Bentonia in Yazoo County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
The Blue Front Café
The Blue Front Café opened in 1948 under the ownership of Carey and Mary Holmes, an African American couple from Bentonia. In its heyday the Blue Front was famed for its buffalo fish, blues, and moonshine whiskey. One of the couple’s sons, Jimmy Holmes, took over the café in 1970 and continued to operate it as an informal, down-home blues venue that gained international fame among blues enthusiasts.
The Blue Front Café During the 1980s and ’90s the Blue Front Café began to attract tourists in search of authentic blues in a rustic setting. In its early years, the café was a local gathering spot for crowds of workers from the Yazoo County cotton fields. Carey and Mary Holmes raised their ten children and three nephews and sent most of them to college on the income generated by the café and their cotton crops. The café offered hot meals, groceries, drinks, recreation, entertainment, and even haircuts.
The Holmes family operated under a tangled set of local rules during the segregation era. The Blue Front was subject to a 10 p.m. town curfew, but at the height of cotton gathering
Music at the Blue Front was often impromptu and unannounced. The café seldom advertised or formally booked acts. Many itinerant harmonica players and guitarists drifted through to play a few tunes, but at times the musical cast included such notables as Skip James, Jack Owens, Henry Stuckey, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2 (Rice Miller), and James “Son” Thomas.
Local musicians who have played at the Blue Front also include harmonica players Bud Spires, Son Johnson, Bobby Batton, Alonzo (Lonzy) Wilkerson, and Cleo Pullman; guitarists Cornelius Bright, Jacob Stuckey, Dodd Stuckey, Tommy Lee West, owner Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, his brother John, their uncle Percy Smith, and cousin Otha Holmes; and, on special occasions, bands from Jackson led by Eddie Rasberry or Roosevelt Roberts. Musicians also performed at Carey Holmes’s outdoor gatherings on the family farm, which later
Jimmy Holmes’s first two CDs, released in 2006 and 2007, were recorded at the Blue Front, perpetuating the music he learned in Bentonia from Jack Owens and others.
Erected 2007 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 16.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1948.
Location. 32° 38.442′ N, 90° 21.892′ W. Marker is in Bentonia, Mississippi, in Yazoo County. Marker is at the intersection of East Railroad Avenue and Cannon Avenue (Mississippi Highway 433), on the left when traveling south on East Railroad Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 107 East Railroad Avenue, Bentonia MS 39040, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Nehemiah “Skip” James (approx. 0.4 miles away); Jack Owens (approx. 1½ miles away); Tinsley Oil Field (approx. 4.6 miles away); Skirmish at Concord Baptist Church Mechanicsburg (approx. 8.7 miles away); Stone Fence Posts Mid-Western Kansas 1880’s (approx. 9.1 miles away); Environmental Archaeology (approx. 12.6 miles away); Pocahontas Mounds (approx. 12.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bentonia.
Also see . . .
1. Mississippi Blues Trail. (Submitted on September 20, 2014.)
2. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Traditional Blues Album. Every day, 73-year-old Jimmy "Duck" Holmes welcomes customers to his Blue Front Cafe and juke joint in Bentonia. Holmes doesn't read music, doesn't write music, doesn't write lyrics. Yet he was nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award. (Submitted on March 14, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Credits. This page was last revised on March 14, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 531 times since then and 103 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. 5. submitted on March 14, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.