Saturday, March 11, 2017

Henry Stuckey's Grave

The Grave of Henry Stuckey
Creator of the Bentonia Blues

Henry Stuckey, of Satartia, can be seen as the unidentified guitarist who played with a slide for Handy at the Tutwiler Train Station.  He was the only one of the country bluesmen who was playing a distinctive kind of music that paved the way for a school known today as "Bentonia Blues." According to David Evans, a devotee of blues and professor of anthropology at California State University, the "Bentonia Blues" guitarists use mainly an open D minor tuning and an intricate picking style. The singing covers a wide range with a tendency to begin high, then "tumble" to a lower final pitch.

According to Big Legal Mess Records, “The origin of the style goes back to a chance meeting between Bentonian Henry Stuckey and black Bahamian soldiers in France during World War I. Stuckey learned an odd E-minor guitar tuning from the Bahamians and when he returned home taught it to his brother Jacob, and to Skip James and the younger Jack Owens."

The military marker of Henry Stuckey at
Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, Bentonia, Yazoo County, Mississippi
As these musicians traded ideas in the semi-isolated area of Bentonia, James and Owens perfected the style by adding dark, introspective lyrics. With his overwhelming personality coming through his recordings, James created a haunting and unique sound that continues to influence blues and folk music today. Though James died in 1969 and Owens in 1997, and Bud Spires in 2014, this local style is preserved in the playing of Duck Holmes.”Stuckey taught his style to a more famous bluesman, Skip James. Today, several musicians in the Bentonia area, such as Jack Owens and Jimmy Holmes, who grew up listening to Skip James keep up the Bentonia Blues tradition.