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Blues Trail Revisited: Ted Reed on the state of blues landmarks, resilient “Sleepy” John Estes Home

Happy International Blues Music Day! We are excited to share our new exclusive with Emmy and Oscar award-winning filmmaker Ted Reed of "The Blues Trail Revisited" for this special occasion.

In the following two clips, Ted presents and discusses footage from his visit with country blues pioneer “Sleepy” John Adam Estes at his home in Brownsville, Tennessee, and shares his unique perspective on the state of blues landmarks, from his 1970 pilgrimage as a film student in search of the roots of American music to the retracing of his journey 50 years later.


When returning to places from his original pilgrimage, Ted learned that the last home of “Sleepy” John Estes had been relocated to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, Tennessee, next to the Tina Turner childhood school/Tina Turner Museum, another legendary artist with roots in Brownsville. Although this was not the house Ted had visited during his trip to see “Sleepy” John in 1970, he noted it as “a worthy monument just the same."

Ted discovered 50 years later that the home of “Sleepy” John Estes was the last one standing of the blues musicians he documented in 1970, and that very few other blues landmarks remained, among those he mentioned being Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and the Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, Mississippi, that will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in September. We applaud Ted's efforts to raise awareness of these special places and the importance of their preservation through “The Blues Trail Revisited” project and join him in encouraging all of us to do what we can to help keep them around for present and future generations to experience, learn from and be inspired by. Utilizing the authenticity of built heritage as a storytelling medium is a public service to our history in assisting its continued relevance and survival as part of our collective identity.

“When I returned 50 years later, the only musician in the film whose house still existed was ‘Sleepy’ John Estes.” -Ted Reed

On January 25, 2022, the 123rd birthday of blues pioneer “Sleepy” John Adam Estes, we were honored and proud to kick off the Adopt A Music Landmark program with his last home in Brownsville, Tennessee, in partnership with our friends at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center! This first initiative of the American Music Landmarks Project created a unique opportunity to celebrate and support the architectural legacy of Estes’ autobiographical, “crying” country blues mastery. Learn more about our Adopt a Music Landmark inaugural location, the "Sleepy" John Estes Home, at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, Tennessee!

Watch the trailer for The Blues Trail Revisited and check out the official YouTube channel for interviews, performance clips and episodes of "The Blues Trail Revisited" podcast. We want to send our sincere thanks to Ted as well as Jamie at Ted Reed Productions for their time and effort in creating these additional insights for us to share with you!

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