Walt's Look Around: Sylvester Hoover blues tours - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: Sylvester Hoover blues tours

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"For the last few minutes I couldn't even watch it 'cause my phone was like ringing off the hook. I mean, people from all over the world was calling. I mean it was -- wanting documentaries right then and there. When can I get a documentary? Can I do this? Can I do that? So," said Sylvester Hoover. 

So, what's all the fuss? Well, maybe this. Maybe all those other callers saw what I saw. Sylvester Hoover conducting tours of the blues hot spots around Baptist Town in east Greenwood; and out into Leflore County is the first black person I've ever seen who is a blues tour guide. 

"Honeyboy Edwards played right there. That's where Honeyboy Edwards would play." 

Now, maybe I missed any other blacks doing so. But not according to Mr. Hoover. 

"UCLA did a research. They say I'm the only black person that's doing blues tours in the whole United States about 4 years ago." 

Mr. Hoover sort of backed into the blues when he bought a business on Young Street in Baptist Town. 

"I ended up buying the store that Robert Johnson used to go in to buy his Prince Albert Tobacco. And I always was a member of the church they said he was buried at." 

As people came into the store and asked about Robert Johnson, Mr. Hoover started not only telling them, but taking them. And from that, now he has a sort of blues, slash, Baptist Town museum on Young Street, in an old shotgun house with a collection of artifacts from life in the Delta. 

And he has a truck and a van and an ever increasing number of people seeking him out to get his take on black life in the old days in Greenwood; and to take them on an excursion out into the county to see the blues sights, especially those associated with Robert Johnson. 

"And we go to all three grave sites and end up at Bryant's Store in Money where Emmett Till whistled at Carolyn Bryant because we felt like that's part of the blues, too," said Hoover. 

The blues industry in the Delta has always seemed to me like it was built from the outside in. Folks came here first looking for the blues landmarks and then an infrastructure came into existence to serve them. But with Sylvester Hoover, it's an insider who is contributing his part to conducting those outsiders on those tours. 

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