Sela Ward

I first noticed Sela Ward when she played Helen Kimble in the 1993 thriller, The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones; however, she had already been acting professionally since 1983. Her role in The Fugitive was short as Helen is murdered by the one-armed man in the first few minutes of the film, and yet, her presence was powerful and it needed to be. After all, Dr. Richard Kimble’s (Ford) pursuit of the murderer and his confrontations with Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Jones) only make sense if the wife he lost was a powerful motivator. Well, at least as powerful as his desire to avoid death row and prove his innocence.

What I can tell you for certain is that Sela had a very short time to make a big impression and she pulled it off with ease. My wife enjoyed her stint as Teddy Reed on Sisters and as Lily Manning on the show Once and Again. Personally, I was most impressed by her portrayal of Jo Danville on CSI:New York. There was nothing like watching Sela interact with one of my favorite actors, Gary Sinise. In fact, I’d love to see a movie with Sela and Gary together either as action partners or a romantic couple or both because I really think they had great screen chemistry.


My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Sela Ward after a show at the Temple Theater in Meridian and we found her to be very gracious and appreciative of our interest in her career. It’s actually not that unusual to run into Sela or her family around town as Meridian is after all a small town! Most people I know who have had the pleasure do their best to give her space and not overwhelm her with attention, but sometimes people just can’t help but whisper, ‘Hey, Sela Ward just came in!” or “There’s Sela eating dinner.” Frankly, it’s kinda hard not to be just a little star struck and she seems to always take it in stride. I hope that she knows we are proud of her and how well she represents our community!

From Wikipedia:

Sela Ann Ward (born July 11, 1956) is an American actress, author, producer and spokeswoman, perhaps best known for her television roles as Teddy Reed on the American TV series Sisters (1991-1996) and as Lily Manning on Once and Again (1999-2002). She had a recurring role in the Fox medical drama House as Stacy Warner (2005-2006: 2012). She starred in the CBS police drama CSI: NY as Jo Danville (2010-2013).

Ward was born in Meridian, Mississippi to Annie Kate (née Boswell) and Granberry Holland “G.H.” Ward, Jr. Ward is the eldest of four children with a sister, Jenna, and two brothers, Brock and Granberry (Berry) III.

Ward attended the University of Alabama, where she performed as one of the Crimson Tide cheerleaders and joined Chi Omega sorority, and double-majored in art and advertising.

While working in New York City as a storyboard artist for multimedia presentations, the 5’7″ (170 cm) Ward began modeling to supplement her income. She was recruited by the Wilhelmina agency and was soon featured in television commercials promoting Maybelline cosmetics. Ward eventually moved to California to pursue acting and landed her first film role in the Burt Reynolds vehicle, The Man Who Loved Women, released in 1983.

Ward was originally offered both the role of Megan Donner on CSI: Miami and Susan Mayer on Desperate Housewives, but turned both down. The parts later went to Kim Delaney and Teri Hatcher, respectively. Ward said she did not want another lead role in an hour-long series due to the time away from her family it would require.

After meeting two foster children during a holiday trip home to Mississippi in 1997, Ward decided to meet a broader need for abused and neglected children by initiating and partially funding the creation of an emergency shelter for those awaiting placement in foster homes. Housed on a 30-acre  property once used as a Masonic-owned and -operated orphanage, the Hope Village for Children opened in Ward’s home town of Meridian in January 2002 and is intended to serve as a pilot for a nationwide network of similar shelters. Hope Village currently has a capacity for 44 residents and serves an average of 200 children per year.

A business district portion of 22nd Avenue in Meridian (from 6th Street to the Interstate 20 highway interchange has been named the “Sela Ward Parkway” in Ward’s honor.

In 2002, Ward published her autobiography, Homesick: A Memoir, through HarperCollins’ ReganBooks imprint.



Jerry Clower

When I was growing up, there was no one who could make my father laugh like Jerry Clower. The Mouth Of Mississippi hollered his way to the top and was always very proud of being “made in Mississippi”, Yazoo and Liberty, Mississippi to be specific.

From Wikipedia:

Howard Gerald “Jerry” Clower (September 28, 1926 – August 24, 1998) was a popular country comedian best known for his stories of the rural South and nicknamed “The Mouth of Mississippi”.

