The first awesome thing about the Riverside is that just about the only thing that’s changed since its early days are the mattresses. Most of the furniture is the same, meaning you can pick your room according to your rock star. We liked the look of John Lee Hooker’s furniture best (room 6), but plumped for Ike’s room (room 8), so we could work at the same desk at which he wrote the music for Rocket 88.
Rooms, as you can imagine, are old school, and pretty dark (windows are small) but the knowledge that you’re staying in a historical place blows that away. All have a fridge, small TV and the basic aircon that comes in a noisy box by the window. They’re also spotlessly clean.
The only other downsides are that there's no WiFi and rooms are not ensuite. There are, however, three bathrooms – one for men, one for women and a spare – but Rat, the owner, cleans them constantly throughout the day, so they’re always spotless. In fact, the ladies’ bathroom is a beautiful, sunny little room overlooking the Tallahatchie River – and again, it’s spotless. Although the shower pressure isn’t great in there. We didn’t try it in the third bathroom.
Rat, by the way, is the second thing that’s awesome about the hotel. As Mrs ZL Hill’s son, he grew up with the musicians so is a wealth of information about the hotel, Clarksdale and civil rights in Mississippi. He’s fascinating to talk to, and will do pretty much anything for his guests, taking you out to breakfast, to the blues clubs, hooking you up with his friends in other places, whatever. Although be aware that he also has an eye for the single ladies. We guess that’s a side effect of growing up with Ike et al.
And the third thing that's awesome? There's no check in or check out times. As Rat tells you again and again, "you're at home here", so you can check out, as we did, at 4pm without it being an issue.
Rooms: $60 (and up). WiFi: the price of a coffee at McDonald's down the road. History lessons from the ever-present Rat: priceless. The Riverside is definitely one worth forgoing your Molton Brown freebies for.