Mississippi Blues Trail
The Mississippi Blues Trail marker commemorating Harold “Hardface” Clanton is near the intersection of Main and Magnolia in Tunica, Mississippi.
The GPS location of this marker is: N 34° 41.282′ W 90° 22.970′
The marker reads:
“Long before casinos brought legalized gambling and big-name entertainment to Tunica, African American entrepreneur Harold “Hardface” Clanton (1916-1982) ran a flourishing operation here that offered games of chance, bootleg liquor, and the best in blues music. Nicknamed for the stone face he wore during poker games, Clanton owned several businesses, including a cafe near this site and “The Barn” on Old Mhoon Landing Road, where most of the action took place.”
“The Barn” on Old Mhoon Landing Road is no longer standing.
Musicians who played at Clanton’s clubs over the years include: B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Albert King, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Robert Nighthawk, Frank Frost and Houston Stackhouse.
The Tunica Museum‘s display on Hardface Clanton says the following:
“Hardface and his notorious juke joint, The Barn, were staples of blues entertainment in Tunica County for over 40 years. Harold Clanton, whose nickname “Hardface” was earned from the stone cold face he wore playing poker, had an entrepreneurial spirit. He saved all of his income from World War II to open a juke joint for his community. His business savvy quickly promoted him as one of the most successful black men in Tunica County.
Hardface maintained several businesses in Tunica County. The first, Hardface’s Cafe, was located in downtown Tunica and closed at 2 a.m. in compliance with city regulations. The second venture, a converted rural mule barn known as The Barn, was a raucous establishment for gambling, dancing and drinking. Hardface had an “understanding” with local officials that allowed The Barn to stay open after hours, making his enterprise one of the most popular in the County.
Besides his cafe and juke joint, Hardface was also a successful farmer. Over time, he developed business relationships throughout the Mid South and quickly amassed a fortune, gaining his another reputation – “Tunica’s first black millionaire.” One of his favorite indulgences was his collection of restored antique cars. Every car Hardface owned, even his Ford pickup, had an Offenhauser 427 racecar engine. The chrome continental kits on the backs of his speeding cars, and his hats, worn crooked and backwards, were familiar sights around town.
Hardface was beloved by everyone in the Tunica community. His reputation for honesty and fairness overshadowed the illegal nature of his business. His funeral in 1982 was so well attended that it had to be held in the Rosa Fort High School gymnasium”
The Tunica Museum also has the craps table from Hardface Clanton’s “notorious juke joint, The Barn” on display in its permanent collection. This craps table, shown in the photos below, appears very primitive in comparison to those in the legally authorized casinos of Tunica County today.
For more information on Harold “Hardface” Clanton and his place in blues history, see Preston Lauterbach‘s book, The Chitlin’ Circuit and Road To Rock n’ Roll, which is one of our Recommend Books.
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