This Week's Featured Marker:
Blue Front Cafe
On August 21, 2007 the 16th Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled in Bentonia in honor of the Blue Front Café, one of the longest existing juke joints in Mississippi. The Blue Front is currently operated by bluesman Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, who was just a baby when his parents opened the café in 1947. His brother, John Holmes of Clarksdale, also plays the blues, and his sister, Mary Towner, helps run the September’s Song blues and gospel festival in Marks.
Bentonia occupies a special place in blues history because it’s the hometown of Skip James (1902-1969), whose distinctive style of music was first captured on record in 1930, as well as his contemporary Jack Owens (1904-1997), whose music was stylistically similar to James. Owens lived in Bentonia until his death, and visitors who came to visit him and his musical partner Bud Spires often stopped first at the Blue Front to get directions to his house. A marker (#51) acknowledging James was dedicated on September 18, 2008; another (#69) honoring Owens was dedicated on April 17, 2009.
In more recent years it’s been Jimmy “Duck” Holmes who blues tourists often come to see. In the last decade Holmes has recorded four CDs, including three for St. Louis-based Broke and Hungry Records. His style often draws from James and Owens, and he has begun appearing regularly at blues festivals. Holmes also works closely with the annual Blues Festival, a free, down home event that features traditional artists and takes place on the street in front of the Blue Front.
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