Zamm part of Clarksdale music scene for past 13 years


    By Josh Troy
    Clarksdale Advocate

    When Connecticut native Justin Zamm came to Clarksdale as part of the Teach for America program in 2009, it became his home, and he has been a part of the local music scene ever since. Zamm, a bass player, and his wife, Colleen, were both part of the Teach for America program. He spends most of his time as an educator at WA Higgins Middle School and runs the piano program.

    “We came and stayed and we’ve loved it here,” he said. Since moving to Clarksdale more than 13 years ago, some of the local venues Zamm has played music at include the Ground Zero Blues Club, Shack Up Inn, Red’s Blues Club, and Yazoo Pass. Zamm performs solo and with bands, but wherever he plays, he does his best to accommodate the audience. Zamm played at Yazoo Pass on Saturday morning, which was different from being at a local club.

    “This is not a blues venue,” he said. “Jack (Bobo), the manager, and I tend to have pretty similar tastes in the kind of music we love – the 60s and 70s – so it’s a real treat for me to get to come and play for a slightly different crowd, more local people, who want a little break from the blues and want to hear some of those classic singers and songwriters from the 60s and 70s. I like to play that music.” Zamm said Yazoo Pass is the type of venue where customers come in to spend time with one another. He added that one table wanted to hear James Taylor’s songs.

    “It kind of sparked a great conversation about where they were when those records came out,” Zamm said. Two of Taylor’s songs that Zamm played were “Fire And Rain” and “Something In The Way She Moves.”
    “We’re starting to get enough distance from the singers, songwriters that they’re entering a kind of a classic American songbook,” Zamm said. “We were too close a time, for a period of time, but I think those are becoming some classic American songs that I hope people keep playing because they’re some beautiful songwriting.”

    The Viking River Tours cruise from New Orleans to Memphis passed through Clarksdale, while Zamm performed on Saturday. Tourists from the cruise did come into Yazoo Pass briefly. “It’s just so great that we get a little bit of a visit,” Zamm said. “I wish they could have stayed longer, but it was a joy.”

    Less than 24 hours earlier, on Friday night, Zamm played with musician Lucious Spiller at the Shack Up Inn. Spiller played the blues, soul, classic American music, and more. “My absolute favorite, the guy I play with the most, is Lucious Spiller,” Zamm said. “Lu likes to quote Muddy Waters and say, ‘Blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll.’ So he plays everything under the sun and that’s my main gig, playing bass with Lu.”
    Zamm and Spiller ran into one another at Walmart several years ago and built a relationship from there.

    “We just kind of met around town playing music and I saw him at the grocery store one day,” he said. “He needed a bass player for that night at Red’s, so we hooked up. And it’s been a great time playing with him. He had some health issues in the fall, but he’s back and sounding better than ever. He sounded great at the Shack last night.”

    The meeting at Walmart was a coincidence. “We kind of like knocked our carts into each other, if I remember correctly,” Zamm said. “He said, ‘You play bass, don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’” Zamm said, with the recent opening of a second Ground Zero Blues Club in Biloxi, more people are learning about the music scene in Clarksdale.

    Zamm himself has played with Spiller’s band at the new Ground Zero Blues Club in Biloxi. “That’s great fun,” Zamm said. “People are really excited to get Clarksdale music down on the coast. I’m hoping that connection stays strong. I don’t know that the folks down on the coast know just how vibrant the music scene is up here.”

    Zamm said other local bands and musicians, including Anthony “Big A” Sherrod and Jaxx Nassar, have played at the Ground Zero Blues Club in Biloxi. “That’s generating a lot of interest from people in the New Orleans, Gulfport, Mobile (Alabama) area to come up and start hearing what’s happening in Clarksdale,” Zamm said.


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