Clower was born in Liberty, Mississippi, and began a 2-year stint in the Navy immediately after graduating from high school in 1944. Upon his discharge, in 1946, he was a Radioman Third Class (RMN3) and had earned the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with two bronze service stars), and the World War II Victory Medal.

He studied agriculture at Mississippi State University, where he played college football and was a member of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity. After finishing school, in 1951, Clower worked as a county agent and later as a seed salesman. He became a fertilizer salesman for Mississippi Chemical in 1954.

By this time, he had developed a reputation for telling funny stories to boost his sales. Tapes of Clower’s speaking engagements wound up in the hands of Edwin “Big Ed” Wilkes and Bud Andrews in Lubbock, Texas, who had him make a better quality recording which they promoted. MCA Records later awarded “The Coon Hunt” a platinum album for sales in excess of $1 million at the retail level.

At first, Clower took orders at his speaking engagements, selling 8000 copies on the Lemon record label. In time, Wilkes sent a copy to Grant Turner at WSM radio in Nashville, and when Turner played it on the air, Clower said “that thing busted loose”. MCA was soon knocking on Clower’s door offering him a contract. Once MCA began distribution in 1971, Jerry Clower from Yazoo City, Mississippi Talkin’ retailed more than a million dollars over ten months and stayed in the Top 20 on the country charts for 30 weeks.

Clower made 27 full-length recordings in his 27-year career as a professional entertainer (not counting “best of” compilations). With one exception, all the recordings were released by MCA. The exception was Ain’t God Good which Clower recorded with MCA’s blessing at a worship service. Word Records promoted and distributed this title in 1977. Always a staunch Christian, this recording gave Clower an opportunity to present his personal testimony in a comfortable church setting. His stories often featured the Ledbetters, a quintessential Southern, agrarian clan.

Read more…

To celebrate his 20th Anniversary, Jerry filmed a performance Nashville in front of a large audience where he told some of his best stories, explained how he got into show business and told of his deeply committed relationship with Christ. Enjoy!


The Mississippi Mass Choir

From The Mississippi Mass Choir Website:

Serving God Through Song” is the motto and the mission of The Mississippi Mass Choir. Although striving to succeed in the gospel music industry, the choir’s purpose is to help establish the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Since its formation in 1988, the choir has won numerous honors and awards for its contributions to gospel music. The group has traveled throughout the United States, toured Japan and appeared in Nassau, the Bahamas.

After wrestling with the idea of forming a mass choir, Frank Williams, a member of The Jackson Southernaires and an executive in the gospel music division of Malaco Records, decided to form The Mississippi Mass Choir. First, he got the record company’s support. Then he began calling on Mississippi talents like David R. Curry Jr., who became the choir’s music director. Having the foundation laid, open auditions were held and more than 100 voices from across the state came together to form The Mississippi Mass Choir. After months of rehearsals, the choir recorded their first album and video The Mississippi Mass Choir Live on October 29, 1988.

In the spring of 1989, five weeks after their debut album was released, Billboard magazine certified it as the Number 1 Spiritual album in the country. The album stayed on the Billboard charts for a consecutive 45 weeks, setting a new record for gospel recordings. At the 9th annual James Cleveland GMWA Awards, the Mississippi Mass won the Choir of the Year-Contemporary, and Best New Artist of the Year-Traditional. They also walked away with four Stellar Awards in 1989 and nominated in several categories for the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards and Dove Awards.

The choir has ministered in song in over 40 states within the USA, including Alaska. They have traveled to Japan, Italy, Spain, Bahamas, and Greece; becoming the first gospel group to perform at the Acropolis. While attending the Umbria Jazz Gospel and Soul Easter Festival in Terni, Italy, the choir was invited to sing for Pope John Paul II at his summer residence.

In October of 2013 The Mississippi Mass Choir commemorate their 25th year Anniversary by recording their 10th “LIVE” album in front of a sold out crowd in Jackson, MS. On April 11th the choir released their new single “God’s On Your Side” featuring Sunday Best Winner Le Andria Johnson and Stan Jones.

Declaration of Dependence will be released in late May of 2014. The choir the begin a 10 city tour and 13 cities Spain tour.


