Mississippi has such a unique history and culture of blues music, why would Jackson, the state capitol, not have a venue to recognize it? That is exactly what Isaac Byrd Jr., owner of the 930 Blues Café, thought. "I saw all of the venues of blues in New Orleans and Memphis and noticed that Jackson didn't have one. As the capitol, we need one so that we can expose the best of the blues that is seen in other parts of the country," he said in an interview. In order to introduce the blues, Byrd put his thoughts together and opened the 930 Café in January 2002.
At first glance, the café looks like another nice home in downtown Jackson. Without taking a look inside—at least not before 9:30 p.m. when the music cranks up—one would never know of the incredible blues experience harbored here.
But after just one visit, the club can become addictive. Something about the music links everyone together because each person is allowed to tell his or her story.
"The blues is part of my upbringing," Byrd said. "I'm from the Mississippi Delta, and that's where the blues began. I want to make sure that the authenticity is continued."
Byrd's club allows any and everyone to enjoy a good time. Open six nights a week, the 930 Blues Café is a multicultural, multiracial mix. People may come in as strangers to one another, but the sweet and soulful sounds of the artists will unite them all.
Ironing Board Sam, a regular performer at the café, believes that it is his job as an entertainer to bring the audience together. "The music is universal," he said. "When I'm playing, I like to read the audience. I don't perform by a program, I perform by the audience. I've got to make the people feel the music."
Bringing the audience together is one of the biggest aspects of the 930 café. Jackie Bell, another regular performer, states that this atmosphere is the backbone to her performances.
"I love the people and the fans. They are like family," she said. With her deep and soulful voice, Bell is able to connect her soul to yours. "When I perform, I am able to tell a story, and it's heartfelt. It [the blues] is reality that I can express through music." And the fans love her. Many of them begin to clap and cheer before she even makes it to the stage.
"I love the music and the atmosphere here. Jackie is the best!" says James, a regular audience member.
The 930 Blues Café highlights musicians from all over, especially those who don't get the true recognition that they deserve. Along with Bell and Ironing Board Sam, many other talented musicians have performed here, including Michael Burk and Chuck Willis. "It has become a popular tourism spot," Byrd said. "I am able to bring people together to have fun. We are here to relax and enjoy good Delta blues."
But the café is more than a spot to enjoy music. Byrd's son, Isaac III, the person who actually runs the club, said: "The job is very demanding. A lot of people think it's only night work, but a lot has to be done during the daytime. And sometimes the crowd is so tuned in to the music that they don't want to leave, even at three in the morning!"
In the South where some places are still socially or racially segregated, Byrd has created a place where anyone can come to remove the stresses of the working world in order to have a good time. "Isaac has made a place where we can all communicate," Ironing Board Sam said. "The café is so full of flavor. The music integrates us all, which is good."