Treated like kings at Po' Monkey's Lounge
8/31/07 0 °F
There are certain moments in life when it hits you suddenly, like a ton of bricks -- what's happening to me now is unique, and will probably never happen again. That's the way we felt yesterday in rural Merigold, Mississippi, near Cleveland, thanks to Mr. Willie Seaberry, world-famous proprietor of Po' Monkey's Lounge. World famous? You bet - check out this article (CLICK HERE) in the New York Times about Seaberry and his little establishment.
We drove to Po' Monkey's later in the afternoon, just to see if we could find it while it was still daylight. It was deserted - at the end of a long, lonely stretch of gravel road, well off the main highway. A flimsy sharecropper's shack, literally on the edge of a vast cotton field. Out in the middle of nowhere! We got out of the car and took pictures, and that's when it happened! Later, Dennie confided to me that he had sold his soul at the Crossroads in Clarksdale, and now, magically, could play the harmonica like Big George Brock himself! Don't believe it? Check out the evidence...
After Dennie's amazing performance, who should arrive but Willie Seaberry himself, just home from his day job driving tractor. Talk about a friendly, warm welcome! Even though he technically wasn't open for business, he welcomed us in anyway, sold us a couple of inexpensive cans of beer (he pointed Dennie to the fridge and let him serve himself! Talk about trusting!). Willie acted like we were long-lost friends. He is clearly having fun with his newfound fame, and has the picture albums to prove it, which he proudly showed us, page by page. Of course, t-shirts were for sale, and we each bought one, wearing them to the club when we returned later that evening. The shirts were in a box on his bed (his living quarters are just off the dance floor), and he told us to sort through the pile and find our size.
Of course, toy monkeys hanging everywhere. The decor was "Early Visqueen" - very low-scale, nothing fancy anywhere. Had to duck your head at times to get from one little room to the next. An absolutely one-of-a-kind place.
We came back around 8:30, when the DJ started to play, and by the time we left, after midnight, the place was pretty much packed. We were among just a handful of white folks present - most were hardworking blacks, letting their hair down after a hard day's work, enjoying each others company. The music was great, and the dance floor was busy. Dennie and I played several games of pool on the shakey, worn-out table - the floor of the club was so flimsy that the balls on the table would shake in time with the music and dancer's feet. Didn't hurt Dennie's game any - he cleaned my clock three games, and even beat a local before finally giving it up.
Seaberry treated us like honored guests. He kept bringing folks up to us to introduce us, even a fellow shooting a documentary film out of Memphis. A gal who looked 40 was actually celebrating her 66th birthday, and platefuls of food were brought out for Dennie and I so we could help them celebrate. Willie gave us a couple of beers on the house. The reception was nothing short of amazing. It was one of the most interesting and unique experiences either Dennie or I have ever had. Willie Seaberry sells beer, but he gives away happiness, and we left happy.