  • 2010 Stellar Award “Thomas Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award
  • January, 2000 Mississippi Music Museum Hall of Fame
  • 1999 Grammy Award Grammy Nomination
  • 9th Annual James Cleveland Gospel Music Workshop of America Excellence Awards. Choir of The Year, Contemporary. Best New Artist of the Year
  • 1997 Grammy Award. Best Gospel Album by a Choir or Chorus, “I’ll See You in the Rapture”
  • 1997 Stellar Awards. Choir of the Year, ” I’ll See You in the Rapture”. Traditional Choir of the Year, “I’ll See You in the Rapture”
  • 1994 National Association of Record Merchandiser (NARM). Best Sellers Award
  • 1994 Stellar Awards,Traditional Choir of the Year,Traditional Album of the Year
  • 1994 Dove Award Nomination. Contemporary Black Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, “Your Grace and Mercy” from It Remains to be Seen
  • 1994 Soul Train Music Award,Best Gospel Artist
  • 1994 Billboard Magazine,Gospel Artist of the Year
  • 1994 3M Corporation, Innovation Award
  • 1994 Indie Award. Best Selling Gospel Album, “It Remains to be Seen”
  • 1994 Indie Award,Best Selling Gospel Album, “God Gets the Glory”
  • 1993 National Association of Record Merchandisers (NARM). Best Sellers Award
  • 1992 Billboard Magazine, Gospel Artist of the Year
  • 1992 Billboard Magazine. Gospel Record of the Year, “God Gets the Glory”
  • 1992 3M Corporation, Innovation Award
  • 1992 Stellar Awards, Traditional Choir of the Year. Choir of the Year
  • 1992 Stellar Nominations, Album of the Year. Video of the Year
  • 1991 Billboard, Album of the Year. “Rev.James Moore, Live with the Mississippi Mass Choir”
  • 1991 National Association of Record Merchandisers (NARM)
  • 1991 Best Sellers Award
  • 1991 Indie Award. Best Selling Gospel Album, “The Mississippi Mass Choir, Live!”
  • 1990 Billboard Special Achievement Award. Recognizing debut album at #1, 45 consecutive weeks.
  • 1990 Billboard Magazine. Gospel Record of the Year, “The Mississippi Mass Choir Live!”
  • 1990 Stellar Award. Album of the Year, “I’m Yours Lord”
  • 1990 Billboard Magazine Gospel Artist of the Year
  • 1989 Stellar Awards Choir of the Year. Album of the Year. Best New Artist. Best Gospel Video
  • 1989 Stellar Nomination Song of the Year, “Near the Cross”


Yes, we wear shoes.

Mississippi, Believe It!™ is a public service campaign designed to inform and educate the citizens of Mississippi, as well as the rest of the country, about the wonderful people, aspects and facts associated with the state of Mississippi.

The Mississippi, Believe It!™ Campaign was designed by The Cirlot Agency, a Mississippi-based, full-service, marketing, public relations and corporate communications firm. They are known throughout the nation as one of the top three advertising agencies in the defense industry, boasting such clients as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to name a few. The Agency, which is celebrating its 24th year in business this year, created the communication pieces as a gift to Mississippi in an effort to thank the state for supporting its business for over two decades.

Click to download the pdf!


Greg Cartmell

Artist Greg Cartmell

Artist Greg Cartmell At Work

Greg Cartmell was not born in Mississippi, but he moved to Meridian, MS 30 years ago. He was actually born in Plymouth, MA and is a register funeral director and embalmer. Greg is an artist known world-wide and he works with electric amps as well as he does with oil paints and gems.

Greg has painted portraits of many noteworthy individuals including First Lady Barbara Bush, Honorable G.V. Sonny Montgomery, Ray Charles, Mike Wallace, just to name a few. His landscape painting are highly coveted by anyone who sees them, but he also makes knives that are custom hand made works of art in and of themselves.

Greg has a blues band “Greg Cartmell and The Blues Messengers” which plays every Wednesday night at Weidmann’s in Meridian and various gigs around the state. Greg plays guitar, sings and plays harmonica.

Greg contributes to various charity organizations including Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi; American Heart Association – Meridian, Hattiesburg, Jackson; Juvenile Diabetes Association; American Kidney Association; Boys and Girls Club; Art of Healing; Hearts Against Aids; United Way; Hurricane Katrina Relief and many, many more. He freely devotes his time and talent to schools and youth of all ages.

