Indianola, Mississippi – Club Ebony, the most famous stop on the Chitlin Circuit of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, will once again be bursting at the seams with the sounds of blues music as it will reopen June 1-3, 2023, with a series of events and lots of headliners.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will punctuate the grand reopening of Club Ebony Thursday, June 1, 2023, at 10 a.m. The historic entertainment venue is located in close proximity to the B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center at 404 Hannah Street/Avenue in Indianola, MS. The Big Time Rhythm & Blues Band will close out the day with music starting at 7:00 p.m. Club Ebony has been idle for several years since the retirement of its longtime owner, Mary Shepard.
Originally, Club Ebony served as one of a few African American-owned night clubs on the Chitlin Circuit that opened after the end of World War II by Indianola entrepreneur Johnny Jones. It was considered the finest and largest night club in the South, being fashioned after Harlem’s Club Ebony that opened in 1927. Jones reportedly said, “There were no other clubs in Indianola for Negroes.”
The club was donated to the museum by B.B. King, the last owner of the famous night spot, in hopes it would be preserved and serve the Delta community once again as the premiere music venue that welcomed world famous entertainers, including Ray Charles, Count Basie, Bobby Blue Bland, Little Milton, Albert King, James Brown, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf, Tyrone Davis, the King of the Chitlin Circuit Bobby Rush, and the King of the Blues B.B. King.
On Friday, June 2, the joint will be jumping with the true blues and a touch of Cha Cha sounds of Louisiana’s first family of bluesmen, The Neal Brothers, Lil Ray and Kenny Neal. Starting at 7:00 p.m., Mr. Sipp (“The Mississippi Blues Child”) will add his special mix of gospel and blues vocals accentuated with a hard driving guitar. He will perform a string of original hits that begot him the International Blues Challenge’s Bobby Rush Entertainer of the Year and BMA’s Best New Artist Album awards.
TC Coleman’s Silent Partners Band will open up Saturday, June 3, playing a few tunes with Susan Tedeschi, an early protégé of B.B. King. She is a multiple Grammy Award nominee for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2021 with Tedeschi Trucks Band and a Blues Music Award winner. Tedeschi and the Derek Trucks Band have performed at “Icon: The Life and Legacy of B.B. King” at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. They have also shared the stage with B.B. King in 2010 at Eric Clapton’s Guitar Crossroads Festival in Illinois, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. The Silent Partners feature Tony Coleman, a longtime drummer for B.B. King along with individual band members whose resumes are sprinkled with times as backups for blues icons Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King and Denise LaSalle, Queen of the Delta Blues.
Robert Terrell, deputy director of the B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center, states, “I think guests will be impressed with the efforts and attention to detail that has gone into bringing Club Ebony back to its original glory days tweaked with a new stage in its original location at the west end of the building along a modern sound booth to provide a better quality sound experience for the patrons and musicians alike. We have also added a complete sprinkler system to ensure the safety of our guests that will once again inhabit Club Ebony. There’s lots of history here, and we are excited about sharing it with the public.”
Malika Polk-Lee, the executive director of the B.B. King Museum, says, “We are so excited about being able to not only save Club Ebony, but to bring it back in a manner that preserves its “Chitlin Circuit” heritage but blends all the conveniences of a modern club. We have made the club fully ADA compliant and added interpretative elements that outline the club’s history and all the great performers who once graced the stage.”
Club Ebony has a historic marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail that is seated just outside the club.
Tickets for the grand reopening of Club Ebony shows are available on EventBrite (www.eventbrite.com/cc/grand-re-opening-of-historic-club-ebony-2158039).