1 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
The Key to
ENTERTAINMENT Vicksburg is your key to entertainment this fall. Enjoy bike rides and races over the Mississippi River, the Old Court House Flea Market, music festivals and more in this remarkable river city. Vicksburg is a place bursting at the seams with local culture, character, art, entertainment and outdoor adventure. With sweeping views of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg perfectly blends Southern culture and heritage with exciting modern-day attractions. Mark your calendars for Bridging the Blues Vicksburg events featuring on Grady Champion on September 27th & September 28th and Mr. Sipp “The Mississippi Blues Child” on October 4th and 5th.
www.keytothesouth.com www.facebook.com/visitvicksburg @VisitVicksburg
Scan the QR code to visit Vicksburg’s mobile site and start planning your vacation today.
2 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
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pend this Holiday Season on the most opulent overnight riverboat in America! See historic plantations decked in holiday finery. Visit wholesome river towns for a uniquely authentic American experience. Enjoy high quality entertainment every night! 9-Day Holiday Itineraries Through the Antebellum South: THANKSGIVING Roundtrip New Orleans November 22, 2013
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call your travel agent or 888-802-5867 today! www.AQSC.com *Offer expires October 31, 2013 and is valid on new bookings only. Savings of 15% is valid on these 2013 voyage dates: 11/22, 12/6, 12/13, 12/20, 12/27. **Book Early and Save $600 per stateroom ($300 per person) on any of our 2014 American Queen or American Empress 7-day or longer voyages when you pay-in-full at time of booking by December 15, 2013. Offer expires December 15, 2013. Port Charges of $69 to $159 per person are additional and not included in the fare. Offers do not apply to groups. Additional terms and conditions may apply.
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OR, come to Greenville in autumn and enjoy both. Count on a break in summer’s heat and humidity to re-boot your energy, and a full lineup of revelry to renew your spirit. Authentic Delta blues, food, festivities—dare we say paradise? This fall!
36th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival / September 21 3rd Annual Sam Chatmon Blues Festival in Hollandale / September 28 Mighty Mississippi Music Festival including Highway 61 Blues Festival / October 4-6 2nd Annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival / October 17-19 3rd Annual Leland Frog Festival / October 26
www.visitgreenville.org 1-800-467-3582 4 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
One of only 34 institutions in the nation accredited in all four arts disciplines: Art and Design, Dance, Music and Theatre.
Hosting more than 300 arts events each year. Art exhibitions • Concerts • Dance performances • Theatre productions
Calendar of September 9, 2013 | 8 p.m. School of Music Faculty Artist Series: Rachel Taratoot Ciraldo and Nicholas Ciraldo, flute and guitar Bay Street Presbyterian Church Hattiesburg, Mississippi
October 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 2013 | 7:30 p.m. October 6, 13, 2013 | 2 p.m. Department of Theatre presents Rent by Jonathan Larson Southern Miss Tatum Theatre Hattiesburg, Mississippi
October 11, 2013 | 8 p.m. Symphony Orchestra performance The Beach Boys with the Symphony Pops Orchestra Beau Rivage Casino and Resort Biloxi, Mississippi
September 12 – October 16, 2013 Department of Art and Design Faculty Show Oddfellows Gallery Hattiesburg, Mississippi
October 3 – November 1, 2013 Department of Art and Design presents: In Becoming Stone: The Wood-fired Sculpture of Scott Ross Southern Miss Cook Library Art Gallery Hattiesburg, Mississippi
October 13, 2013 | 6 p.m. School of Music Faculty Artist Series: Lecture Recital on Beethoven’s Spring SonataFeaturing Dr. Stephen Redfield, violin, and Rachel Heard, fortepiano Parkway Heights United Methodist Church Hattiesburg, Mississippi
September 16, 2013 | 7:30 p.m. School of Music Connoisseur Series: Astral Project (Jazz) Southern Miss Bennett Auditorium Hattiesburg, Mississippi
October 3, 2013 | 7:30 p.m. Symphony Orchestra, 94th Season Opening Night : Eternal Elegance Southern Miss Bennett Auditorium Hattiesburg, Mississippi
For ticket information and a complete listing of arts events at Southern Miss, visit usm.edu/arts. MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
CONTENTS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2013
PUBLISHER AND PRESIDENT ��������������������Marianne Todd CO-PUBLISHER AND DIRECTOR OF MARKETING ���������������������������������Ken Flynt CREATIVE DIRECTOR / DESIGNER ���������������������� Shawn T. King ADVERTISING SALES
Jeff Martin, Memphis - 901-834-9111 Cindy Thompson - 601-479-6202 Cindy@MississippiLegends.com David Battaglia - 601-421-8654 David@MississippiLegends.com Editorial - 601-604-2963 Editor@MississippiLegends.com Contributing writers: Joe Lee, Chris Staudinger, Eric Stone, Kara Martinez Bachman, Stephen Corbett, Lisa Foster, Sally Durkin, Shirley Waring, Kim Welsh
