“Our talent [in Mississippi] is our greatest export …. our competition is Chicago in 1949, when so much musical talent left our state to go north [as part of the Great Migration] …. It’s time for them to come home. The musicians we speak to want to train and work with the next generation.”
David Watkins, Jr., VP of Communications and Entertainment, Watkins Development
There’s a rebirth going on right now on Farish Street, the historically black neighborhood in downtown Jackson, Mississippi.
Mere blocks from the elegant King Edward Hotel (also rescued from oblivion) dilapidated buildings and a thriving musical culture – the “Farish Street Sound” – are both being refurbished.
The hope is that this will be Jackson’s equivalent to Beale Street in Memphis, but with a more authentic flavor of the city, more local musicians and a bit less neon tackiness.
Historic preservationists, developers like David Watkins and those who love music are planning to create a new entertainment district here; it has hit a number of bumps along the way and progress has been slow, but I saw enough during a visit this past fall to be convinced that the people involved WILL make it happen.
To look at the hot mess in the photo at the top of this post, and then walk just a few doors down to climb around in what will be a BB King Blues Club (in the former Star Laundry) is to see what hundreds of hours of dedicated work can create….a shell of a building, yes, but almost ready for move-in, then interior work, then a long-awaited Opening Day.
For a project of this scope, you need the buildings and streets re-done, and then you need tenants who can actually move into the area. The poor economy and credit crunch have had a significant negative impact on both, but the work is moving forward.
I cannot wait to return to Jackson and see it all come together.
The first thing I’ll do is walk up Farish Street to Peaches Cafe, put money in their jukebox and play….naturally….Etta James’ “At Last.”
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