one. Don’t worry about buying sheet music, make up your own lyrics and melodies. In northern parts of the U.S., along the Mississippi River, it is polka country and at the end of the day, it was lively music to keep you warm during winter months. In the state of Mississippi, it is hot and humid country, where you relax and take it easy with an instrument, words that flow about life, and hope for tomorrow. It is as it is.
*Note: Dave Stewart (69) is active in the music business. Robert Palmer, writer and musicologist and author of the book, “Deep Blues,” passed away in 1997. Robert Mugge is an active filmmaker. Roosevelt “Booba” Barnes passed away in 1996.
Copyright 2021 Marie Asner