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Home » Daily News Updates » Clarksdale thinking… from Japan, France, Iran, Austin, LA and more! Clarksdale thinking… from Japan, France, Iran, Austin, LA and more!

The tree my grandmother planted in the backyard of what was 121 Leflore Ave.

The tree my grandmother planted in the backyard of what was 121 Leflore Ave.

by Richard Bolen

My first recollected though was on 121 Leflore Avenue, which is now the parking lot of the First Methodist Church, but our house there was my first thought of home.  Four generations of my family lived there, my mom, my mom’s mom, and her father’s mom, which were my great grandparents who were born shortly after the end of the civil war.

This first remembered thought was when I was three, on my swing-set next to my sandbox near the Magnolia tree in our hedge surrounded back yard.  That recollection was playfully singing “Jesus Loves Me” and blessing our pet dog (yes, I was one of those: the higher I could swing the better).  This was my safe place, near a small outdoor statue I called “Jack Frost, ”  who would get me if it was too “coldlee” outside.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, my beloved grandmother planted that magnolia tree, and it still stands at the back of that church lot today.

We were in Japan right after the end of the Korean War.

We were in Japan right after the end of the Korean War.

By the time that I was four, my father was away.  A career military combat officer since World War II, he was then fighting in the Korean War, and shortly after it’s end, we moved to Japan. This was the beginning of a routine that lasted until college; we moved somewhere new about every three years.  It is the life experience and career reality of an army brat in a military family.

Elvis Presley.

Elvis on Ed Sullivan in 1956 changed everything.

After Japan, it was Shreveport, a national guard advisory assignment. One thing I liked most about moving to Northern Louisiana was it was in driving distance to Clarksdale. In addition to being close to home happy, two other passions emerged, my lifelong love with baseball, which was challenged in intensity when I first saw Elvis on Ed Sullivan in 1956 (baseball was so much fun, but Elvis had an edge!), and yes, this is where my life with music firmly took hold.

Clarksdale’s Charlie Conerly and his wife Perian visited us in Paris in 1960. It was memorable!

The closeness of Shreveport — it was only a 6 hr. drive back then– was disrupted by the next place to go, Paris, France.  I stated 5th grade here in Clarksdale though; it was during that 2-3 month period between assignments where military families have to wait while their household goods are transported to their next destination, and for the next 3 plus years we lived outside of Paris. It was in retrospect that I cherished living in Europe at that age, but I didn’t like it then because it was so far away we couldn’t come home; only family letters and packages with copies of the Clarksdale Press Register kept us in touch with here.

Next it was Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia, and I got to begin the 8th grade here again, while our belongings were being shipped back from France. We were in driving distance again, and we came back home with every vacation. Another thing I liked about being stateside was I could see television again in English, and listen to rock and roll on the radio.

Iran was something different, and in retrospect a valuable lot was experienced there.

Iran was something different, and in retrospect a valuable lot was experienced there.

Next, though, was a long one: Tehran, Iran, where dad was a military advisor to the Shah’s army.  Goodness, some 13 and a half hours away (I never could figure that half-hour out); we were on the other side of the world.  But like Paris, I experienced much, and had my eyes and senses opened way more than I realized at the time.  There again though, I longed for those monthly family packages, and I remember looking at the Press Register in Iran, and longing for clothes I saw in Shankerman ads; yes, I was stuck in Iran with the Clarksdale blues again.

Opening show poster of band we put together in Austin.

Opening show poster of band we put together in Austin (hear “Hot Night in June below).

Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio came next, and we were an 11 hour drive away from Clarksdale then, which was way better than Persia, but that limited visits home to about once a year.  San Antonio was close to Austin however, and my early music and business direction took seed there.  I produced and managed music acts for a time, and that eventually led me to New York, where I was one of three producers of a feature film shot in Jamaica amid it’s notable reggae music culture (“Rockers” was released in New York, and has since become a cult classic).

Rockers, the feature film shot in Jamaica, released in 1980.

Rockers, the feature film shot in Jamaica, released in 1980 (read Rockers review and see a clip from the film below)

I also became a player of a sort in the early Austin music boom, and from that evolved a career change to Los Angeles… to get a record deal for a rock and roll band, and as an aspiring screenplay writer!  It was there that I was lucky enough to co-found a start-up high tech company (it wasn’t the movies), and as it’s SR VP Marketing, I much helped lead our company to a successful public offering (on NASDAQ we were).

It was during the whirlwind development of my business life in Los Angeles that my father retired, and back home at last, they settled into my grandmother’s house on West 2nd St, and for the last 4 decades I’ve been in town frequently ever since.

An old magazine ad from the high tech start up we created in L.A. and took public in 1990.

An old magazine ad from the high tech start up we created in L.A. and took public in 1990.

That business life in LA was fruitful, and there I developed SR level corporate marketing skills, wrote movies and live production shows, wrote a bunch of those schmaltzy cruise ship shows, was part of Las Vegas shows, wrote some but not much television, owned a marketing & digital graphic design & advertising copywriting concern, learned real business development skills, learned every important digital design computer program, produced websites and software, and founded a high tech internet start up, that I am trying to sell nationally right now.

Our deck in Lake Tahoe (the usual spring snow).

Our deck in Lake Tahoe (the usual spring snow).

It all changed last Thanksgiving in Lake Tahoe, though, when I got the phone call I always knew might happen someday, and the instant it came I knew in a split second it was finally that time; my brother and I had to move back home: our elderly parents needed us.  I admit it took a few days for my headbone to adjust to a cross country move, but along with that settling came a keen desire to see if I could be helpful to my home town.  It put a smile on my face as I wondered if my professional experiences might assist in our revitalization efforts.

So I contacted a few people: Mayor Luckett, Bubba O’Keffe, Larry Liddell, Nan Hughes and Jon Livingston.  “I’m coming home for good, I want to help, and I’m asking for your guidance and direction to help me do that,” is what I said to them.

Now that I’ve been home for a while, I’m adjusting (some days better than others), trying to learn how to better fit, still grappling with the pace of my hometown (it’s not the city), and thinking about being  helpful as much as possible.  Yes, I’m thinking about Clarksdale like I always have, and this has recently occurred to me: while the customary routines of a military family life and later business opportunity led me gone, I never ever really left.


From the band we produced in Austin in 1976.  The song “Hot Night in June” was written by Gary Bolen here in Clarksdale.

Au unofficial video about Rockers, the feature film we did out of Jamaica.

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