Junior's Juke Joint

Junior's, Holly Springs, MS

Junior's, Holly Springs, MS

The light inside maybe that's the surprise. The woods are so dark around the unassuming structure maybe the moon tells the best story of what goes on among the labyrinth of cars parked against Rt. 4, Holly Springs, Mississippi. The light is a surprise because you might expect more darkness, coming out of the darkest Mississippi night, looking for the blues. Looking for the blues on Sunday, the Lord's day in Holly Springs. A black marker crossed on your left hand in exchange for the entrance fee, four dollars, the music already loud and thick in the ears, blues music: blues music you might hear against a speaker in Chicago, IL. It is not an unfamiliar sound.

The man, Junior Kimbrough, who made this glorified shack a world-renowned blues landmark died of heart failure in January, 1998, at the age of 68. His favorite chair still fills a corner opposite the band and his spirit fills the place, especially when the house band fills the room with the boom and trance of "All Night Long," Kimbrough's signature tune. The song sinks in all over your skin and I think the memory of it probably rattles around in the hollows of your bones forever. Junior's son, Kenny Malone Kimbrough, his dad's drummer for many years, runs Junior's now. When we spoke to Mr. Kimbrough, almost a year after his father's death, the blue's legend's son seemed committed to nothing but making sure that his dad's place didn't change one bit. He expected business to slow some and for the clientele to shift back to regulars and locals, but the music would stay the same, and the place would become a memorial only to those refused to forget Junior himself.

The area around Junior's used to be a gathering place called the Muse place. It consisted of a Muse store, a house, and a baseball field located directly behind the store. The house is gone and the baseball field is buried beneath a thick tangle of briars and bush, but the store still stands and is home to blues music every Sunday night from 9pm on into the night. The building is small -- 30 feet by 60 feet -- and is separated into four distinct sections: A tool shed; an small assortment of well-used chairs and couches lining the main floor, some of which line the dimly-lit walls and corners of the place; the main dancing floor which shares its space with a pool table; and a bar/kitchen that serves (depending on the availability of certain items) baloney sandwiches, BBQ and hotdogs, Miller Lite, Bud Lite, Bush and Bud. The musicians, most often a lead guitarist/vocalist, a bassist and a drummer, play in a small cordoned-off space just off the dance floor. You can get a bottle of homemade corn liquor for three dollars if you make eye contact with the right person, but there are conspicuous signs that demand that no drugs are allowed on the premises. There is often no set performer. A friend and colleague of Junior Kimbrough's, RL Burnside, 72, still shows up with some frequency to play; and David Jr., one of Kimbrough's sons plays too, when he's not touring. Kenny Kimbrough, when asked where he finds his talent, has to admit that he couldn't really tell you, the rule, he says, is that "you better be good."

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