Po' Monkey's. It’s hard not to know those words if you’re from the Mississippi Delta. The juke joint outside of Merigold — arguably the most famous of its kind anywhere in the world — is a mandatory stop on the constant blues pilgrimage that flows through the region.
Come by any Thursday night, and you’ll likely meet people not only from all over the Delta, but from all over the world. I wanted to understand this place, so I began spending more time at the club, coming not just once, as most visitors did, but rather as a regular. If there was a story here, I would discover it.
After all, I live much closer than just about every reporter or photographer that has ever explored Po’ Monkey’s. I have the benefit of time. And comfort. And access.
In my research, I continuously came across a common theme: the place itself. It didn’t take me long to understand that Po’ Monkeys would be just another former sharecropper’s shack if it weren’t for one man: Willie Seaberry.
This is the man who first made the old shack his home. In 1963, he began to turn the space into a music club for his friends and their friends — and through his hospitality eventually transforming his home into a global beacon for blues fans.
Without Seaberry, who was nicknamed "Po’ Monkey" by his family years ago and died last summer, there would be no Mississippi Blues Trail marker outside the rambling shack on the edge of a cotton field, to the west of Merigold, on the left side of the fork in the road, down a gravel stretch between Highway 61 and Crosby Road.
There is a beauty to that fragile shack off of Pemble Road. The smiles inside. The community of joy that exists every Thursday night.
It’s ironic that a place that’s nearly falling down is a buoy that holds up so many. The less than perfect exterior that reveals a humbly perfect interior. This is the beauty of the Delta.
Photos by Will H. Jacks.