Clarksdale, Mississippi is home to one of the most unusual and fun lodging accommodations I’ve had the pleasure to experience: the Shack Up Inn. “The Ritz it ain’t”, their words not mine, pretty much sums up this cool and funky place—but in the best way possible.
If you’re a fan of the blues—you probably know all about U.S. Route 61– nicknamed the Blues Highway. An hour and a half south of Memphis, Clarksdale, Mississippi lies on its famous “crossroads”: where Highways 61 and 49 intersect and according to legend, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for some musical mastery.
Three miles from these “crossroads” is the Shack Up Inn—a collection of authentic sharecropper shacks on what was once the working Hopson Plantation—and which still includes the original gin and seed houses as well.
When I drove in to the property, I almost missed the small sign on the side of an old building that told me I was at the Shack Up Inn. Old farm implements and other “stuff” seemed in no kind of artful order outside. But inside, a warm welcome awaited—along with a complimentary packaged moon pie if I was inclined to take with me after I got my key and directions to my “shack”.
There are some 35 lodging units total at this “Bed & Beer” establishment—and between the various renovated shacks, and newer renovated “bin” rooms in the old Cotton Gin, the place can accommodate individual travelers to groups as large as 85.
For a purely unique experience, though, you really must make sure to reserve one of the shacks. Make no mistake, the shacks were never slave shacks; all were sharecropper or tenant houses—built in the shotgun style of the south. I noticed this when I parked my vehicle by the cabin and opened the back door; in true “shotgun” style, I could see all the way to the front door.
Each of the shacks has a name; mine was Pinetop Perkins in honor of the Blues pianist Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins who once drove tractor on the Hopson Plantation here. The cabin even had a piano (as two other shacks also do).
These accommodations are not as primitive as they sound though—they all have ac, heating, indoor plumbing (clean but small bathrooms), free wi-fi, microwaves, and refrigerators (mine was keeping two bottles of beer cold, compliments of the house), plus a coffeemaker in the kitchenette. The televisions in the cabins all pick up an audio blues feed only—nice to listen to while relaxing on the front shack-style decorated porches that each features.
Inside, my cabin had a comfy queen size bed and also a twin bed in the front sitting room. Everything was spotless: polished wood floor, dust free tchotchkes, and extra touches like a mason jar of (real) cotton balls on the table. A flyswatter hanging on the wall. A pretty dried flower arrangement.
But do know that these cottages are not for people who are worried about thread count or 24/7 service. In fact, the front desk is open only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ; and the website states if you want room service: “call the Peabody in Memphis”.
Rates match the vintage vibe: you can hardly find a generic Motel 8 room anymore for $75 to $90—although on weekends there’s a strict two-night minimum and the rates jump up another $10.
Breakfast is not included and if you need a wake-up call, the website also proclaims: “yea right, automatic one minute after check out time, it consists of a chain saw right outside your bedroom window at 11:01 AM.”
Like they said, they’re not the Ritz. And that’s exactly what makes staying here so much fun.
For more information, or to make reservations or check out musical workshops at the inn, check the website.
Review by Donna Tabbert Long who stayed at the inn while researching a story on the Blues Highway. Photos are courtesy of Michael Ventura Photography, except where noted.