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or reprinted without express permission from the publisher. The opinions and views expressed by our contributors, writers and editors are their own. Various views from other professionals may also be expressed. Neither LEGENDS nor Blue South Publishing Corporation is endorsing or guaranteeing the products or quality of services expressed in advertisements. All advertisers assume liability for all content (including text representation and illustration) of advertisements printed and assume responsibility for any resulting claims against LEGENDS or its affiliates. Materials, photographs and written pieces to be considered for inclusion in LEGENDS may be sent to P.O. Box 3663, Meridian, MS 39303. Unsolicited materials will not be returned. LEGENDS is free within the State of Mississippi and is distributed through tourism offices, welcome centers, restaurants, theaters, casinos and institutions of higher learning. If your business, agency or industry would like to offer LEGENDS, please contact us at Editor@ MississippiLegends.com. LEGENDS is available outside the State of Mississippi at fine retailers everywhere. Please contact us for a list of where to find.
The life of Morse Gist
Bridging the Blues in Vicksburg
Little Freddie King
Growing the Cradle’s talent, one artist at a time
Blues greats head to the river city for soul searching rhythms
You’ve never seen entertainment like this
Adventures in Broadcasting
Between Glass Plates
Flight over Natchez
Expatriates of the Mississippi Delta
That Southern Hospitality
Behind the scenes of Mississippi Roads
The lives of Victorian Natchez
Annual balloon race closes in on three decades
“You’re moving … where?”
Monmouth Plantation’s Mint Juleps and moss-covered oaks
6 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
A Delta Music Emporium Builds a Legacy
The Memphis Music Foundation
For more information, write to Editor@MississippiLegends.com. More information, including a comprehensive, up-to-date calendar, may be found at www.MississippiLegends.com
ABOUT OUR COVER The women of Natchez high society often posed in advertisements for the town’s merchants. This photograph was salvaged from a discarded glass plate. It is now part of a collection of more than 20,000 images saved by internist Dr. Thomas Gandy. (Photo courtesy The Gandy Collection, LSU)
So long as it moves
Contributing photographers: Eric Stone, Kim Welsh, Sally Durkin, Joe Worthem LEGENDS welcomes your calendar submissions. Submissions are posted free of charge on our website at www.MississippiLegends.com. Please refer to calendar/ submit your event. Calendar submissions for consideration in LEGENDS’ print calendar may be sent to Editor@MississippiLegends.com.
The Music of Wes Lee
Riccobono’s Panola Street Cafe
Uptown NOLA flavor in a neighborhood gem
Meridian Temple Theater presents
LIVE ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT Saturday Oct. 12 at 7:00
SILENT FILM SATURDAYS Tickets available at the Door
www.meridiantempletheater.com 8 â€˘ OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
2320 8th Street - Meridian, MS
es Lee is a musician who comes by his trade honestly. Is he a bluesman? Sure. Folk artist? Yep. Jazz aficionado? You bet. R&B, Dixieland, classical, rock, country, gospel, disco – as long as music has got soul, honesty, authenticity and a big sound, he’s all for it. His father was a a trumpet player, a band director and a member of the Alabama Hall of Fame. Lee started by playing horns, mostly trombone. And the music that played in his home was all over the map. “As a kid I got a feeling for music in general. I love the dynamics of it, music that moves, it doesn’t matter what kind it is,” he says. “The ebb and flow and movement, every song is like a movie with an intro, a middle and a climax. Every great song is like that. It doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. I like a lot of really loud bombastic stuff. I love Stan Kenton.” By that, Lee doesn’t mean he wants his music
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exploding out of a wall of Marshall amps at near nuclear bomb decibel levels, but whether it’s an acoustic guitar and his own big voice, or the nine-piece band with a horn section that he started out with, he wants his sound large. “I played horns, went on the road with my first band. I didn’t even think about guitar, we had a great guitar player who played everything. We were wide open. It started out with us going to make fun of the Blues Brothers. By the time I graduated high school we were playing all the time – Stevie Wonder to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The horn section would play Rush, then we’d play a Peter Frampton tune. The horns might start with a four-part chorale that sounded like being in church. It was really exciting. But it was really expensive to travel with that big a band.” So he ended up in Meridian. “And there was nothing going on, no community jazz band, no horn bands or anything. I didn’t have Whether he’s playing a solo or is accompanied by a nine-piece band, Wes Lee likes his sound large. The singer/songwriter prefers authentic music based on personal experience.
