If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
The New Roxy is a renovated theater located on Clarksdale’s historic Issaquena Avenue. It is in what was called “The New World” which is now part of the downtown Arts & Culture District.
Now a live music venue, bar, gathering place and events center, The New Roxy features two performance settings. One stage is in a large, inviting open air theater that was once the main room of the old movie house; it holds up to 400. The other is an intimate lounge that includes the bar in what was the theater’s entrance lobby; it holds about 100, including the balcony (book New Roxy for your own event here).
Live music at The New Roxy is simply superb. It’s authentic, the real deal, and the crowd here is diverse, always fun, and are exceptional, enthusiastic fans of the blues, roots music, and all things good about Clarksdale ( about us too!).
The New Roxy
363 Issaquena Avenue
An Issaquena Avenue Brief: ( and New Roxy background)
Clarksdale is the birthplace of the blues… and rock n’ roll, and for establishing Clarksdale’s blues legacy, Issaquena Avenue is its epicenter. Its heyday was in the ’30’s and ’40’s, and much of that fell into the ’50’s, with a trickle into the early ’60’s as well.
Issaquena thrived to serve the African American sharecropper labor force that worked the cotton plantations and fields around Clarksdale and the Mississippi Delta beyond. As the affordable automobile took hold, became more widespread and transportation got easier, Issaquena Avenue evolved into the main place for the workers to get away from the fields when they could, to escape for a moment, relax and find entertainment.
Back then Issaquena was wall to wall with clubs, jukes, retail stores, restaurants and rooming houses. The weekend crowds where shoulder to shoulder, always dressed in their Sunday finest, and having a wang dang good time as much as possible. This really is where the blues came off the fields, got into clubs, and the birthplace of the blues was born.
More about the Issaquena Audience
Just imagine what was heard on Issaquena. Thought it has not been documented as to exact club and time, Howlin’ Wolf played here in the ’30’s. His mother lived in Clarksdale (though she didn’t like the devil’s music), and he was frequently in and out of town back then. Robert Johnson, also undocumented to place and exact time, lived in Clarksdale during 1931 and some of 1932. He had to have played on Issaquena too. And so did bluesmen like Robert Nighthawk, Houston Stackhouse, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner, Wade Walton, the Jelly Roll Kings and many, many more.
From having a place to play, and an appreciative audience to entertain and inspire, the musicians who played here regularly had to get better. Competition ruled the day, where the best music and performances gathered the biggest crowd. The club owner success was now a part of the mix, and the bluesmen got better, as did their music, delivery, song choices and performances. The audience grew with them, and got much better too. In fact the Issaquena patrons developed such a sense of taste and expectation, it became known that if a bluesman could make it on Issaquena, they could make it anywhere.
Along with other factors which affected population migration (such as the mechanized cotton picker introduced in Clarksdale at Hopson Plantation in 1947), that a bluesman might be able to make it in Chicago because they made it here certainly had to be in Muddy Waters’ and John Lee Hooker’s minds, for example, when they both left Clarksdale in 1943 for the big city. In its way, this is how the blues that went to the city… had a baby that became called rock n’ roll.
(Note: Muddy would have had to play Issaquena in the early ’40’s, but that is not documented either. John Lee Hooker went to Memphis in the late ’20’s when he was 14 yrs old, and it’s less likely that he played Issaqueena before he finally left for good.)