Red Paden, Juke Joint ‘King’ Who Kept the Blues Alive, Dies at 67

Red Paden, who as the self-proclaimed “king of the juke joint runners” spent four decades as the owner of Red’s, an unassuming music spot in downtown Clarksdale, Miss., and one of the last places in the United States to offer authentic Delta blues in its natural setting, died on Dec. 30. He was 67.

His son, Orlando, said the death, in a hospital in Jackson, Miss., was from complications of heart surgery.

Juke joints, once commonplace across the Deep South, were the loam out of which blues music grew, a vast network of shacks, old shops and converted homes where traveling musicians would play a night for a share of the cover charge, then move on to the next gig.

Red’s is the quintessential example: low-ceilinged and the size of a large garage, decorated with old music posters and lighted with neon signs and string bulbs (red, of course).

There is no stage at Red’s, just a well-worn carpet, enough for a singer, a guitarist and maybe a drummer. A refrigerator holds beer, and when he felt like it Mr. Paden (pronounced PAY-den) would fire up the smoker on the sidewalk and cook a mess of ribs. Informality is key.

“I grew up on blues, and I opened that place so I’d have a place to go and jam,” he told Living Blues magazine in 2017. “Folks come around, there’s my living room. Kick back and enjoy it.”

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