an outlet, and I was getting jumpy, so I bought a guitar. I didn’t want to know anything about it, just whack away at it and see what kind of noise I could get out of it. “The sound is freedom of expression. It’s no holds barred. A really good band or musician is just going, not thinking about it. Just get out of the way and let it rip. It doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. When Otis Redding would get cranked up on something [his] rhythm section didn’t know where he was going, it was flying without a net. That’s why it still connects.” When he’s playing, Lee connects to his music with his eyes closed. “I try to dial it in, like a radio channel, just perceive it. I like the sound big and full. I want my monitors surrounding me like a cloak. I want to feel it. I play resonator guitars that are loud and powerful and balanced. Even when I sit by myself they are big and full and I sing strong. It’s not the power of [volume], it’s the power of the soul. It’s all soul music. Improvisational music is all soul music.” That said, Lee is a singer/songwriter and like other artists, he has a method to his madness. “There’s topics that are timeless. Turn on a TV, open a book, go see a movie – those stories are there and they work. [But] be honest. Write about your own experiences or when you write about someone else channel it through your own observations. Don’t just try to come up with something, use your eyes, ask your own questions, follow that.” That’s also how he keeps his songs fresh, even when they are rooted in music with deep traditions and conventions like the blues or folk. “If you’re honest with it and put it in your own words it’s always going to be different. It’s like the sunset is the sunset, but it’s still different every day. While a group of people might like the same kind of music, might like the same things, it’s not going to be the same to each of them. They all hear it and see it in their own way. “I don’t have one set way of writing songs. It sounds clichéd but driving certain roads can create a drum pattern in the tires and I might start humming along to it and that might lead to something else and maybe then to a lyric going along with the [rhythm]. I don’t have a set pattern or style. If it’s got soul and I like it, I want to play it.” A snowstorm is partly responsible for his recent album, “The Shack Sessions.” “I was playing in a club in Greenwood, staying out in a cabin and got [sort of ] snowed in. I had a two-track recorder in my van so I brought it inside, set up facing a corner of the room like they say Robert Johnson did, and played. It was all unplanned. It was really cold and I couldn’t go anywhere so I figured I should just do this. They were all songs from when I was trying to find my way, learning guitar and the people I listened to. I had to turn the heater off when I was recording because it made too much noise. I’d play a song, get too cold to play and turn the heater back on. If you listen
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on headphones you can hear the wind howling in the background. All this music is what got me right here right now. And I ended [the session] with a song I wrote myself in that same style.” “Six Pack of Soul,” Lee’s other latest release, brings him back to a full band complete with a horn section churning out a popping Memphis-style
sound. The idea of a six-pack, inspired by an old Otis Redding record called “Soul Sixpack,” is a concession to the current market. “I’m an old-fashioned guy who wants [albums,] not just your signature song, but your other stuff. But other folks don’t like that.” These days people download music by the song more often than by the album, “like that fancy beer where you go to the market and put together your own six-pack.” Singing and songwriting aside, Lee plays an estimated 200 gigs a year, the bread and butter of his existence. “I want it live. I want to hear it the way it sounds when you’re really there. Live with no net. That’s the great joy and beauty of it.” L WANT TO LISTEN? www.wesleemusic.com PICTURED ABOVE: Snow in Greenwood became the impetus for Lee’s release “Shack Sessions,” where he drew inspiration from a Robert Johnson style of recording. The wind can be heard howling in the background on some of the tracks.
Ronnie Dunn 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. Thursday 9/19/13
Blues Traveler 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. Ricky Skaggs with Bruce Hornsby Sunday 10/6/13 with Kentucky Thunder 6 p.m. Stuart Little Friday 10/11/13
Michael McDonald 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. TURTLE ISLAND QUARTET with guest Nellie McKay*: Friday 10/25/13 A Flower is a Lovesome Thing 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. *In Collaboration with Monterey International
Fahrenheit 451 6 p.m.
Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Tuesday 11/19/13 Batman Smells 7 p.m.
Ronnie Milsap 7:30 p.m. | Pre-Show 6 p.m. Peter Pan Friday 1/31/14
For more information scan the bar code.
