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Riverside Hotel provides no-frills Mississippi blues experience

CLARKSDALE — It’s not the Heartbreak Hotel or the Ritz, and George Washington didn’t sleep there.

But the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale is regarded as a history exhibit of blues music.

And, oh yes. Muddy Waters did sleep there and Bessie Smith died there.

Blues icons roomed at the Riverside from the 1940s to early 1960s as they made their names in Southern clubs. For decades before that, the building was a hospital serving black people during segregation. It was there that Smith died in 1937.

The former hospital re-opened as the Riverside in 1944 and established a loyal group of fans who love its authenticity as a “bluesman” hotel.

Owner Frank “Rat” Ratliff, 71, deadpans its historic links to the blues.

“I run a nice, clean and comfortable place,” he says.

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