Greg has been published and recognized in national magazines such as Art & Antiques, Art World News, Art Business News, The Artist Magazine, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Mississippi Magazine, and Millionaire Magazine.

Greg has a studio in Meridian where he teaches art classes to adults on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings.

Click to visit his website.

Peavey Electronics

Driven by an unmatched legacy of innovation and a total dedication to quality and reliability, Peavey Electronics embodies the pursuit of perfection in music and audio. It’s our unifying spirit. It’s proven. And it continues today.


For nearly five decades, Peavey has blazed its own path toward musical perfection. Founded by Hartley Peavey in 1965 as a one-man shop, today Peavey Electronics Corporation is one of the largest makers and suppliers of musical instruments, amplifiers and professional audio systems in the world—distributing more than 2,000 products to more than 130 countries.

Hartley has famously said, “In order to be better, by definition you must be different.” What makes Peavey different is a commitment to approaching business with a unique vision, from product design to distribution to being the largest independently owned manufacturer in the business. His quest has led to more than 180 patents and innovations in the way we hear and play music.

Hartley Peavey is not only the visionary, lead engineer and chief executive, but also the lynchpin that connects a rich history to a bright future. And his founding principles of quality, reliability and innovation are still the focus of engineering and manufacturing operations that span continents and languages, customs and cultures.

The Key Brothers


key-brothersFrom Meridian Regional Airport Website: Fred and Al Key grew up in Mississippi with a reputation for having “wheels in their heads.” After witnessing three wayward planes from a nearby WWI training base land in their family pasture, Al Key knew he wanted to fly. The brothers earned their pilot’s licenses at the Nicholas-Beazley Flying School, and later opened their own training school in Sedalia, Missouri.

In 1930, the Key Brothers returned to Meridian, MS where they became co-mangers of Meridian’s new Municipal Airport. The brothers and their wives resided in an upstairs apartment in the airport terminal building. During the Great Depression, the airport struggled and the brothers feared the airport would have to be sold and plowed down to it’s original use as a cotton field.

As an attempt to attract attention and notoriety for the struggling Meridian Municipal Airport, Fred and Al Key decided to plan a record-shattering endurance flight over the city of Meridian. Over the next few years, the brothers worked to innovate new ideas in mid-air refueling in order to fulfill their dream of breaking the current 553 hour world endurance record held by the Hunter brothers of Chicago.

For the task, Bill Ward loaned the Key Brothers his Curtiss Robin airplane, named the Ole Miss, which housed a single small five-cylinder engine not much larger than a washing machine. The endurance flight project was funded by community donations, and made possible with the work contributions of several skilled and inventive machinists, mechanics and welders. Working with their team of talented innovators, the brothers had to make several custom modifications to the Ole Miss airplane, as well as create new operating procedures for tasks such as refueling or engine maintenance, in order to make them possible mid-flight.

On June 4, 1935, Fred and Al Key took off in the Ole Miss in front of 100 supporters to begin their daunting task. One June 1, 1935, nearly a month later, the Ole Miss landed at Meridian Regional Airport to a crowd of 30,000 cheering people. Fred and Al Key had accomplished their goal of an amazing non-stop endurance flight that lasted over 27 non-stop days and nights – that’s 653 hours and 34 minutes!

Color Photo: Copyright Scott Steele

B. B. King

From The Official B.B. King Website: His reign as King of the Blues has been as long as that of any monarch on earth. Yet B.B. King continues to wear his crown well. At age 86, he is still light on his feet, singing and playing the blues with relentless passion. Time has no apparent effect on B.B., other than to make him more popular, more cherished, more relevant than ever. Don’t look for him in some kind of semi-retirement; look for him out on the road, playing for people, popping up in a myriad of T.V. commercials, or laying down tracks for his next album. B.B. King is as alive as the music he plays, and a grateful world can’t get enough of him.

BBKingFor more than half a century, Riley B. King – better known as B.B. King – has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them classics. He was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. In his youth, he played on street corners for dimes, and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, to pursue his music career. Memphis was where every important musician of the South gravitated, and which supported a large musical community where every style of African American music could be found. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most celebrated blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.

B.B.’s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a ten-minute spot on black-staffed and managed Memphis radio station WDIA. “King’s Spot,” became so popular, it was expanded and became the “Sepia Swing Club.” Soon B.B. needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King.