Women of Ireland 7:30 p.m.
Join us for Pre-Show Parties in the Grand Lobby before select shows.
2200 5th Street • Meridian, Mississippi 601-696-2200 • www.msurileycenter.com
WORDS BY JOE LEE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIANNE TODD
roadcasting legend Walt Grayson learned something important in elementary school that paid off years later for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and the scores of viewers who love its Mississippi Roads program. “When I was in third grade, I was the person called on during show-and-tell who got to announce to the class that the Russians had put Sputnik into orbit,” Grayson said. “And the thrill I got that day—of me finding out something and then being able to re-tell what I had discovered—is what I carry to my job.” A native of Greenville and a member of the Associated Press Mississippi Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Grayson’s considerable storytelling and photography skills were on full display when Roads was revived in 1999 after a hiatus of several years. Funding issues again shut down the program for two years before an aggressive pledge campaign restored it to the airwaves in 2012. The mission of the show is to get viewers excited about not only visiting other Mississippi communities, but helping to put a jolt in those economies. The Mississippi Roads Facebook page
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PICTURED ABOVE: Walt Grayson watches. Miranda Leggett of Boguechitto, Miss.,. “Mississippi Watermelon Queen,” during the. Mize Watermelon fest seed spitting contest.. MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
Walt Grayson rehearses his script for Mississippi Roads in the Mississippi heat during the Mize Watermelon Festival, downtown Mize, Miss.
serves as a forum for Mississippians who’d love to have Grayson and the Roads team profile an interesting person, event or venue in their area. “We were thrilled to be able to bring it back,” said Margaret McPhillips, public relations director. “We had a pledge special where we asked if viewers wanted Roads to come back, and we had an overwhelming response. The funding went to the season we premiered last fall. We asked for whatever they could afford—$10 or $50 —and it was very gratifying to us. “I remember watching Roads years and years ago, in the beginning,” Grayson said. “It was very stiff and formal. I don’t think anyone even used consonants in their scripts. We are a lot more real now. I’m not pretending to be a member of Mensa when I deliver my lines. And frankly, I don’t think we would have the people coming up to say hello to us when we are shooting on location if I tried to act like I was. We are very real. We pick meaningful topics as subjects of our stories. Mechanically, we are constantly striving to not only tell better stories, but tell stories better.” “I’ve worked with a lot of talent over the years, and working with
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Walt is like working with my favorite uncle,” said Key Ivy, the executive producer of Roads and an MPB employee for two decades. “When we go on the road—especially a small town—we have people walk right up to him on camera and say, ‘We love you. Watch you all the time.’ People feel like they’ve known him their entire lives. I got an email from a viewer in Wiggins who said they decide what they’re going to do on the weekend based on watching the show.” “Key and John (Allen, the producer-director for Roads) start narrowing down where they’re going to visit a year in advance,” said McPhillips. “They get lots of comments from folks to come visit, and we are open to suggestions.” Grayson has seen a little of everything in his four-plus decades of broadcasting. He loves writing, photography, meeting new people and seeing fascinating places around his home state. He enjoys history, especially what’s left from eras ranging from the Colonial days to the Civil War years. “I like the stories I have gotten to do about places I have heard about since I was a kid,” Grayson said. “Longwood in Natchez, for example.
