Monday, December 5, 2016

Gravesites Take On A Life of Their Own???


Journalist Gary Pettus provides a horribly inaccurate title for what should be a harmless promotional article, "Gravesites" certainly do not "Take On A Life of Their Own" in Mississippi--not without some help. Cemeteries fortunate enough to have a competent sexton and maintenance trust take on the appearance that the living visitors and caretakers project and carve into the landscape. We have seen, however, so many sextons act with such negligence and cemetery maintenance trusts go bankrupt recently due to corruption and incompetence. Abandoned cemeteries and bankrupt organizations seem to be becoming the norm in Mississippi, but even they take on the appearance and alleged "life" of nature as it encroaches slowly but surely on the rows of graves.

Gary Pettus, "Gravesites Take On A Life
of Their Own," JCL, May 21, 2006.
Gravesites are kept up by dedicated individuals in rural and urban locales often for little compensation. There is no sexton for the graves of many blues musicians buried in abandoned African American cemeteries. Graves certainly do not take on a self-cleaning life of their own. Folks like Robert Mortimer in Greenville knows what I'm talking about, and Robert Birdsong has to pull the weeds and weed-eat several forlorn burial grounds around Clarksdale. It takes sweat, toil, and precious life's blood to maintain these hallowed grounds and see that these graves are kept clean. It may seem like these places "take on a life of their own," but if the headstones aren't covered in brush and tall grass and broken, good people have cleared these spaces and mended these markers so that others are free to believe in magic.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

T. DeWayne Moore --- Jack Dappa Blues Radio

On this episode of Jack Dappa Blues, Lamont Pearley interviews DeWayne Moore, director of The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund and avid researcher of African American History and Blues roots heritage.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Walter Lee Hood - "Big Daddy"


See More Photos Below - -Gary Pettus, "Big Daddy," (Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, Dec 7, 1989.

Big Daddy is a big, gold amoeba sitting motionless on a chair. He wears a 24-karat satin shirt. He has little feet. Up floats a microphone and Big Daddy wiggles, gets hooked in the mouth like a giant goldfish. Out pops a voice, a vibrant, poignant tenor, the sound at first fragile. Then he puts his weight behind it. “Gone buy me a .22,” he croons; a white sweat towel snakes over his shoulder, “don’t...make me shoot the...hell out of you.” The evolution is complete; Big Daddy is now the highest life form of all in a Saturday night bar - A Blues Singer.

That he is, says his manager, Jesse Robinson. The first time he saw Big Daddy, Robinson was struck by more than the size of this quarter-ton man, known only to local blues fans as Big Daddy. “The first thing he had,” said Robinson, “was his voice. The way he could sing the blues. The main thing is a 500-pound man singing the blues. You just don’t find that.” Eleven years ago, you wouldn’t have found it. It has only been a decade since Big Daddy found his blues voice.

Now, in Jackson, Prentiss, Laurel, Hattiesburg, Greenville, Oxford, Utica, Cleveland, Clarksdale or Canton, you can find him, at colleges or in restaurants and lounges that bill him as Big Daddy, “ 500 pounds of blues.” Which is 30 pounds of over-billing. “I weigh only about 470 pounds,” Big Daddy said. He didn’t sound disappointed. “Yeah,” grinned Robinson, “470 pounds of blues’ just don’t get it.”

Big Daddy’s real name, Walter Lee Hood, probably wouldn’t get it either. His fans got rid of it. “ Everybody started calling me Big Daddy,” he said before a show at the Subway Lounge. “ They said they liked the name. I did too.”He also likes greens and black-eyed peas, he said. “ As long as it’s boiled, I eat it.” He has tried to lose weight, but it has proved impossible. He also has diabetes.

“I do what the doctors tell me. They stopped me from working in 1979. They said my blood pressure was too high. I was doing construction but I had to quit. I picked up this weight sitting down doing nothing.” Before the weight gain, Big Daddy liked to hunt. “Oh, yeah, this is the time of year.