In the mid-1950s, while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly. Two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall. B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside, so he rushed back inside the burning building to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. When he later found out that the fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to his guitar to remind him never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman. Ever since, each one of B.B.’s trademark Gibson guitars has been called Lucille.

Soon after his number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues,” B.B. began touring nationally. In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small-town cafes, juke joints, and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, nationally and internationally, B.B. has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 40 years.

Over the years, B.B. has developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist’s vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In B.B.’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”

In 1968, B.B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day who idolized B.B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience. In “69, B.B. was chosen by the Rolling Stones to open 18 American concerts for them; Ike and Tina Turner also played on 18 shows.

B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received NARAS’ Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1987, and has received honorary doctorates from Tougaloo(MS) College in 1973; Yale University in 1977; Berklee College of Music in 1982; Rhodes College of Memphis in 1990; Mississippi Valley State University in 2002 and Brown University in 2007. In 1992, he received the National Award of Distinction from the University of Mississippi.

In 1991, B.B. King’s Blues Club opened on Beale Street in Memphis, and in 1994, a second club was launched at Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles. A third club in New York City’s Times Square opened in June 2000 and most recently two clubs opened at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in January 2002. In 1996, the CD-Rom On The Road With B.B. King: An Interactive Autobiography was released to rave reviews. Also in 1996, B.B.’s autobiography, “Blues All Around Me” (written with David Ritz for Avon Books) was published. In a similar vein, Doubleday published “The Arrival of B.B. King” by Charles Sawyer, in 1980.

B.B. continues to tour extensively, averaging over 250 concerts per year around the world. Classics such as “Payin’ The Cost To Be The Boss,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” How Blue Can You Get,” “Everyday I Have The Blues,” and “Why I Sing The Blues” are concert (and fan) staples. Over the years, the Grammy Award-winner has had two #1 R&B hits, 1951′s “Three O’Clock Blues,” and 1952′s “You Don’t Know Me,” and four #2 R&B hits, 1953′s “Please Love Me,” 1954′s “You Upset Me Baby,” 1960′s “Sweet Sixteen, Part I,” and 1966′s “Don’t Answer The Door, Part I.” B.B.’s most popular crossover hit, 1970′s “The Thrill Is Gone,” went to #15 pop.

William Faulkner

william_faulknerFrom William Faulkner (1897-1962), who came from an old southern family, grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. He joined the Canadian, and later the British, Royal Air Force during the First World War, studied for a while at the University of Mississippi, and temporarily worked for a New York bookstore and a New Orleans newspaper. Except for some trips to Europe and Asia, and a few brief stays in Hollywood as a scriptwriter, he worked on his novels and short stories on a farm in Oxford.

In an attempt to create a saga of his own, Faulkner has invented a host of characters typical of the historical growth and subsequent decadence of the South. The human drama in Faulkner’s novels is then built on the model of the actual, historical drama extending over almost a century and a half Each story and each novel contributes to the construction of a whole, which is the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County and its inhabitants. Their theme is the decay of the old South, as represented by the Sartoris and Compson families, and the emergence of ruthless and brash newcomers, the Snopeses. Theme and technique – the distortion of time through the use of the inner monologue are fused particularly successfully in The Sound and the Fury (1929), the downfall of the Compson family seen through the minds of several characters. The novel Sanctuary (1931) is about the degeneration of Temple Drake, a young girl from a distinguished southern family. Its sequel, Requiem For A Nun (1951), written partly as a drama, centered on the courtroom trial of a Negro woman who had once been a party to Temple Drake’s debauchery. In Light in August (1932), prejudice is shown to be most destructive when it is internalized, as in Joe Christmas, who believes, though there is no proof of it, that one of his parents was a Negro. The theme of racial prejudice is brought up again in Absalom, Absalom! (1936), in which a young man is rejected by his father and brother because of his mixed blood. Faulkner’s most outspoken moral evaluation of the relationship and the problems between Negroes and whites is to be found in Intruder In the Dust (1948).

In 1940, Faulkner published the first volume of the Snopes trilogy, The Hamlet, to be followed by two volumes, The Town (1957) and The Mansion (1959), all of them tracing the rise of the insidious Snopes family to positions of power and wealth in the community. The reivers, his last – and most humorous – work, with great many similarities to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, appeared in 1962, the year of Faulkner’s death.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

Yes, We Can Read.

