We Juke Up In Here!, the new documentary film by blues fans and historians Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel, returns to Philadelphia this Saturday as part of the XPN Music Film Festival. Stolle (the owner of Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art) and Konkel (the owner of the Broke & Hungry label) also co-directed the 2008 film, M For Mississippi: A Road Trip Through The Birthplace Of The Blues. Much like that film, We Juke Up In Here! explores the rich history of the Delta blues. But this time the focus is specifically on the past, present and uncertain future of Mississippi’s juke joints. Though Stolle was extremely busy organizing the 10th Annual Juke Joint Festival – a four-day blues fest happening this weekend in Clarksdale – The Key was able to catch up with him and Konkel to talk about the new film.
The Key: How does We Juke Up In Here! compare with your last film, M For Mississippi?
Jeff Konkel: They’re both different sides of the same coin; they follow an interrelated, intertwined story. M For Mississippi was a road trip film shot in 2008. The idea was to take viewers through the Delta area and meet these various characters, mostly musicians, in the various places they haunt, including juke joints, front porches, their homes, house parties, and so on. And so we introduced viewers to about a dozen of the old guard—the traditional players in Mississippi playing the traditional style of blues. We Juke Up In Here! tells a similar story, but we focused on the juke joint owners, and those venues, which have been the traditional proving ground for these Delta musicians.
TK: What is a juke joint?
Roger Stolle: A juke joint is a real deal blues club. It’s an African-American owned, quasi-legal blues establishment that probably started out in the cotton plantations. As the music and the people moved into town—normally on the other side of the tracks—these clubs became the proving grounds for blues musicians. And it’s where it became something that would eventually be recorded and would move North, but this is the place where blues is the most natural.
It’s sort of like a “blues club,” but more like a house party, except the proprietor of a juke joint doesn’t really want you at his house. Continue reading →