Dick’s Place celebrates 73rd Anniversary

Valerie Anderson Brooks, Richard Anderson, Lorraine Henderson

By Christopher Young ,

Contributing Writer,

Dick’s Place – established 1949 Photos: Christopher Young

Seventy-three is just a number – but in the context of being a juke joint in Mississippi, and in continuous operation for 73 years, that’s much more than a number. Researching the history of small clubs in Mississippi is fascinating and informative, but the truth is that most are long gone, only surviving in the memories of loyal patrons. It appears that only the Blue Front Café in Bentonia, which opened in 1948, has been around longer than Dick’s Place – one year longer.

Dick’s Place is owned by Richard Anderson, a son of Richard Anderson Sr., who took over the business in 1984 when his father passed. His daughter Valerie, who provided The Mississippi Link with a written history of Dick’s Place, indicates that in 1949 Richard Anderson obtained a parcel on Highway 80, near where the Bell South building was, for $140 and began construction.

Prior to the Interstate Highway System, Highway 80 was a major thoroughfare and the Trailway’s bus would stop at the top of the hill at Norrell Road. With the advent of I-20, the original building had to be demolished and the business moved to its current location, 2625 S. Frontage Road in Clinton, in 1952. Starting out it was more country store than nightclub. Barbeque was introduced and became a mainstay with a BBQ chicken plate for 75 cents and a rib plate for $1.25. 

Heading west on Route 20 out of Jackson, just take Exit 31 – Norrell Road, cross under the interstate, then reverse direction on the frontage road, and a couple hundred yards later you’ll find it on the right-hand side. Dick’s Place is open daily from noon until whenever, and to be sure, Dick’s Place is welcoming to all. Right next door is Richie’s One Stop, also owned by the family.

Day in day out you will find the one-of-a-kind Lorraine Henderson tending bar and keeping the kitchen popping. She is the heartbeat of Dick’s Place and has been for the last twenty-eight years now. She’ll pull up a chair and converse, but you better be quick because a minute later she’ll be up grabbing a beer or wine for someone or be in the kitchen fixing a plate for a customer inside or for someone who called-in their order or be ironing things out with the DJ or loading up the juke box. Lorraine runs a tight ship, truth be told, absolutely nothing escapes her trained eye. If somebody needs a hug they’re going to get it from Lorraine and if somebody needs to fix their face and get a talking to, they’ll get that from Lorraine, too.

Live entertainment is typically by special occasion only, the usual entertainment is DJs, usually DJ Drifter or DJ Night Rider, or a classic juke box. Either way, things get jumping. The DJs take a wide range of requests, and that juke box – well, it plays just exactly what customers want. There’s Lattimore, Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Dorothy Moore, Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor, Etta James, Little Milton, Howlin Wolf, Mel Waiters, Ms. Jody, and Z.Z. Hill, to name a few. Singing along, foot tappin, movin and grooving, dancing and romancing are all standard fare at Dick’s Place.

Many already know because they lived it. For those that don’t, in order for Dick’s Place to survive and remain a safe place for blacks, dues had to be paid one way or the other. Part from testimony of Richard Anderson and part off-the-record recounting from others, the sizzling hot white supremacy embedded in this area did not make exception for Dick’s Place. Payments had to be made to certain folks in order to keep the doors open in the 50’s and 60’s. Several times attempts were made to firebomb the establishment. Richard recalls watching a white Mississippi State Trooper pull off the side of the road and heave a Molotov-cocktail type bomb right at the front door, then get in his car and drive away. Gathering while black isn’t a crime in the law books, but this is Mississippi.

The theme of this year’s anniversary was – Being Thankful. This was the first in-person anniversary celebration since COVID, and about 100 patrons were treated to a real treat on Sunday evening. Richard Anderson, his daughter Valerie, and her niece Ciara Brooks, three generations, served as MC’s.

There was a video presentation about how it all got started, a recognition of customers by decade, a toast and remembrance by names of customers who have passed since the last in-person anniversary in 2019, a toast to current customers, and special recognition of Lorraine Henderson who was presented a gift certificate by Anderson to thundering applause.

Another daughter, Verna was on hand, as well as several grandchildren and cousins. Ciara took time to record statements and memories about Dick’s Place which will be added to the history and presented years from now at another anniversary celebration. 

Stop by sometime and take in Dick’s Place. You will feel the special spirit that has kept it surviving and thriving for seventy-three years and counting.

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