Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mt. Zion in SCLC: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference National Magazine

Marking the Blues (1998)
By Anne Rochelle
Duncan, Miss. — Rosetta Patton Brown wasn't there when they buried her father, Charley Patton, the first great Delta blues man, in an unmarked grave at the edge of a plantation in Holly Ridge.

“We got lost,” she recalled, still surprised 64 years later.

It was 1934, and Brown was a teenager when her father died after a gig one night—from a heart condition—at age 43. Her mother and stepfather were driving her to the funeral when they lost their way. By the time they made it to the cemetery, the body was covered up.

"I cried so hard," says Brown, now 80 and a widow living among her children and grandchildren in Duncan, a Mississippi Delta town not far from Holly Ridge. She spits a wad of chew into a basket next to her fuzzy-slippered feet. "I wanted to see the body."

Brown didn't miss the second service honoring her father.  It was in 1991, when a new headstone was placed at his grave in the corner of the old cemetery, between railroad tracks and a cotton gin.

Rock star John Fogerty didn't miss it either. Nor did Delta blues legend Pops Staples. There were cameras and speeches, and a new fancy headstone decorated with a black-and-white photograph of a young Charley Patton. The carved epitaph reads, "The Voice of the Delta: The foremost performer of early Mississippi blues whose songs became the cornerstones of American music." The stone stands out like a Cadillac in a junkyard; the graves around it are marked with names carved crudely into concrete slabs or wooden crosses, and many of them have fallen over or sunk into the soft, black soil.

Also at the ceremony was the blues fan who made the new marker possible: Skip Henderson, a former social worker and music store owner from New Jersey who founded the Mount Zion Memorial Fund in 1991 to honor deceased blues musicians from the Mississippi Delta.

"It was just going to be Robert Johnson, but there were so many of these blues legends with no headstones," Henderson recalls, explaining how the project got started. He named the fund for the little church in Morgan City where, a few months before the Patton service, he placed the first memorial, which was to Johnson, the blues singer who inspired the Rolling Stones and other rock greats and who claimed he sold his soul to the devil to get his guitar-playing gift.

The Mount Zion Fund has erected eight markers and unveiled the ninth March 14 in Hollandale, for Sam Chatmon. Henderson has at least four others in mind.

"It's a well-intentioned project," says Howard Stovall, executive director of the Blues Foundation in Memphis. "It has focused attention on the fact that even though these musicians are well-known, and their music is still popular, their fame is not reflected in their final resting place."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Whole Story of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson

John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson
By Dan Morris - 2012

On a hilltop, under an oak in southwest Madison County, a tombstone is adorned with harmonicas and coins left by visitors.  Aside from songbirds and gusts of wind that rustle the leaves, it is a quiet place, far removed from the boisterous nightclubs of south Chicago in the 1940s.  John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson is buried beneath that stone, but his legend lives on in the world of blues music. He made his name in Chicago as a musician, singer and songwriter and is regarded as the first great blues harmonica player.  Sonny Boy was born 100 years ago today near his grave. Artists still record his songs and at-tempt to duplicate his magic with a harmonica.

He was 34 and enjoying another nationwide hit with his recording of "Shake the Boogie" when he was murdered in Chicago in 1948.His wife, Lacey Belle Davidson, brought him home, granting the request he made known in a verse of one of his songs: "I want my body buried in Jackson, Tennessee."

Mentor Mourned

William "Billy Boy" Arnold was 12 when Sonny Boy died. Hearing the news was the most shocking moment of his young life.

"I rang the doorbell of his apartment house on Giles Street here in Chicago," Arnold said. "He lived on the second floor. A lady stuck her head out of a window and asked who I was looking for. I said, 'Sonny Boy.' She said, `Oh, baby, ain't you heard? He got killed.'"

"I was so sad," Arnold said. "Sonny Boy was my buddy. He was going to show me how to play the harmonica like he did."

