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T Model Ford in Clarksdale MI

There are a lot of elements that go into art and one of them happens to be authenticity. Being true to who you are. I ran into authenticity while at the crossroads of the blues in Clarksdale MI recently. Heading over the tracks to check out a juke joint I was stopped by a man sitting on a bench on the side of the road.

“You know me!” he exerted.

I stared back and said, “Sorry but I don’t think so.”

“You know me!” he again emphatically stated. Leaving no doubt that I did.

Deciding to play along I said, “Oh yeah right, remind me of your name?”

“T-Model Ford!”

That was my introduction to 92 year old T-Model Ford who was slated to play the juke joint called Reds on the other side of the tracks in Clarksdale Mississippi.


T Model Ford in Clarksdale MI

T Model Ford in Clarksdale MI

When I returned a couple hours later it was with my wife and mother, both of which were traveling along on a southern road trip which included Gettysburg, Nashville, Graceland and now Clarksdale as we headed south on the Blues Highway.

Reds is basically a shack. Ramshackle and 404 Not Found pasted together with sheet metal and glue. I would have never thought to enter but for the recommendation of a few locals. Entering was transporting. Red glowing and lurid stringed lights were the only illumination. Cigarettes, large bottles of beer and a local crowd enjoyed the scene. With a smattering of out-of-towners coming in, wide eyed and

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gaping with smiles of gratitude. The gratitude was due to the “authenticity” of the joint – juke joint. And the realness of the player behind the guitar – T-Model Ford.

It was real. And the playing was real too. It wasn’t the

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best playing, but one became transfixed, mesmerized by the scene, the smells and the sounds. Looking up T-Model Ford on the internet one finds that he has about 26 children from various women, was sentenced to prison for murder, and

Additionally, a 404 Not Found when he was asked how many times he has been to jail he responded, “Every Saturday night there for a while.” Hailing from Greenville I realized I was looking at blues dead straight in the eyes.

So back to authenticity. You are who you are. If you’re a bluesman, you’re a bluesman. There’s something special about embracing that which makes you, you.