Mississippi, Believe It!™ is a public service campaign designed to inform and educate the citizens of Mississippi, as well as the rest of the country, about the wonderful people, aspects and facts associated with the state of Mississippi.

The Mississippi, Believe It!™ Campaign was designed by The Cirlot Agency, a Mississippi-based, full-service, marketing, public relations and corporate communications firm. They are known throughout the nation as one of the top three advertising agencies in the defense industry, boasting such clients as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to name a few. The Agency, which is celebrating its 24th year in business this year, created the communication pieces as a gift to Mississippi in an effort to thank the state for supporting its business for over two decades.

Click to download the pdf!


Robert Johnson

robert-johnsonFrom the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation: One hundred years ago, a boy-child was born in Mississippi – a dirt-poor, African-American who would grow up, learn to sing and play the blues, and eventually achieve worldwide renown. In the decades after his death, he has become known as the King of the Delta Blues Singers, his music expanding in influence to the point that rock stars of the greatest magnitude – the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers – all sing his praise and have recorded his songs.

That boy-child was Robert Johnson, an itinerant blues singer and guitarist who lived from 1911 to 1938. He recorded 29 songs between 1936 and ‘37 for the American Record Corporation, which released eleven 78rpm records on their Vocalion label during Johnson¹s lifetime, and one after his death.

Most of these tunes have attained canonical status, and are now considered enduring anthems of the genre: “Cross Road Blues,” “Love In Vain,” “Hellhound On My Trail,” “I Believe I¹ll Dust My Broom,” “Walking Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Like many bluesmen of his day, Johnson plied his craft on street corners and in jook joints, ever rambling and ever lonely – and writing songs that romanticized that existence. But Johnson accomplished this with such an unprecedented intensity, marrying his starkly expressive vocals with a guitar mastery, that his music has endured long after the heyday of country blues and his own short life.

Never had the hardships of the world been transformed into such a poetic height; never had the blues plumbed such an emotional depth. Johnson took the intense loneliness, terrors and tortuous lifestyle that came with being an African-American in the South during the Great Depression, and transformed that specific and very personal experience into music of universal relevance and global reach. “You want to know how good the blues can get?” Keith Richards once asked, answering his own question: “Well, this is it.” Eric Clapton put it more plainly: “I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson.”

The power of Johnson’s music has been amplified over the years by the fact that so little about him is known and what little biographical information we now have only revealed itself at an almost glacial pace. Myths surrounding his life took over: that he was a country boy turned ladies’ man; that he only achieved his uncanny musical mastery after selling his soul to the devil. Even the tragedy of his death seemed to grow to mythic proportion: being poisoned by a jealous boyfriend then taking three days to expire, even as the legendary talent scout John Hammond was searching him out to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

In 1990, Sony Legacy produced and released the 2-CD box set Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings to widespread critical acclaim and, for a country blues reissue, unprecedented sales. The Complete Recordings proved the existence of a potential market for music from the deepest reaches of Sony¹s catalog, especially if buoyed by a strong story with mainstream appeal. Johnson¹s legend continues to attract an ever-widening audience, with no sign of abating. If, in today¹s world of hip-hop and heavy metal, a person knows of only one country blues artist, odds are it is Robert Johnson.

Elvis Presley

PresleyPromo1954From Wikipedia: Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer, musician, and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as “the King of Rock and Roll”, or simply, “the King”.

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, when he started to work with Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was an early popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who was to manage the singer for more than two decades. Presley’s first RCA single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, released in January 1956, was a number-one hit in the US. He became the leading figure of rock and roll after a series of network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.

In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender. In 1958, he was drafted into military service: He resumed his recording career two years later, producing some of his most commercially successful work before devoting much of the 1960s to making Hollywood movies and their accompanying soundtrack albums, most of which were critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed televised comeback special, Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley was featured in the first globally broadcast concert via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. Several years of prescription drug abuse severely deteriorated his health, and he died in 1977 at the age of 42.

Presley is one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres, including pop, blues and gospel, he is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, with estimated album sales of around 600 million units worldwide.[9] He was nominated for 14 Grammys and won three, receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.


