The Unmarked Grave of the Belton Sutherland

I received the message below, which relays the discovery of the temporary grave marker of Belton Sutherland, from "Joyous" Joe Austin, of Canton.  I'm sure it was very exciting to find the 37 year-old metal placard from People's Funeral Home that marked his grave.  It certainly was special to read the words reflecting a level of respect, reverence, and maturity not at all common among individuals who combine their musical interests with the imperatives of searching in rural cemeteries.  Enjoy....
"DeWayne, 
Success!  I did a bit of searching and found St. John's Missionary Church..and drove out to the site (it's just a bit north of Canton, in Camden, MS).  I walked the graveyard until I found Mr. Sutherland's plot, took some photos and visited with him for a bit as well...I told him about you and the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund and played “I Got Trouble” for him while letting him know his music lives on, even to this day.  And although it's an overcast and dark, rainy day - It was so...joyous.  I can't fully describe it, but it was so deeply gratifying to me on so many levels. Thank you...seriously, thank you for allowing me to help.  Joe" - March 30, 2017

MZMF liaison Joe Austin took the above photos of the Sutherland burial plot at St. John's M.B. Cemetery in rural Madison County, Mississippi. He also managed to stumble upon the grave of his mother, Mattie Sutherland, who passed in 1919.  We have now identified the exact burial location of this fierce and iconoclastic artist, whose enthralling performance demands respect in The Land Where the Blues Began.  Please donate and help us honor a Madison County legend...

Belton Sutherland



Clarion Ledger, Oct 15, 1983.
In 1983, the local blues king of Madison County, Mississippi was buried by People's Funeral Home, of Jackson. Largely unknown to the outside world, his iconic performances in the Land Where the Blues Began were the only recorded evidence of his greatness. Only local people had the pleasure of enjoying his company and music during his more than seventy years on this earth.  He was a mountain in his own neck of the woods and folklorist Worth Long had recognized his spellbinding performance ability during his many travels in the deep South during the 1960s and 1970s.


Belton Sutherland was born on February 14, 1911--the same year as the legendary Robert Johnson. His parents, William and Mattie Sutherland, already had eight children, and they would have four more after Belton, making a total of thirteen. He lost his mother shortly before his eighth birthday, and he had married and moved to Holmes County by the age of eighteen. By the late 1930s, however, he came back to Madison County, got arrested for forging a $25 check, and served eight months of a two year prison sentence before the remainder got suspended by the governor.

Belton Promo Art


Clarion Ledger, Mar 10, 1937.