Robert Johnson

Shackin’ Up

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Shack Up Inn cotton gin

Shackin’ up sounds much racier now that I’m married than it did when I was doing it for real. Back then my reasons ranged (depending on the boyfriend) from saving rent to playing house, secretly hoping for the real thing. I even shacked up with (gasp) a woman: Byrne Miller. Luckily my scandalous past didn’t deter my Duncan, when I eventually found my perfect traveling companion. So when a friend who knew we were taking a Mississippi Blues Highway road trip suggested we stay at the Shack Up Inn, I wasn’t hard to convince.

The Shack Up Inn is actually an old cotton plantation (Hopson) where Pinetop Perkins once drove tractor. It’s just up the highway from the crossroads of 61&49, of Robert Johnson fame. When the mechanised cotton gin ate up all the miserable jobs, there were plenty of sharecropper shacks available dirt cheap. So now a string of them sits behind the cotton gin, rented by the night by mostly white, European blues lovers. Or just lovers. Ours was the Pinetop shack – a porch, bedroom and living room complete with piano. 

Fakin' it

Why did I give my mother so much lip when she tried to teach me to play? And why didn’t I know about the Shack Up Inn when Byrne was still alive? She was on her way to becoming a concert pianist when a salacious casting director saw her lanky legs and luscious curves. You could say she sold her soul to the devil, if you were looking for segues to Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Maybe next time I shack up in Pinetop’s shack I’ll write a blues song about it.