Jimmie Rodgers

jimmie_rodgersFrom The Jimmie Rodgers Museum: Jimmie Rodgers was born on September 8, 1897, in Meridian, Mississippi, the youngest of three sons. His mother died when he was very young, and Jimmie spent the next few years with relatives in southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama. He eventually returned home to live with his father, Aaron Rodgers, a maintenance foreman on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, who had settled with a new wife in Meridian.

Jimmie’s affinity for entertaining and the road developed early. By age 13, he had twice organized traveling shows, only to be brought home by his father. The first time, he stole some of his sister-in-law’s bedsheets to make a crude tent. Upon his return to Meridian, he paid for the sheets with money he had made from his show! For the second trip, he charged to his father (without his father’s knowing) an expensive canvas tent. Not long after that, Mr. Rodgers found Jimmie his first railroad job, as water boy on his father’s gang. A few years later, Jimmie became a brakeman on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, a position secured by his oldest brother, Walter, a conductor on the line.

In 1924, at the age of 27, Jimmie contracted tuberculosis. The disease temporarily ended his railroad career but gave him the chance to get back to his first love, entertainment. He organized a traveling road show and performed across the Southeast until a cyclone destroyed his tent. He returned to railroad work as a brakeman on the east coast of Florida, but eventually his illness cost him his job. He relocated to Tucson, Arizona (thinking the dry climate might lessen the effects of his TB), and worked as a switchman for the Southern Pacific. The job lasted less than a year, and the Rodgers family (which by then included wife Carrie and daughter Anita) settled back in Meridian in 1927.

Later that year, Jimmie traveled to Asheville, North Carolina. In February 1927, Asheville’s first radio station, WWNC, went on the air, and on April 18, Jimmie and Otis Kuykendall performed for the first time on the station. A few months later, Jimmie recruited a group from Tennessee called the Tenneva Ramblers and they secured a weekly slot on the station as the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers. A review in The Asheville Times remarked that “Jimmy [sic] Rodgers and his entertainers managed … with a type of music quite different than the station’s usual material, but a kind that finds a cordial reception from a large audience.” Another columnist said, “Whoever that fellow is, he either is a winner or he is going to be.”

The Tenneva Ramblers hailed from Bristol, Tennessee, and in late July of 1927, Rodgers’ bandmates got word that Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company was coming to Bristol to record area musicians. Rodgers and the group arrived in Bristol on August 3 and auditioned for Peer, who agreed to record them the next day. That night the band argued about how it would be billed on the record, which led Jimmie to declare, “All right … I’ll just sing one myself.”

On August 4, Jimmie Rodgers recorded two songs: “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” and “The Soldier’s Sweetheart.” For the recordings, he received $100.

The recordings were released on October 7, 1927, to modest success. In November of that year, Peer recorded Rodgers again at the Victor studios in Camden, New Jersey. Four songs made it out of this session: “Ben Dewberry’s Final Run,” “Mother Was a Lady,” “Away out on the Mountain” and “T for Texas.” In the next two years, “T for Texas” (released as “Blue Yodel”) sold nearly half a million copies, rocketing Rodgers into stardom.

In the next few years, Rodgers did a movie short, “The Singing Brakeman”, and made various recordings across the country. He toured the Midwest with humorist Will Rogers. On July 16, 1930, he even recorded “Blue Yodel No. 9” (also known as “Standin’ on the Corner”) with a young jazz trumpeter named Louis Armstrong, whose wife, Lillian, played piano on the track.

Rodgers’ next to last recordings were made in August 1932 in Camden, and it was clear that TB was getting the better of him. He had given up touring by then but did have a weekly radio show in San Antonio, Texas, where he’d relocated when “T for Texas” became a hit.

In 1933, Rodgers traveled to New York for recording sessions beginning May 17. He completed four songs on the first take. But there was no question that Rodgers was running out of track. When he returned to the studio after a day’s rest, he had to record sitting down and soon retreated to his hotel, hoping to regain enough energy to finish the songs he’d been rehearsing.

The recording engineer hired two session musicians to help Rodgers when he came back to the studio a few days later. Together, they recorded a few songs, including “Mississippi Delta Blues.” For his last song of the session, Jimmie recorded “Years Ago” by himself, finishing as he’d started six years earlier, just a man and his guitar. Within 36 hours, “The Father of Country Music” was dead.