My friend Roger Stolle from the wonderful Cathead Music store in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi – the heart of the Mississippi Delta – is selling his house for the re-priced bargain-basement price of $79,000.

111 Catalpa St, Clarksdale, Mississippi
111 Catalpa St, Clarksdale, Mississippi

With the $AUS getting close to parity against the $US this must be one of the bargains of the year – if not the decade.

Clarksdale is one of those small towns that was always going to be on its uppers when the Mississippi River decided to wander on it relentless course away from the town and it then lost a whole lot more when the railway closed down a few years ago.

When I was there earlier this year the town felt just a little bit like one of those “cultural museums” in that much of what was going on now was related to people and events from the past.

But there was also a very real sense of cultural, economic and community re-creation – the downtown area had some new storefronts, new business and ventures are finding their way into town and there is a very busy roster of blues music and literary events and festivals in and around this part of the Delta.

Plus you can all kinds of fun just cruising around the bayous and backroads and dropping into great jook joints like Po’ Monkey’s down the road at Merigold for a cooling ale and some of the raunchiest R & B you won’t hear on any radio – anywhere.

Roger Stolle and Cathead Music – among others – have led the rejuvenation of Clarksdale.

Today, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, Inc. is a 6-day-a-week store that features a full selection of blues CDs, DVDs, books, magazines T-shirts, artwork and collectibles. It’s kind of like shopping in a juke joint, I like to say. It’s the kind of store I always dreamed of finding but never did. It has become a base of operations for other blues projects and a clearing house of information about area musicians, juke joints and festivals

The cool thing is that Clarksdale, Mississippi, has a lot to offer. Great blues music four or five nights a week, every week — plus killer festivals a few times a year. Wonderful musicians, artists and characters live and work here. Since I moved here, I’m sure at least a dozen others have as well — from the Netherlands and all over the United States. Clarksdale is lucky also because in addition to its rich cultural history, it’s an hour or less from Memphis, Cleveland, Helena and Tunica. Because we’re part of the “roots music corridor” that runs from Memphis to Chicago, we get tourists from all over the U.S., Europe and Asia every single week. They come in search of the “land where blues began” and when they finally reach the blues mecca of Clarksdale for the first time, and they drop by Cat Head, I know they’re hooked!

And if you like the idea of cruising on the Sunflower or Mississippi Rivers on a canoe then John Ruskey and the folks at the Quapaw Canoe Company will look after you in the finest way.

One of Quapaw’s specialities is making hand-carved replicas (and modern versions) of the wooden canoes that local first nations peoples used on the rivers for hunting and travel – they are truly magnificent creations.

Launching the Wanbli Eagle canoe
Launching the Wanbli Eagle

Quapaw’s website says that:

More blues musicians come from Clarksdale & surrounding Delta region than any other single place on earth. The main channel of the Mississippi River used to flow adjacent downtown Clarksdale, and it was once the center of a thriving Native American community of 2 – 3,000 known as Quiz-Quiz. There is evidence that Hernando de Soto and his conquistadors passed through this area during their 1540-42 ravage of the Southeast (and became the first Europeans to view the Mighty Mississippi River, which they called “The Rio Grande”). Jolliette & Marquette (1673), LaSalle (1681) and John James Audubon (1820) traveled this section of river.

Quapaw Canoe Company provides custom-guided canoe & kayak expeditions, day floats and other paddling adventures along the Lower Mississippi River from Cairo Illinois to St. Francisville, Louisiana. Spectacular reaches include the Kentucky Bluffs, Bessie’s Bend (20 mile bend of the river to go one mile), the 4 Chickasaw Bluffs, Memphis to Vicksburg (300 miles of remote river, only 2 bridges, only one town), Confluence of the Arkansas River & surrounding wilderness areas (rich habitat for the Louisiana Black Bear), Vicksburg to Natchez-Under-the-Hill, Natchez to St. Francisville. Long stretches of river, almost no industry or point-source polluters, few towns, few bridges, big islands, big forests, most varied inland fishery in North America, 60% of America’s songbirds, 40% of its migrating waterfowl. Longest free-flowing River (1160 miles). No dams. No schedule: we go whenever our clients are ready.

Sitting in one of Quapaw’s big canoes, doing not very much but watching that big river slide by under you with a soundtrack of the world’s finest blues and the American outback’s songbirds surrounded by the vast wildness of the Mississippi River – couldn’t hope for much better that.

And the house?  By Australian standards it is pretty well fitted out – and at this price…you’d be laughing!

And I just love this pitch from Roger for his house for its frankness and humour:

The front porch really is pretty big and cool. When you walk into the house, you find spacious, connected living and dining room areas that are loosely separated by built-in bookcases (that also work for blues CDs). There’s a long hallway with plenty of wall space to hang cool stuff, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a back office/sunroom, main floor washer/dryer, kitchen and butler’s pantry. There are decent closets throughout. The kitchen has a walk-in pantry and includes the built-in stove, dishwasher (sold to me by one of bluesman Big George Brock’s 42 kids) and garbage disposal; the two small fridges and the deep freeze are negotiable. (By the way, a full-size fridge fits/works fine; I just didn’t own one when I originally moved in.) The attic is unfinished but very very large and could be finished out, frankly, as an office or guest room. The basement is mostly crawl space; like most in the Delta, it’s fairly useless… except for housing the hot water heater, pipes, ductwork, etc. The house has modern, forced-air central heating and air conditioning, by the way; I like to stay comfortable. The yard is pretty nice sized and includes holly bushes, magnolia tree, etc. There’s a tool shed in the backyard that’s nothing special but holds plenty of junk. The backyard is mostly fenced in. The house is wired for cable/internet and has two ornamental fireplaces with mantles. A long driveway runs along side the house, conveniently linking Catalpa Street with Maple Street (nice for parties/visitors — though at least one visiting bluesman with the alias ‘T-Model’ has parked in the front yard, anyway, to my dismay!). In short, 111 Catalpa is a cool house located just across the Sunflower River from a neat little Delta downtown, and priced well below $100,000 — now at just $79,900 — it could easily be your next home or home-away-from-home! By the way, I’m only moving into a different house because my sweetie and I want to buy one together that is truly ‘ours’ if you know what I mean.

You can see the flyer for Roger Stolle’s house here.

Got a tip on a bargain-basement house of the week – anywhere?

Got some thoughts about what you’ve read here?