"I miss it,” he said.  “I would hunt or stay in camp and cook. “I can cook just about anything you can name. I can cook, sew and clean. I can do it all. That’s why I don’t worry about a wife. I can do it all myself. Except have a baby...Saves money too.” Big Daddy sat with his back to a sign touting sardines, barbecued chicken, gumbo, sausage and chitterlings. He sipped on a can of fruit juice. “I have always loved music,” he said, as people crept down the stairs to the cool, dark lounge. “A lot of my people sang in church.”

He comes out of northwest Alabama, near Lee Bend, he said, where he was born in the early ’30s, “ so far back in the woods, it was pitiful.” Not long after his birth, his family moved to Columbus, where he grew up singing gospel in the Mount Olive Baptist Church.

For years, he made a living with his hands, not his voice, earning money in Columbus, Jackson, Yazoo City and other Mississippi towns at jobs ranging from drugstore delivery man to farmhand. Wherever he went, he sang in church and people liked his voice. They thought he could make money at it. “ They kept asking me, ‘why don’t you sing the blues?’” he said. One day Big Daddy woke up with the blues and started singing them.

“Blues is here to stay,” he said. “My belief is the blues is a way of life. You might not have something to eat. You might not have anything in your pockets. People are just starting to realize it.”

He looked over at a woman at a nearby table. “What’s happening, Big Daddy?” she said. A waitress hurrying up from the bar put another can of juice on Big Daddy’s table and a smile on his wide, brown face. “You gone make a bad man out of me,” he told her. “You’re already bad,” she said. “I’m a good man.” He picked up his glass. “ When I’m asleep.” Big Daddy. 500 pounds of coy.

Fans searching for Big Daddy this weekend can find him performing Saturday with the Jesse Robinson Revue and Fingers Taylor at Wellsfest ’87 at Lakeland Park, just east of Smith-Wills Stadium on Lakeland Drive. They are scheduled to go on together at 2:45 p.m. at Center Stage.


(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, Oct 31, 1989.



(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, Feb 19, 1988.


(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, July 12, 1988.


(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, Sep 23, 1987.



(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, Oct 28, 1988.



Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Travesty at Nitta Yuma


Since 1989, the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund has erected memorials for Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, "Big" Joe Williams, and Sam Chatmon, among others, and fought to maintain abandoned cemeteries in Mississippi. We have cleared all roadblocks to marking the grave of Armenter Chatmon, aka Bo Carter, of the Mississippi Sheiks. Buried in Nitta Yuma Cemetery near Panther Burn, his unmarked grave is the target our most recent Headstone Blues Initiative.

Please share this promotional poster, visit and like our page on Facebook - Help us mark the grave of Bo Carter, of the Mississippi Sheiks - youtu.be/u7zVmpIfsp8

"Blues Songs were Unsung"

Saxophone players rose in prominence, carrying the blues and jazz to the mainstream.

"Random Brevities," The Muskogee (OK) Times Democrat, Feb 14, 1923.

"Go to Death Singing"

Eddie Lee and Lester Hurd, convicted of slaying Ollie Lancaster, town marshal of Bolton, were hanged on Friday.  They went to death singing and praying.

"Go To Death Singing," The Pittsburgh (PA) Courier, Feb 14, 1925.

"Bonnie is Intimate Wherever She Goes"

Her first impression of Bonnie Raitt came after the funeral of Skip James.  Local writer Mary Niepold watched as Bonnie Raitt was sitting in the dining room of widow Lorenza James in West Philadelphia. She was sitting on the side next his upright piano, and she strummed the blues on an old guitar.  Softly.  All alone. Delta bluesman James had been buried that after noon.

