(We've discussed the blues of the Mississippi Delta many times over the last 5+ years. This week, FBF presents a special encore post from 2009, less than a year before the blog was born and back in the days when Friday Blues Fix was a weekly email that went out on Friday mornings to a group of co-workers/blues lovers. Check out this "edited and expanded version" of my April 7, 2009 email post.)
Let’s go to the Mississippi Delta today, shall we? Today, we’ll hear some local musicians that may have slipped through the cracks, especially for newcomers to the blues.
First up is the legendary Otha Turner. Turner was a part-time musician and a full-time farmer. He specialized in playing fifes that he made himself from river cane.
were once proficient in the Delta, but Turner was one of the last ones when he
passed on in 2003. He was also famous
for his Labor Day picnics when he would slaughter and cook a goat in an iron
kettle for his friends while entertaining family with his band, the Rising Star
Fife and Drum Band. Eventually, it grew
from family gathering to include fans from all over the world. Turner
died in 2003 at the age of 94. His daughter Bernice, who had been living in a
nursing home for some time suffering from cancer, died that same day. She was
48. Funeral services were held for Otha and Bernice and a procession leading
to the cemetery was led by Turner’s band, with 13 year-old Sharde' Thomas,
Otha's granddaughter, at its head playing the fife taught to her by her
grandfather. Turner played many
traditional tunes with his band. This is
one of them…..”Granny, Will Your Dog Bite?”
Not the usual blues sounds you hear at FBF, but blues nonetheless.
Next up is R.L. Boyce, who got his start in Turner’s band, playing the bass drum. Boyce is also a guitarist and has weekly house parties of his own in
More traditional fare is coming up, with Terry “Harmonica” Bean. Bean is a relative youngster in the blues, in his mid 50’s. He plays guitar and harmonica and sings. He started out as a stud athlete in high school, working on a baseball scholarship, but suffered a career-ending injury. He took up the blues and now tours throughout the state and the country. He was also recorded for M for Mississippi, at the Ground Zero Blues Club, singing “I’m A Bluesman.” Bean once was only a harmonica player, but learned to play the guitar after his band stood him up a couple of times.
Speaking of one-man bands, here’s the aforementioned Bill Abel, from
When Corey Harris decided to record his Mississippi To Mali disc, he was going to use Othar Turner, but Turner passed away the week before recording was to begin. Harris decided to use Turner’s band with his granddaughter, Sharde' Thomas, in her grandfather’s place. Here’s one of their tracks from the disc, “Back Atcha,” with Harris joining the band on guitar. Mississippi To Mali took Harris from the Mississippi Delta to Africa and he used both Mississippians (Turner’s band along with Bobby Rush and Sam Carr) and
Here’s Harris, with accompaniment from Rush and Carr, singing an old Tommy Johnson classic, “Big Road Blues," also on Mississippi To Mali. Tommy Johnson was from
Finally, here’s some Delta Blues from a different perspective. Several years ago, I met a drummer from