My sixth grade teacher came back after the Christmas holidays that year bubbling over about this antebellum mansion in Natchez that was never completed on the inside because the northern workers dropped their tools and went back home when the Civil War broke out. And those tools were still lying right where they dropped them. Finally going to Longwood and seeing those tools for myself was really special. “I like stories where I learn something I didn’t know before. Like when I went to Tupelo Hardware to shoot a story about that being where Elvis got his first guitar—and learned a guitar was not what he originally wanted. He had been eyeing a .22 rifle but his mother wouldn’t let him have it because it was too dangerous. He reluctantly took the guitar as consolation for not being allowed to have the gun. And the world was changed in the process.” Mississippi Roads and other MPB offerings may look seamless on the air and almost easy to put together, but there are lots of challenges involved in readying any television show for broadcast. Almost every shoot, whether indoors or outside, has a certain amount of unanticipated noise that must be dealt with. “Walt refers to it as the leafblower orchestra,” Allen said. “Everything is perfectly quiet when we have him miked up and are ready to shoot. Then there’s a loud noise such as a vacuum cleaner, motorcycle, lawnmower, car alarm. And we have to stop and wait for it to be quiet again.” “The second or third season I was working with Walt, we were in northwest Mississippi and needed to get close to the Mississippi River to have it as a background,” Ivy said. “The river was real low, but Walt said that if we walked over a sandbar, we would be in a spot where we had what we needed. “We went there with our heavy equipment, but everywhere we looked were sandbars—no water—and we must have gone 30 more minutes before we finally found it. We ended up doing a perfect standup with a tugboat going by. Then we made the trek all the way back to the van (with all the heavy equipment), and on the way out of there we found an
actual exit for the river just down the road—we hadn’t gone far enough. Not funny then, but we had lots of laughs about it later.” The Roads team has many humorous behind-the-scenes stories to tell, such as the year they were at the annual Walter Anderson Festival in Ocean Springs: Grayson, who was doing a walk-and-talk on camera, needed to hit a mark and drop his checkbook at the point where he would conclude. It took a while to finish because well-meaning folks (thinking Grayson was about to lose his checkbook) kept picking it up and handing it to him. Another item was eventually chosen to serve as the mark. There have also been unfortunate moments, such as the feature on Richard Waters of Gulfport (who invented a musical instrument called the Waterphone) which had to be cancelled when Waters passed away a week before the segment was filmed. “We’ve had last-minute weatherrelated cancellations, and light is constantly changing,” Ivy said. “We start putting shows together a long time in advance, and segments don’t always come together like we hope. We have a wonderfully experienced team of producers and photographers, though, who are really good at rolling with the punches and working around challenges and getting through them.” “We are fortunate to have a bunch of people who love the medium of broadcasting,” Grayson said of his MPB colleagues. “And who then are passionate enough about their specialty within the medium— photography, writing, editing, audio—to be satisfied with nothing but the best that can be produced under each circumstance we work under. “Sometimes I get impatient with the photographer and producer continually peering into the camera viewfinder and finessing a half hour over whether the back light should be closer or farther away from the back of my head … for a line that will be on the air ten seconds. But it is that kind of attention to detail that makes Mississippi Roads in particular and MPB in general a cut above.” The new season, which begins Oct. 3, includes features on Tupelo’s
“Sometimes I get impatient with the photographer and producer continually peering into the camera viewfinder and finessing a half hour over whether the back light should be closer or farther away from the back of my head … for a line that will be on the air ten seconds. But it is that kind of attention to detail that makes Mississippi Roads in particular and MPB in general a cut above.” - Walt Grayson.
Elvis Presley Festival, the town of Como, the Bay St. Louis Little Theatre, artist William Heard, the Hollywood Café in Tunica, the Blow Fly Inn in Gulfport, the Under the Hill Saloon in Natchez and the North Mississippi All Stars. A program spotlighting Mississippi Christmas traditions is also in the works. “If anyone really embodies the hospitality and knowledge of Mississippi, it is Walt,” Allen said. “He’s full of interesting stories and anecdotes, and he’s glad to share them at the drop of a hat.” “People make the best stories,” Grayson said. “Regular folks doing what they do for a living, or for an interesting or unusual hobby or other things they do that are funny and artistic. I also like just getting my camera and exploring a place and trying to shoot compelling images of it and then composing an essay to tie the pictures together, sort of like a columnist does when weaving a story together for a newspaper. I get to put some of ‘me’ into those kinds of stories. “I don’t consider myself to be a ‘star’ by any stretch of the imagination. I like the notoriety, don’t get me wrong—anyone on-camera in broadcasting who says differently is lying—but there is a great degree of satisfaction when the right words come together to put on paper the fuzzy thoughts and feelings going on in my mind. And those times when you can get the right pictures coupled with the right words, the end product often turns out to be more than the sum of the parts. That’s what makes this type work the only thing I really want to do in life.” L
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ABOVE: Grayson hitting his mark while filming Mississippi Roads. • Photographer Jeremy Burson films a segment for Roads in the relentless Mississippi summer heat.