In 1974, the Temple University Music Festival in Ambler welcomed Bonnie Raitt back to town; but she wasn’t alone and she was still playing the blues she learned from bluesmen like James, the late Mississippi Fred McDowell and Sippie Wallace.  She played them softly, sometimes audaciously. And on this visit to Philadelphia (in which she has performed many times in the last three years), she had nearly four thousand people moving to every beat and earthy nuance of her music.  Having already played in the Main Point, the Shubert, the Walnut and the Academy of Music, Raitt had no trouble reaching large houses.  She’s as intimate with thousands as she is with hundreds. Talking, smiling and cracking jokes between numbers, she holds you engagingly.  Not once during the hour or so performance, did she lose her composure.

“She prefers an intimate atmosphere,” according to her bass player, Freebo (formerly with Philadelphia’s Edison Electric Band), “but you can’t just play small houses and have them lined up around the block. You have to reach the large houses.”

There were a few problems. Her 20-year-old electric Gibson needed tuning between every number. She laughed about it, and perched on a black stool, complaining about her need for an assistant “to do my tuning.”  The lighting was burning her out, too.  “My freckles are melting.”  The biggest problem (of which the audience likely had no awareness) was the new group that gave its first performance.  With only three days rehearsal, it showed in the opening numbers, but on the whole the group came across well. The two new members, after several years with Van Morrison, were John Platanaia on guitar and Jeff Labes on piano.  Each had their moments.  Each played skillfully.  The rhythm section of Raitt, Freebo on bass (and harmony and kazoo) and Dennis Whitted on drums was as tight, as driving, as it always was.  But the real star was Raitt and blues isn’t the only thing she’s a star in.

Time has only refined Ms. Raitt’s ability to go up and down emotions like scales on a piano. She can slide in and out of a ballad and make it as pure as a solo guitar. A gut-grabbing plea for love can become as painful in its remembrance as it was the first time you felt it. A rhythm and blues number rocks the chairs, one and all.  Bonnie Raitt always comes off as a woman, a little bit wistful, a little bit brazen and all the time soulful.  She’s also a consummate musician.

Above article from Mary Niebold, “Bonnie is Intimate Wherever She Goes,” The Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, Aug 10, 1974.


Bonnie Raitt came up in the southern California atmosphere of Broadway show tunes and surfing music.  She always liked the best soul, folk and blues.  “I started playing guitar at ten or twelve, picked up folk and by the time I was 14 I was playing blues guitar.” She rushed East for college to be part of the folk scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts “Of course when I got there, it had closed. Rock music had descended.  “In 1968, I went to Europe. I thought I’d heard every blues record. In England they had some unreleased material.”  That’s where Miss Raitt first heard the music of Sippie Wallace.

“I recorded two of her songs on my first album. I got to meet her finally in 1972 at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. I do her songs mostly because I like them the best and she is alive. She is one of the few who could benefit from me doing her songs. She celebrated her 77th birthday recently. She is an elder black woman who lives in Detroit, but she was one of the classical blues singers of the twenties. Her lyrics are raunchy in a kind of refreshing double entendre, not bawdy—a lot more touching and a Randy Newman kind of off-the-wall lyrics.

Her political and social views grew from her involvement as a Quaker.  “It was a social orientation, hands around the world, pacifist, the American Friends Service Committee. I went to Quaker camp the last two years of high school and became a leftist , liberal progressive. Now it seems the radicalism of the ’60s has become the common sense of the ’70s.

“Right now I’m involved with helping Tom Hayden run for Senate in California. It is nice to run up and down the state doing benefits and including local musicians.”  She does about 50 benefit concerts a year, accepting expenses, no performance fee.  “I do them for women’s community health centers, legal assistance projects, listener-sponsored radio stations. They pass out information in the lobby. I think it’s important.”


Above article from Mary Campbell, “Singer Bonnie Raitt Has Roots in Blues,” The (Bakersfield, CA) Times, Jan 25, 1976.


Sippie Wallace

Photo: © 1978 John Collier
Caption: "You'll often find Sippie around
young people. Here she is with Mary 
Padgett, one of her choir members."