Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pat Thomas...

Is the son of Delta Bluesman, James "Son" Thomas. During July of last year, on Friday the 13th, my friend Jen and I rode 300 miles from Port Gibson, MS to Memphis, TN. While on that path we stopped in Leland, MS along infamous Highway 61, the Blues Trail, to see the Highway 61 Blues Museum. This is one of the coolest museums I've every been to. Not a stuffy, bourgeoisie type of place, but a nitty gritty working man's type of place. You could tell that the curator's had their hearts in the right place while attempting this endeavor. All kinds of Delta Blues artifacts filled the place, from folk art to photographs. Other museums we attended along this leg of our journey were not as unique, or authentic. Many had "similar" guitars or other similar relics that the legendary Bluesmen used...but this place had the "actual" instruments and artifacts that belonged to these men, and that they had used to express themselves. Items actually belonging to them: musical instruments, clothing, artwork, etc.

After we left the Jim Henson Muppet Museum across town (he's from Leland also) we found the main drag, and the Highway 61 Museum. As we parked our bikes in front of the establishment, we noticed this dude checking us out from around the corner. We paid no mind and parked the bikes, stretched out a bit more and approached the entrance. The doors were locked.

At this point we were wondering whether we should head on towards Memphis, which was still about another 3 hours down the road, to meet or friend Angelo or hang tight. It was at this moment that the same dude that was spying on us from around the corner came prancing across the street from the laundromat.

Jen immediately pegged him for a bum that was gonna hit us up for some change, but I had a different gut feeling. "Hey there, hey there, Mr. So'n So'll be right back, he just went to lunch, the museum's not closed, he's just at lunch".

"Cool" I responded, cuz I was hoping to check this place out.
This fella introduced himself as Pat Thomas, seeing as how there was a sign in front of the museum that was a memorial to James "Son" Thomas, I knew there had to be a connection.
He pointed the sign out to me and continued to tell me that "Mr what's his name" (that's my bad memory, not Pat's, he knew the dudes name) would be right back, that he was only getting lunch.

We stood out front and rapped for about a half hour...about blues, life and the museum.
He told me all about his father, and their lives as Bluesmen.
He played for his dads band up until his death in 1993, and now Pat continues to play at the museum for crackers like me that drop by to see a little bit of musical history. (Cracker being my word, not his).

Jen realized that this dude was legit and eased up a bit. He did accompany us to the quick mart for some station food, before running back to the laundromat and finally reconvening with us at the museum.

For me this was one of the highlights of the trip. To meet this salt of the earth dude, that was just doing what he loved, and what he knew, was very eye opening and inspiring to me.

Once inside the museum we looked in all the rooms at all the artifacts as Pat played his acoustic guitar and sang. Other travelling folk had gathered too and were experiencing the same thing we were. I gave him some cash and he gave me a domino. They are blank on one side and he draws his "cat heads" on that blank side.

Before we left we snapped a few pics and bid each other adieu.
Jen and I just hoped we wouldn't run into more rain before Memphis town.

The son of James "Son" Thomas.
Pat and I. He let me hold his guitar (though I didn't ask, he insisted).
In front of the Museum.

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