Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts - Jackson

The Queen of Hearts, a primary venue for down-home blues in Jackson, opened at this location in the 1970s. During the following decades, owner-operator Chellie B. Lewis presented the blues bands of King Edward, Sam Myers, Big Bad Smitty, and many others. The house behind the club at 905 Ann Banks Street was owned and occupied in the 1960s by blues singer-guitarist Johnnie Temple, who had been a popular recording artist in Chicago in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Jackson became an important center for the blues in the early 1900s, when musicians from rural communities came here to play for crowds on the capital city’s streets and in its many venues. Live blues continued to thrive in Jackson into the twenty-first century, thanks to clubs such as the Queen of Hearts, where owner Chellie B. Lewis booked musicians and cooked soul food every weekend for decades. A native of Bolton, Mississippi, Lewis opened the club as “Nina’s Lounge” after taking over the lease from Mose Chinn, whose brother Clarence ran the popular New Club Desire in Canton. Lewis had previously operated a “whiskey house” with a jukebox in the nearby Maple Street Apartments and worked as a waiter at Percy Simpson’s nightclub on Moonbeam Street, where he would sometimes play piano with Elmore James’s band.

John “Big Bad Smitty” Smith, a native of Vicksburg, was the first featured musician at the Queen of Hearts and was followed by bands led by King Edward (Antoine), Cadillac George Harris, Tommy “T. C.” Carter, Norman Clark, and Roosevelt Robinson, Jr. Others who performed or sat in at the Queen of Hearts included Sam Myers, McKinley Mitchell, King Edward’s brother Nolan Struck, Prentiss Lewis, Charlie Jenkins, Johnny Littlejohn, Levon Lindsey, brothers “Lightnin’” and Little Charles Russell, Elmore James, Jr., Robert Robinson, Andrew “Bobo” Thomas, Tommy Lee Thompson, Bobby Rush, Z. Z. Hill, Little Milton, Dorothy Moore, Lee “Shot” Williams, Abdul Rasheed, Eddie Rasberry, Walter Lee “Big Daddy” Hood, J. T. Watkins, Roosevelt Robinson, Sr., George Jackson, Eddie Cotton, Jr., Sam Baker, Jr., Jesse Robinson, Bill Simpson, Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood, Robert “Bull” Jackson, Greg “Fingers” Taylor, Willie (Dee) Dixon, Robert “The Duke” Tillman, Sweet Miss Coffy, Willie James Hatten, Billy “Soul” Bonds, Frank-O (Johnson), Tina Diamond, Dennis Fountain, Marvin Bradley, James Williams, Sugar Lou, and Debra K.

Lewis also rented out rooms above the Queen of Hearts to musicians including Sam Myers and Big Bad Smitty, and recalled that the home of bluesman Johnnie Temple (1905-1968), located behind the club, was a popular hangout for Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, and other musicians. The house was previously occupied by Temple’s stepfather, guitarist Lucine “Slim” Duckett, who recorded in Jackson for the OKeh label in 1930. Tommy Johnson and Skip James were among other noted blues performers who stayed with the Duckett/Temple family at various houses in Jackson. After moving to Chicago in the 1930s Temple recorded extensively, scoring his biggest hit with the often-covered “Louise Louise Blues.” He returned to Jackson in the late 1950s.

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