Jesse Robinson's birthday bash
Mississippi blues icon Jesse Robinson wants you to come to his birthday party.
Robinson's Birthday Bash is known for its freewheeling array of local musicians hopping on and off stage, jamming and mingling with the audience.
Some musicians on the guest list include the Sherman Lee Dillon Family Band, guitarist Ronny Donson and Mississippi State music professors Robert Dumm and Richard Brown.
This year, the party is going on at F. Jones Corner on Farish Street, a location near and dear to the 65-year-old bluesman's heart.
"(On) Farish Street in the early '60s, there were a lot of businesses, a lot of activity and a lot of music. A lot of people were together and music was always somewhere around," Robinson recalls. "It was blues music. People like Elmore James, Sam Myers ... I could go on and on."
As a young man, Robinson played with a number of bands, moving from juke joint to juke joint around Farish Street.
The crowds have dispersed and the music has been muted on Farish since then, but F. Jones Corner, which will officially open in July, hopes to be the forerunner of a revival.
Daniel Dillon, the son of local musician Sherman Lee Dillon, and partner Adam Hayes took the initiative to raise money and make the old Fields Cafe building at the corner of Farish and Griffith into F. Jones Corner, named for Frank Jones and his blues joint.
Dillon fondly recalls seeing his father perform at the old cafe with its slogan, "No black, no white, just the blues."
"It was unbelievably cool how everyone got along inside: white people, black people, poor people, rich people just hanging out and listening to music," he says. "I want (F. Jones Corner) to be a platform for change in Jackson.
"I'd like to see people comfortable being downtown on Farish Street. How can we expect to have tourists come down here if we're afraid to come down here?"
Robinson shares Dillon's enthusiasm.
"The reason I'm doing (the Birthday Bash) on Farish Street is to get things started, giving that area a boost, getting people to come," Robinson says. "It (used to be) packed every day. We had a mixed group of people, from the governor all the way down."
Developers working on the area see this as a good sign.
"We're excited about the grand opening at F. Jones Corner," says Brad "Kamikaze" Franklin. "It's going to be the beginning of the rebirth of Farish Street. (Jesse Robinson) is a world renowned blues musician and he'll draw a lot of people."
Franklin, who is director of entertainment for Watkins Development, is closely involved with Farish Street's other ongoing projects and asserts that despite a few false starts over the years, the area and the city is back on track.
"This is the real deal. The developers are local. We're here, we're tangible. If anyone has any questions about what we're doing, they can come down to our office at Union Station," Franklin says.
Those other endeavors include nightclubs like B.B. King's and Subway Lounge in addition to an open-air amphitheater, restaurants and museums.
Developer David Watkins sees all of this growth as a sound fiscal investment, but an even better cultural investment.
"I think 100 years from now, people will still be going to Farish Street because we will capture the essence of the culture and heritage of this area," he says. "We couple that authenticity and heritage with a genuine and unmet need for entertainment in an urban environment."