The Rock & Blues Museum places emphasis on the music’s Mississippi roots, specifically Clarksdale, highlighting the contributions from Eddy Boyd, Little Junior Parker, Sam Cooke, Ike Turner, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, as well as early rockers like Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Andy Anderson and Conway Twitty.
The oldest Item in the Rock & Blues Museum collection is an Edison phonograph from 1905 with 5 cylinder wax rolls from record labels Blue Amber (1910), Edison Gold Moulded Records (1905), and Columbia Records (1905) and sheet music from W.C. Handy: Memphis Blues, Beale Street Blues, Yellow Dog Blues, St. Louis Blues (period 1912 -1915). Also displayed is the first Blues record "Crazy Blues" written by Perry Bradford and recorded in 1920 by Mamie Smith, along with Bessie Smith’s "Empty Bed Blues” (1928) acetate & 78 rpm “Downhearted Blues” (1923), Blind Lemon Jefferson’s poster plus the 78 rpm “Matchbox Blues” (1927).
A blue Crossroads guitar autographed by many local blues musicians including the late Honey Boy Edwards, who played at the Juke Joint Festival and the Sunflower Festival, is on display. Also on display are two rare Robert Johnson 78 rpm reference recordings (date unknown), a Charley Patton poster and 78 rpm acetate, Muddy Water’s Aristocrat 78 rpm, Howlin’ Wolf’s first record “Moaning at Midnight” (1951) on Chess Records, and an autographed BB King photo, autographed guitar, his albums, and original concert ticket stubs.
The Museums collection progresses into the first Rock & Roll record from 1951, “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner’s band on Chess Records, and Bill Haley (1951) on Holiday Records, “That's All Right" by Arthur Big Boy Crudup (1946) covered by Elvis in 1954, Rock & Roll movie posters & lobby cards from Black Board Jungle (1955), Shake Rattle and Roll (1956), Rock Around The Clock (1956), The Girl Can't Help It (1956), Untamed Youth (1957), Rock, Rock, Rock (1956), and High School Confidential (1957).
Photos of the original Mississippi rockabilly band the Rolling Stones (1957) featuring Mississippi’s Andy Anderson, and Chuck Berry’s autographed guitar with photos and ticket stubs. Continuing on with Buddy Holly’s yearbook, checks to Buddy Holly (1957), & The Picks from Norman Petty (Buddy Holly's manager), Buddy Holly ’s death certificate (1959). Also, Clarksdale’s own, Sam Cooke: acetate record, photo, album covers (1957-1964). Then comes the Beach Boys original Surf Board stage props from the ‘60s and an original tour jacket from Ray Charles.
As the visitors wind their way through from Blues to Rock ‘n Roll, the British invasion is featured with the Beatles Star Club, Hamburg, Germany poster (1962), the Beatles Dress from the Netherlands (1964), Beatles lunch box, Beatles Gum Ball machine, Shea stadium (1964) poster autographed by promoter Sid Bernstein, an original Beatles Butcher Cover and then the Rolling Stones first 45 rpm “I Want to be Loved” (1963) plus Swedish sheet music and early sixties Dutch concert program & photos.
There are original British contracts of the Yardbirds, Moody Blues and John Mayall from the 1960s; a Jimi Hendrix European Electric Ladyland LP cover, concert ticket, and original Life magazine article; the Doors guitar autographed by Rob Krieger; and Eric Clapton Crossroads Cream display with his autograph. Rounding out this era are the Who’s autographed photos including their contract receipt to play at Woodstock; a Canned Heat contract, Velvet Underground’s banana LP cover by Andy Warhol, Vietnam era protest buttons, Woodstock ticket (1969), aerial photo, and the Woodstock article in Life Magazine, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant & Jimi Page autographed guitar, and autographed photos from the ‘70s.
Finally, on display at the end of the Museum, is the complete Dutch set of John Lennon’s “Bag One” lithographs (1970) which are rare, plus original Dutch press photos of John and Yoko at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and a “John Lennon Got Shot” UK newspaper from 1980.
In the back of the Museum you can view the new film “Cheesehead Blues” which is a movie about Clarksdale, highlighting the museum, its founders, the Second Street Festival, interviews with locals and musicians performing in Clarksdale.