Sunday afternoon at the Studio on the Square, the On Location Memphis Film and Music Festival screened a documentary called We Juke Up In Here, a sequel to an earlier documentary called M For Mississippi. The film was made by Roger Stolle, a blues historian and the owner of Clarksdale’s Cat Head Delta Blues store, and Jeff Konkel, the owner of the amazing Broke and Hungry Records label in St. Louis. Given the subject matter of the film, Mississippi delta blues and juke joints, I expected to like We Juke Up In Here already, but I hadn’t expected the production to be so beautiful, and there’s really no other way to describe it. The scenes of Mississippi wilderness during travel sequences are vivid, the interviews are frank and informative, and the music, both that played in the jukes and that of the soundtrack is truly incredible.
Unfortunately, the ultimate theme of the film is the ways in which the Mississippi juke joints are dying out and fading, and so the movie focuses ultimately on one, the legendary Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale owned by Red Paden, a juke that simply has refused to die. So ultimately, We Juke is a bittersweet film, beautiful in its celebration of Mississippi’s African-American folklore, but with the ominous clouds of loss looming on the horizon.
After the screening, Roger graciously took our questions and discussed some of the making of the film.
The older man playing out in front of Stone Pony Pizza was really good, but I didn’t realize that he ought to be good, for he was none other than Pat Thomas, son of the legendary James “Son” Thomas from Leland, Mississippi down near Greenville. Thomas the younger records for the truly-awesome Broke and Hungry Records run by Jeff Konkel in St. Louis.