One of Mississippi's greatest hidden treasures is Poor Monkey Lounge located in the tiny Delta hamlet of Merigold. Better known simply as "Po Monkeys," the establishment is one of the oldest juke joints operating in America today. Nestled on the edge of a cotton field nearly two miles down a dirt road in this rural agricultural outpost, Po Monkey's was created decades back by the irrepressible Willie "Po Monkey" Seaberry (it's a childhood nickname). And, as any visitor will quickly learn, if advanced degrees were offered in the purveying of good times, Mr. Seaberry would certainly have a Masters Degree--if not an endowed chair.
Mr. Seaberry is a field hand on several area farms and while his days always begin at the crack of dawn, his Thursday nights also end near the crack of dawn as he turns his shack-like residence of nearly 50 years into a juke joint for locals and awestruck out-of-towners. SoLost was one of the visitors recently and while we must confess some cross-cultural difficulty during our interview with Mr. Seaberry, what was never misunderstood was that this was a man who has created something of extraordinary beauty that has stood the test of time. Poor Monkey's has given generations of music loving customers an experience that is uniquely Southern and uniquely American. It was, after all, in places like this where American music was born.
Willie Seaberry has fashioned a hand-made masterpiece of folk art, blues and good times in this cypress and tin shack. Its interior is plastered with hundreds of red lights, monkey dolls and photos that span subject matter as diverse as Bud Light, school photos, strippers, and promotional images of John Deere tractors. It's an impossible-to-forget gem of the Southern rural landscape.
And did we mention he owns 300 suits and sometimes changes five times in the course of a single evening (though it was just a t-shirt the night we were there)? Did we mention the sign outside that advertises his house emcee DJ Doctor Tissue? How about the sign that proclaims: NO LOUD MUSIC NO DOPE SMOKING NO RAP MUSIC or the dress-code-focused sign that shouts: NOT LIKE THIS (with a graphic of a man with his hat on sideways) and NOT LIKE THAT (with a graphic of someone whose baggy jeans have fallen far below the waist). And there's so much more. To dig further, check out this extended piece from our friends at Southern Spaces.
In the meantime, enjoy our little SoLost sojourn to Poor Monkey Lounge.