Arnold had heard Sonny Boy's records and was in love with the music. He got a harmonica and tried to play like his idol. When he discovered that Sonny Boy lived nearby, he recruited a cousin and friend to go with him to try to meet Sonny Boy. They rang the doorbell, and Sonny Boy answered.

"We had never seen him, and we said, `We want to see Sonny Boy.' He said, 'I'm him. Come on up.'"

Hill Country Blues - Graves

David Kimbrough, Musician
Obituary, The Clarion Ledger, 1998

HOLLY SPRINGS — David "Junior" Kimbrough, 67, a professional musician and a former employee of Holly Springs John Deere Tractor & Equipment Co., died of heart failure at Holly Springs Memorial Hospital on January 17, 1998. 

Services were noon the following Saturday at Doxey Auditorium, Rust College, with burial in Kimbrough Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Hudsonville.

Visitation was at eleven a.m. the following Friday at J F Brittenum & Son Funeral Home.

Kimbrough was a Holly Springs native. He was a member of Kimbrough Chapel M.B. Baptist Church. According to his daughter, Patricia Hawthorne of Memphis, he played blues guitar since the 1950s, but his music gained popularity in the 1990s after recording his first album, Do the Rump.  He played blues festivals throughout the United States and Europe and was featured in Newsweek and National Geographic.

“He loved people and playing in juke joints,” she said. “His life was playing for the audience.”  She said her father's last recordings will be released this year. "He is a legend in North Mississippi blues," she said. "Through his music, his legend will live on."

Survivors include: wife, Mildred; sons, the Rev Larry Kimbrough of Abilene, Texas, Da-vid Malone of Memphis, Kent Malone of Chulahoma and Robert Malone and Larry Washington, both of Holly Springs; daughters, Addie Boga and Patricia Hawthorne, both of Memphis, Effie Gray of Aurora, Ill., and Shirley Richmond of Byhalia; and 42 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

So You Want to Visit?

To get to Kimbrough Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery from Holly Springs, head north on Highway 7 going towards Bolivar, Tennessee. After about ten miles take a slight left onto Clear Creek Road. The look for Kimbrough Chapel Road on the left and  the address is 1182 Kimbrough Chapel Rd, Lamar, MS 38642.  

Good cemetery hunting!!

The Grave of Johnny Woods 
Hill Country Harmonica Legend 

So You Want to Visit?
He is buried at 
1327 Aiken Road
Carter Sunset Memorial Gardens 
Tyro, Tate County, Mississippi
3866834.634267, -89.721498

The Grave of R.L. Burnside 

(23 November 1926-1 September 2005)

R.L. (Rural) Burnside is buried in the cemetery behind Free Springs C.M.E. Church in Harmontown, Panola County, Mississippi. To get to the Free Springs C.M.E. Church, turn south from Highway 310 onto County Road 511. The GPS location of the turn off is N 34º 32.213’ W 89º 39.018’. 34.519227, -89.652285.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Grave of Doll Calicott

The Grave of Doll Calicott

Doll Calicott lived a full life. Despite her death certificate listing her date of birth as Nov 19, 1890, Doll appears in the 1930 US Census aged 15 years, which would put her birthdate closer to Nov 19, 1915.

Born November 19, 1890 - Died April 2, 1996 - per death certificate
[Nov 19, 1915 - Died Apr 2, 1996] - per 1930 US Census
Her remains were buried at Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery
in Hernando, DeSoto County, Mississippi, USA 

Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery
970 Hwy 51 South in Hernando
DeSoto County, Mississippi, 38632

This cemetery sits on the church grounds, located west of I-55, east of Hwy 51 and south of the Nesbit crossroads (Hwy 51 and Pleasant Hill Rd.). The access road is just north of the Hernando Fire Station #2.

Note: An older, abandoned Bethlehem Cemetery sits on the East side of I-55 at the south end of Fronie Dr. It is no longer maintained.