Sonny Boy Williamson is buried in a field about two miles from where these kids are getting introduced to drums, bass, guitar by two excellent teachers and players from Clarksdale, Mississippi.  The idea is that these kids will start bands and enjoy all the mental benefits and fun of a musical education. The classes are held TWICE WEEKLY at the beautiful Tutwiler Educational Center and are the result of contributions of time and money from harmonica players, blues lovers and Sonny Boy Williamson afficiandos around the world. There is currently funding for six months of once a week classes. Ideally the classes will be twice a week. We are also raising money to buy guitars, drums, keyboards etc.I

I  love the Mississippi Delta. 

It is a magical mystical place, a place where life slows down to the loping rhythm of the blues, and it is a place time forgot. But there is a steep price for that in the lives of its poorest citizens.

Tutwiler is the tiny and poor Mississippi Delta town where Harmonica Hero Sonny Boy Williamson II is buried.

Every Jam Camp, I lead a caravan of campers up Highway 49 to the barely paved backroads of Tutwiler--caravaning through the old broken down buildings and homes where people are currently living. 

We drive through the town, out to a peaceful field, where you find the graves of Sonny Boy's sisters who died in a house fire, and also the grave of the man himself. We stand in the field and I tell what I know about Sonny Boy Williamson II aka Willie Miller aka Rice aka The Goat.

Then we get in our cars, drive back through the abandoned streets and broken houses.
You do this, and in the high of jam camp, you think, there's got to be a way to connect
what I do to this place.

Then an article about the Tutwiler Health Clinic came out in the LA Times.  It talked about Tutwiler, and about Dr. Anne Brooks, a doctor and Sister who runs the clinic and how there are people who cannot afford care that could get them out of pain, could save their lives.

Here's the article, in case you are interested.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/03/nation/la-na-mississippi-20100603-34

As I read the article, and thought about Sonny Boy, the wandering harmonica minstrel
who wrote so many blues standards and whose 1st position harp styles will never be duplicated.  

I had  what I think is a really good idea: a way to let Sonny Boy lovers and blues lover  around the world make a huge difference in the poor people of his region. 

The idea is that because harmonica players love Sonny Boy so much, part of his legacy could be a fund WE Harp Players create for this tiny community to help  the Tutwiler Health Clinic save lives and provide services. A Living Sonny Boy-Tutwiler-Harp Players-Charity.

My Visit with Sister Brooks

I arrived in Clarksdale a day early and drove out to Tutwiler and introduced myself to 
Sister Anne Brooks, MD  the nun/doctor who runs the clinic. 
http://www.tutwilerclinic.org/

I told her my idea, and she told me she had tended to Sonny Boy's sisters before they died
in a housefire. She knew exactly where the grave was, and about Sonny Boy's legacy.

Sister Brook's suggestion was that we create a fund that would bring music instruction
to the Tutwiler Community Education Center, which she said was part of the health clinic.
This surprised me, but I guess Sister Brooks is into keeping people healthy
as much as she about helping them when they get sick.

The Community Education Center is in the center of town , which is
about one block from the edge of town.  It is actually a newer building, a wonderful facility someone bought for Tutwiler. I was warmly greeted, and shown around.
There was one room with computers and teenagers studiously working.

In another room, a large auditorium,  there were 50 or 60 senior citizens eating lunch at a tables.
My host introduced me in the most lavishing terms and I told them how great Sonny Boy Williamson was, and played a few verses of "Keep It To Yourself!"

A couple of women got up and danced. 

Before I finally left the facility to ponder what I could do to make my dream of helping this town a reality, I was led into a small gift shop that sold quilts that were made by the women of Tutwiler.
The most beautiful handmade, brightly colored quilts you have ever seen. And the prices, a fraction of what they would cost in LA, or in any catalog. So happens we needed a quilt so I bought a King Size.  http://www.tutwilerquilters.org

These quilts are made by the ladies of Tutwiler, and what a joy to sleep under!

So that's the story of the fund, and it is a chance for the love of music to make a tangible difference in the health and education of Sonny Boy's descendants. 

And it is also a wider opportunity to have fun, throwing benefits with great musicians who I 
hope will want to join in.
 
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