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Tunica in Tunica County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Harold “Hardface” Clanton

 
 
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
1. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
Inscription. Long before casinos brought legalized gambling and big-name entertainment to Tunica, African American entrepreneur Harold "Hardface" Clanton (1916~1982) ran a flourishing operation here that offered games of chance, bootleg liquor, and the best in blues music. Nicknamed for the stone face he wore during poker games, Clanton owned several businesses, including a cafe near this site and "The Barn" on Old Mhoon Landing Road, where most of the action took place.

(Back):
Harold “Hardface” Clanton was a legend not only in Tunica but across the country, in both blues and gambling circles. Though never elected to office, he was called “the black sheriff” of the county and was reputed to be Tunica's “first black millionaire” as well. Recalled with fondness and admiration by blacks and whites alike, Clanton operated in an era when Tunica County steered its own course when it came to gambling and alcohol statutes. Gambling helped fuel the economy, drawing money from the many out-of-town participants and providing employment for locals. Hardface's activities helped pave the way for Tunica County to legalize casino gambling in 1991. It was the first county on the Mississippi River to do so. Clanton was born into a large farming family on May 29, 1916. He had only a grammar school education,
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
2. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
according to his U.S. Army enlistment papers from 1943. However, his term in the military turned out to be both educational and profitable–he came home loaded with cash he had won from servicemen and with enough gaming experience to start a business of his own. He opened Harold's Cafe at 856 Magnolia Street in Tunica and later built “The Barn” four miles west of this site. He also raised cotton and at times ran cafes in West Memphis and on Prichard Road in Tunica. B. B. King, Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Albert King, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, Robert Nighthawk, Frank Frost, Houston Stackhouse, and many other renowned blues artists provided music for Hardface and his clientele. Many of the local bands Hardface hired were led by drummers: Sam Carr of Lula, James “Peck” Curtis of Helena, and the peg-legged Roosevelt “Barber” Parker of Tunica. Parker and his Silver Kings Band once had a radio show in Memphis on WDIA. Hardface's reputation reached from Las Vegas to Cicero, Illinois, the Chicago suburb famed for its Mafia connections. According to a local anecdote, one Monday morning he was asked about the stacks of cash he had accrued. He replied, “Oh, some boys down from Cicero thought they knew how to throw the dice.” Dice games brought in the money for him in Tunica, but Clanton loved to play a three-card poker game
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
3. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
called kotch or cotch. He traveled often to gamble himself, superstitiously choosing a different car for each road trip to Texas, Louisiana, or Vicksburg. Some say the nickname Hardface came from his famous poker face, while another story has it that during his younger days, he sometimes lived the gambling life 24 hours a day, sleeping with his face against the hard surface of the craps tables. Clanton died on June 4, 1982. So many people turned out to pay their respects that his funeral had to be held at the Rosa Fort High School gymnasium.
 
Erected by Mississippi Blues Commission.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
 
Location. 34° 41.279′ N, 90° 22.96′ W. Marker is in Tunica, Mississippi, in Tunica County. Marker is on Magnolia Street. Click for map. Marker is located in the park across the street from Tunica Police Department. Marker is in this post office area: Tunica MS 38676, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 16 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Town of Tunica Veterans Memorial (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); James Cotton (approx. 6.3 miles away); Highway 61 Blues (approx. 12.3 miles
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
4. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
away); Phillips County Court House (approx. 16 miles away in Arkansas); World War I 1917-1918 (approx. 16 miles away in Arkansas); Phillips County, Arkansas (approx. 16 miles away in Arkansas); Helena, Arkansas (approx. 16 miles away in Arkansas); West Helena, Arkansas (approx. 16 miles away in Arkansas). Click for a list of all markers in Tunica.
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, Music
 
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
5. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker Photo courtesy Annette Dawson and Tunica Museum image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
6. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker Photo courtesy Annette Dawson and Tunica Museum
Harold Clanton during WWII Hardface's bobby was collecting antique cars, Around town people usually saw him in khaki work clothes, with his trademark railroad cap turned to the side, as in this photo when auto enthusiasts Tait Selden and Albert Marlowe stopped by to admire his collection. But when he hit the road for gambling expeditions, he dressed "like Al Capone," said some who knew him.
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
7. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
Tunica native Isaiah Ross (left, pictured here in his military garb in the 1950's) recorded under the name Doctor Ross for Sun Records. In Tunica Ross often worked with Barber Parker's band. Guitarist Wyie Gatlin (right) and Parker recorded on sessions with Ross in Memphis. Tunica's renowned blues legacy inspired a group of Swedish fans to travel here to meet Gatlin and Hardface in 1974, when this photo was taken.
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
8. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
Crapshooters at Hardface's and other gambling joints in the Tunica County area threw dice with handmade leather dice horns rather than with their bare hands.
Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
9. Harold "Hardface" Clanton Marker
During the 1950's and 60's, the cafes of Tunica often featured local performers such as drummer B.C. Carlisle (at left), singer Clifford Grandberry ( at the micro-phone) and drummer Dave "Raggmop" Taylor (far right in the band photo), shown here at a party in Tunica. Sam Carr, James "Super Chikan" Johnson, Eddie Lee Coleman, Arthur Lee Williams, and others have also performed in cafes such as the G&G (owned by Grandberry), Jack's Palace (owned by Jack Hudson), and Nickson Disco Club. After Hardface's death, former employee Hosia Nikson continued to operate Harold's Cafe as Nickson Disco Club.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Sandra Hughes of Killen, Usa. This page has been viewed 817 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on , by Sandra Hughes of Killen, Usa. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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