On Down the Road: Charlie Musselwhite’s Full Circle Journey

CLARKSDALE, Miss.–Charlie Musselwhite may be living a slower life in Mississippi these days. But, the world-famous blues harp player is not slowing down much. Now living in Clarksdale, the Kosciusko native who is credited with bringing a mix of Delta and Chicago blues harp playing to the world released a Grammy-nominated album in 2023, and appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”.
His character, Alvin Reynolds, has a short screen time, but is pivotal to the story, said Musselwhite, speaking from his Clarksdale home. It was the actions of an ancestor in Osage County, Oklahoma in the 1920s that won him the role. A real-life character, Al Spencer, was in a shoot-out with police.
Musselwhite now owns the man’s rifle.
“The reason I have it is because he died in a shootout with my grandfather. My grandfather’s name was Charlie Musselwhite,” he said. “I told Scorsese about it and he thought it was like magical or something that Charlie Musselwhite was back on the scene. He filmed the movie where everything happened.”
The film is about the murders of American Indians in a conspiracy to obtain their oil money.
Musselwhite’s new album, “Mississippi Son”, was recorded in Clarksdale, during the pandemic and features Musselwhite on guitar and harmonica. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Musselwhite returned to Mississippi three years ago, moving from California partly because of wildfires near his home and because he already owned a building, which he converted into a residence. The 80-year-old was raised in Memphis, before moving to Chicago, where he honed his craft, then to California, where money was good for blues musicians, especially with a southern pedigree, during the folk revival and psychedelic years.
But, Musselwhite retained keen memories of his visits to his hometown of Kosciusko during his childhood, visiting his grandfather’s cabin in Possumneck, and drinking from a cool spring on hot days.
“It was this water just pumping out of the ground, and I’d get down on my knees and put my face right in that cold, sweet water on a hot day. What a nice memory.”
The musician who has a Mississippi Blues Trail marker on the square in Kosciusko, is playing Memphis in May and a festival in New Orleans in the spring, all a shorter distance for him now.

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