Po' Monkey's

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Po' Monkey's.jpg

Po' Monkey's lounge is located in unincorporated Bolivar County, Mississippi, United States, outside of Merigold, Mississippi. Located in the Mississippi Delta, it is a juke joint located in cotton fields in a one-room house.[1] The juke joint was founded in 1961 and is one of the last rural juke joints in the Mississippi Delta.[2]

Structural Decor[edit]

By the 1990s, Po' Monkey's was attracting a conglomeration of college students, migrating from Delta State University, located in Cleveland, MS, to juke joint pundits.[3] The absurd and sightly decor of the joint called the attention of The New York Times, Annie Leibovitz, and Birney Imes.[3] The low ceilings of the joint are lined with Christmas lights, naked babydolls, street signs, wrapping paper, disco balls, and dozens of stuffed-animal monkeys.[4][5] The outside of the joint is adorned with a famously reputable sign of etiquette reading: "No Loud Music, No Dope Smoking, No Rap Music." [6] The building's assemblage consists of tin and plywood, held together by nails, staples, and wires, loosely fashioned and obviously made at the hands of Po'Monkey himself.[6]

Historical Influence[edit]

For the past 50 years, Po' Monkey's has been in operation as an incubator for the Delta Blues scene. Although this is not the first Juke Joint to arise within the Mississippi Delta cotton fields, it is one of the relatively few to survive the harrowing 21st century.[7] This shack, originally sharecroppers' quarters, now housed in a raunchier crowd filled with dirty dancing, strippers, and $2 cans of beer.[8] These historic music houses have always been places where "farm workers could relax, drink beer, and listen to music." Po' Monkey's was owned and operated by owner William Seaberry until his recent death in 2016. The joint is only open one night a week, Thursday, unless booked for special events.[9][10]

The term "Juke", dialectally pronounced "jook", is believed to have originated Gullah dialect of African influence from the Southeast coast, where it means "boisterous", "rowdy", "corrupt" or "immoral".[11] According to Zora Neale Hurston, a prominent folklorist, novelist, anthropologist, and short story writer of the 19th and 20th centuries, "Jook is a word for a Negro pleasure house". It is regularly referred to as a "bawdy house" where African-American workers could "dance, drink, and gamble." [11]

July 2004 marked a moment of cultural preservation for Po' Monkey's. The state senate passed a bill which established the Mississippi State Blues Commission. The goal of this enactment was to create "a plan to promote authentic Mississippi 'blues' music and 'blues culture' for purposes of economic development." [12] Unfortunately, the commission's campaign failed to recognize the roots of Delta blues in slavery and its brutal legacy, and instead emphasized the "story of the people, places, themes and styles of blues music in Mississippi".[12] The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a historic marker at the Po Monkey's Lounge in 2009 designating it as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail for its contribution to the development of the blues (and one of the few authentic juke joints that is still operating today).[3]

Ownership[edit]

The juke joint is originally named after a nickname given to Willie Seaberry, "Po'Monkey". Seaberry explained the name: "Po' Monkey is all anybody ever called me since I was little," he said. "I don't know why, except I was poor for sure." [11] Seaberry was best known for his strangely coordinated outfits of wildly exotic pantsuits. He could be seen sneaking out of bar room, into a bedroom offset of the drinking quarters, only to reappear in a new pantsuit.[11][13] Seaberry's legacy is building a community that encouraged people of all races to intermingle. Billy Nowell, current Mayor of nearby Cleveland, MS, called Seaberry a "positive influence" on Bolivar County.[6] Mr. Willie Seaberry, "Po' Monkey", was found deceased on July 14, 2016. It is unknown what will happen to Po' Monkey's lounge after the procession of his death.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Holt, Jerry (November 30, 2007). "Juke Joint: Po' Monkey's Lounge, Merigold, Miss". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Archived from the original on October 22, 2007. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  2. ^ Luther Brown, "Inside Poor Monkey's", Southern Spaces, 22 June 2006.
  3. ^ a b c "Po' Monkey's". Msbluestrail.org. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  4. ^ airick17 (2013-01-15), A tour of Po' Monkey's Lounge and interview with Mr. Po' Monkey himself, retrieved 2017-05-09
  5. ^ Nash, JD (2016-07-14). "BREAKING: The Death of Willie "Po' Monkey" Seaberry May End an Era - American Blues Scene". American Blues Scene. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  6. ^ a b c "RIP Po' Monkey – Garden & Gun". Garden & Gun. 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  7. ^ Mississippi Blues Commission. "Po' Monkey's - Merigold".
  8. ^ ECKHOLM, ERIK (2007). "At Night, Farmer Trades His Tractor for the Blues". New York Times.
  9. ^ "Three Icons of the Delta". Blueshighway.org. 1927-04-21. Archived from the original on 2015-02-05. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  10. ^ Eubanks, Katie (July 15, 2016). "Iconic Delta juke joint owner 'Po' Monkey' has died". Clarion-Ledger.
  11. ^ a b c d ECKHOLM, ERIK (2007). "At Night, Farmer Trades His Tractor for the Blues". NYT.
  12. ^ a b "The Last Juke Joint – The Awl". The Awl. 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  13. ^ Threadgill, Jacob (July 21, 2016). "Fate of Po' Monkey's in flux; Seaberry funeral Saturday". Clarioni-Ledger.
  14. ^ Press, Associated. "Willie Seaberry, Owner of Mississippi's Po' Monkey's Juke Joint, Dies at 75 - Afro".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°49′54″N 90°45′30″W / 33.83172°N 90.7584°W / 33.83172; -90.7584