Bo Carter & Nitta Yuma Cemetery

July 29, 2017 - 5:00 p.m.
The Headstone Dedication and Celebration of Bo Carter
Nitta Yuma Cemetery
Nitta Yuma Plantation - Sharkey County, Mississippi

On March 18, 2017, the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund visited landowner Henry Phelps in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi. We visited a couple of different cemeteries in the vicinity, including Nitta Yuma Cemetery, the final resting place of Armenter Chatmon--aka Bo Carter, of the Mississippi Sheiks. This short film shows the relatively well-kept rural burial ground as we found it upon our arrival. The last frame shows the view from Carter's grave on the edge of the field.

Mr. Phelps wants it made known to the world that Nitta Yuma Cemetery is open to the public. The map below shows the preferred easement (blue) that goes past the home of his sister and around the field adjacent to the burial ground (green). 

The death certificate of 
Bo Carter (Armetia Chatmon) 
It is difficult to exaggerate the historical significance of Bo Carter in regards to the Mississippi blues. As blues historian Steve Calt points out, only one Mississippian—Memphis Minnie—made more pre-World War II records than Carter, and his music proved some of the most original of all the recorded musicians in the South. Considering the deep well of traditional material that he could have drawn from, his inventiveness is even more remarkable. He grew up in the central Mississippi town of Bolton, which boasted a large number of guitarists, many of whom came from an elder generation. He even had an estimated dozen musically-gifted brothers who formed a string band that played for white square dances. Yet, the majority of his estimated 150 sides reflect the work of a prodigious composer and astute businessman, who managed to keep heading into recording studios long after most blues musicians had returned to the barrel houses and jukes as a supplement to their incomes on the farm.

You can view his entire discography (courtesy of Stefan Wirz) here

Click here to read Elaine Hughes account of Bo Carter performing at her house in Vicksburg.

Jackson Daily  News, May 7, 1913.

Bo Carter 

"The County Farm Blues" was recorded on February 12, 1940 in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the last of in upwards of 150 sides recorded by arguably the most professional songwriter and recording artist of the Pre-World War II South. Born to Henderson Chatmon while staying on the county convict farm of Dr. Dupree in Bolton, Mississippi, Armenter Chatmon came up in the highly musical world that seemed to reverberate around his father and mother on the farm (see, "Dr Dupree's Convict Farm," Hinds County Gazette, Oct 8, 1887). The family string band performed all around at different house parties and tourist destinations, some of which impressed so much that local journalists made note of these troubadours in brevities included in the Jackson Clarion Ledger. 

Bo Carter, Will Shade, and Gus Cannon
© Paul Oliver 1960
Armenter (his brothers called him Bo) Chatmon later served as the central organizing force in The Mississippi Sheiks, a string band that has since achieved legendary status in the annals of American music. Due to the rest of the groups penchant for the nightlife of the Roaring 20s (so to speak), Bo was the group's manager and he held all of the group's money for travel, lodging, and other necessities during their excursions to record in such cities as 1) San Antonio, TX 2) Jackson, MS 3) Atlanta, GA 4) Grafton, WI 5) New Orleans, LA 6) Chicago, IL &7) Shreveport, LA. Major Records Companies--such as Okeh and Paramount--demonstrated their complete trust in him over and over again to handle everything involved with transporting the group safely and on time to recording sessions in major industrial cities--urban locales that contrasted sharply with the rural, flatness of the Delta. 

Bo Carter c. 1930
Though all of the brothers settled down to farming and started families of their own (Bo in fact believed he would have been a very successful farmer), Bo maintained his relationships with the different recording companies, all of which seemed to hold him in high regards not only as a competent studio musician but also a reliable talent scout. His failing eyesight may have cut his career as a sharecropper short, but it did not in any way impede his creativity and reliability. Recording under the name "Bo Carter," he made several more trips to these cities, recorded scores of original--not traditional--material, and was responsible for the only recordings of artists such as Eugene Powell and Mississippi Matilda.

Bo Carter c. 1935
Not all his originals were risque and comical--what some scholars consider commercial blues. "The County Farm Blues" is so historically accurate in its depiction of sentencing as a means to obtain free labor on any one of the work farms in every county in Mississippi. Bo Carter makes the listener understand what it was like to face an unsympathetic judge who needed bodies to work and passed sentence of ninety days or $100 fine. Most folks, of course, lacked the cash on hand to dole out $100 in the 1930s Great Depression. In the end, Bo Carter reveals his opinion that it's impossible to experience true freedom under such an oppressive system. He plans to leave that place upon his release and make the unincorporated territories his new home. The truth of his story knows no entendres, no comical theme, no slick language. Bo Carter was perhaps the most gifted individual who navigated the recording industry in the 1920s and 1930s. The historical truth of his more than legendary status challenges stereotypes about blues artists of the period and explodes the myths about blues musicians from the country. He was an efficient manager in almost every aspect of the business. He really was "an all-around man."

July 20, 1960 - Memphis, TN

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