Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Mississippi Manifest Destiny: Leland's Blues Murals

Another attraction Leland, Mississippi has to offer is its four murals saluting blues music. In my last My Mississippi Manifest Destiny post, I reported on the town's Highway 61 Blues Museum.

The mural on the left salutes the many blues artists with roots in the Leland area. The musicians pictured are: Caleb Emphrey, Sam Chatmon, Eugene Powell, Lil' Dave Thompson, Alex "Little Bill" Wallace, Eddie Cusic, Willie Foster, Johnny Horton, Joe Frank Carollo, Harry "Bub" Branton, Pat Thomas, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Jimmy Reed, Boogaloo Ames, Little Milton and James "Son" Thomas. Thanks to the Highway 61 Blues Museum for the identifications.

Of course the King of the Blues in B.B. King, the queen is Lucille, his guitar. Both are pictured on the right. King grew up in nearby Indianola. Before I left Morton Grove for my May trip, I packed loads of CDs, but amazingly only one blues disc, B.B. King's legendary 1971 Live in Cook County Jail, one of the greatest live albums ever recorded--of any genre. Just one year after his greatest success, "The Thrill Is Gone," B.B. is at the top of his game performing for a captive audience in Chicago.

The blues isn't just documented in Leland, it's played there too. On the left is the mural dedicated to a local favorite, Doc's Bees. That's Doc on the saxophone, they play regularly at Lillo's Italian Restaurant on Leland's east end.

Jimmy Reed, who died in 1976, is not as well known as B.B. King, but odds are you've heard his biggest hit, "Big Boss Man." It's been performed by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead, and The Who. Reed was born in Dunleith, a few miles east of Leland. He spent much of his adult life in Chicago and Gary, Indiana--he worked in a meat packing plant in that northwest Indiana city.

The first rock concert I attended was on my 18th birthday--December 8, 1979 at Chicago's International Amphitheatre--it was The Who. Just five days earlier 11 fans were crushed to death as they tried to enter Riverfront Coliseum to claim their Who concert seats. But on my birthday I heard "Big Boss Man" for the first time; here is The Who from that night performing Reed's most famous song.

Next to the B.B. King mural is a Mississippi Blues Commission historical marker noting that it is on the spot of the former intersection of Highways 61 and 10. It was there that local blues performers entertained for tip money train passengers who enjoyed not only a meal in town, but of course the music of the Delta.

I'll leave the final words to the King of the Blues:

Gospel songs got me encouragement. Blues tunes got me a tip and a beer. Do I really need to say anything else? (Source: Marlo Carter Fitzpatrick's Mississippi Off The Beaten Path.

Next: Birthplace of Kermit the Frog

For more about the blues, visit the Mississippi, The Birthplace of American Music blog.

Previous My Mississippi Manifest Destiny posts:
Highway 61 Blues Museum
Teddy Bear
Coca-Cola museums
Prison laborer in Louisiana
Natchez Part Three
Natchez Part Two, Forks of the Road
Natchez Part One
The Father of Waters
The Natchez Trace Part Four, Ghost Town
The Natchez Trace Part Three
The Natchez Trace Part Two, Indian Mounds
The Natchez Trace Part One
$aving$ in Tupelo
Where Elvis bought his first guitar
Elvis Presley's birthplace
The Battle of Tupelo
Shiloh Part Four
Shiloh Part Three
Shiloh Part Two
Shiloh Part One
Carl Perkins
The Varsity Theatre in Martin, Tennessee
Lincoln and Kentucky

Vicksburg-related posts:

Vicksburg Battlefield Part Five
Vicksburg Battlefield, Part Four, The USS Cairo
Vicksburg Battlefield, Part Three, Illinois Memorial
Mississippi River at Vicksburg
Vicksburg Battlefield, Part Two, State Memorials
Vicksburg Battlefield, Part One
Jewish Mississippi
Memorial Day tribute to our ally Australia
Memorial Day--a time to remember

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