Creative Writing

Published on November 2nd, 2015 | by Rafael Alvarez


When I First Stepped Foot In Mississippi: Greenville Bound, 1984

Vol7AlvarezBack in 1984—when Stevie Ray Vaughn supplied the biggest bang to the blues since hippies mixed acid with the mud—I was asked by my editor how I’d like to be rewarded for a year of good work.

Chase politics?

Write portraits of white collar criminals with their blue-veined hands in the cookie jar?

The transportation beat?

No, no, and good God no.ButchRuthGreenvillePhoto

I wanted to write about a land I had long dreamed of in guitar-haunted reveries, the reverse of the Great Migration so beautifully chronicled in The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

I wanted to go to Mississippi and see for myself where the music came from. True to his word, Gilbert L. Watson III (one of the last of America’s great newspapermen, dead at age 70 in 2015) sent me.

There, I ate barbecued turkey necks down a long dirt road, sipped bourbon from a plastic cup in a tin shack, and filed dispatches from the annual Delta Blues Festival in the Freedom Village section of Greenville, passing up Stevie Ray’s fireworks to watch an aging farmer named Cleveland Jones play the broom. The Local Voice Ligature

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About the Author

Rafael Alvarez is a reporter, short story writer & screenwriter based in Baltimore. He has been visiting & writing about Mississippi since 1984. A former staff writer for HBO's "The Wire," his new book is a collection of short fiction called "Tales From the Holy Land."

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