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Mississippi bluesman may be the most unlikely Grammy nominee

Steve Hartman
·2 min read
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About 2,000 miles from Los Angeles, where the red carpet turns to dust, we found this year's most unlikely Grammy nominee. Every day, 73-year-old Jimmy "Duck" Holmes welcomes customers to his Blue Front Cafe and juke joint in Bentonia, Mississippi.

Holmes doesn't read music. He doesn't write music. He doesn't write lyrics. Yet he's up for a Grammy Award.

"I mean, I guess it's a divine thing. I don't know," Holmes said.

Holmes is the last of the old Bentonia bluesmen — a brand of blues known for its haunting, hypnotic style. For decades he has played mostly at Blue Front Cafe at events like the annual Bentonia Blues Festival. But a couple years ago, his friend and manager planned a trip to Tennessee, for what Holmes thought was a sightseeing tour.

"I had no idea," Holmes said about his trip to Nashville to record an album. "He insisted I bring my guitar but he wouldn't tell me what the deal was. So I said, 'OK.' And that's the way I am. You want to hear it, I'm going to play it."

Jimmy
Jimmy

That's how this old time blues pioneer ended up next to eight-time Grammy-winning musician and producer Dan Auerbach.

"He just sits down and he starts playing and songs start coming out," Auerbach said.

Holmes made up the album as he went.

"This was a beautiful moment that I was lucky enough to be a part of, really," Auerbach said.

It was also a moment that will never be repeated. Holmes never plays the same song the same way twice.

The record, Cypress Grove, is up for best traditional blues album.

Jimmy
Jimmy

Holmes isn't worried about a potential win going to his head. If anything, he said, it will only make him more humble.

"My head is like a concrete floor. It don't swell. You can't swell it," he said. "When you got something that you can share, that's an honor."

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.

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