We’re different–in a good, colorful way. Tennessee Williams thought so when he created characters based on his early life here, and music legends like Conway Twitty and Sam Cooke didn’t come from some ordinary place. Come visit and see what sets us apart, and remember, when you get to the Crossroads, you’re here. CHECK OUT OUR AMAZING NUMBER OF FESTIVALS AND GET DETAILS ON OUR WEBSITE. Delta Busking Festival September 27-29, 2013
Juke Joint Festival and related events April 10-13, 2014
MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival October 4-5, 2013
Cat Head Mini Blues Fest I April 13, 2013
Second Street Blues Party October 12-13, 2013
Friday at the Stage Each Friday in May 2014
Cat Head Mini Blues Fest III October 13, 2013
Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest II May 10, 2014
Pinetop Perkins Day October 13, 2013
Delta Jubilee June 6-7, 2014
Hambone Festival October 24-27, 2013
Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival August 8-10, 2014
Holiday Festival Parade December 3, 2013
Cat Head Mini Blues Fest II August 10, 2014
Clarksdale Film Festival January 23-26, 2014 Coahoma County Tourism P. O. Box 160 • Clarksdale, Mississippi 662.627.7337 or 800.626.3764 visitclarksdale.com MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
VICTORIAN FACES of NATCHEZ BY SALLY DURKIN PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIANNE TODD
ucked away in the rear of a downtown historic Natchez church lies a glimpse into the lives of the people who once occupied the thriving river city. Some of the subjects are stately and stiff, as one would expect in a collection of yellowing old photographs; most of the images allow the viewer a moment in time, a slice of life of unaware residents as they walked downtown, worked the riverboats or picnicked with friends. The history of most cities and towns is often documented and archived through papers, letters and legal works of one kind or another, but Natchez found a fortune in its 19th and 20th century existence, captured in the collection by three photographers, Henry Gurney, Henry Norman and Earl Norman. From about 10 years after the onset of the daguerreotype until the late 1870s, Gurney photographed people, commerce, riverboats and numerous other aspects of Natchez life. The man who would become his assistant, Henry C. Norman, had been a mere 23 years old when he arrived in a post-war Natchez with his family via steamboat. His photography skills grew out of his apprenticeship under Gurney, and by the late 1870s, he had opened a studio of his own. Norman captured life in and around Natchez for the next 43 years, taking images of people as they worked and played.
A wall featuring the prominent women of Natchez in one room of the
river city’s downtown exhibit. The work of three Natchez photographers was saved from ruin by Dr. Thomas Gandy in 1960. It took Gandy more than 10 years to sort and print the 20,000 glass plate images he saved. The images were created from 1851 to 1951.
Upon his death in 1913, Earl Norman, Henry’s youngest son, had taken over the studio and the task of documenting the lives of the people of Natchez, the beautiful homes they had constructed, life on the river and events that brought the town to life – a task he continued until his death in 1951. The walls of the present-day exhibit, at Stratton Chapel in First Presbyterian Church, are filled with faces peering back
The present-day exhibit features hundreds of images from the 20,000 salvaged photographs depicting the life and times of Natchez during a 100 year span.
at their viewers – fashionable women with tiny waists and large puffed sleeves (the dress of the day), expressive wide-eyed children in timeless clothing holding adorable props, ads for merchants, riverboat scenes, Main Street long before it was first paved. The collection of some 20,000 images in wet and dry collodion glass plate negatives, documents 100 years of history, from 1851 when Gurney first began his work to 1951 when the son of his apprentice passed away. Some of the images are astonishing for having been created with large format cameras, requiring long exposure times and the stillness of subjects. In 1960, Natchez resident and internist Dr. Thomas Gandy purchased a large number of boxes containing the deteriorating works of all three photographers from Earl’s widow, Mary Kate. Gandy had a deep love for history, but knew little about photography. That didn’t deter him from painstakingly cleaning and sorting the one-ofa-kind records, a task that would consume his attention for the next 10 years. Each box he opened revealed new marvels; thousands of negatives had remained intact, despite most of the boxes having been stored beneath the Norman’s home for an extended length of time.
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The restoration process required Gandy to construct a darkroom in his home in which to print the images contained within the old glass plates. The identities and stories of the subjects began to emerge as he began to share his findings with friends. Historic Natchez Foundation Director Mimi Miller said, “The glass plates and negatives were at Cottage Gardens, where his wife Mary Kate Foster Norman had grown up. I remember Tom telling me that they were stored in boxes on a rear porch, where they had been moved when Earl’s studio closed. His studio was then located in the upper story of Biscuits and Blues. I have a picture of his sign on the door that opens onto the staircase. Some people had told Tom that they remembered being children and throwing glass plates into a nearby cistern to listen to them break. The negatives were slowly deteriorating—some were glass plates and some were nitrate, which is dangerous.” A close friend of Gandy’s, Howard Peabody, also built a darkroom and out of his love for history and photography, helped Gandy with printing many of the salvaged negatives. “Everyone in Natchez knew about Henry and Earl Norman’s work, and just about every middle
The walls of the present-day exhibit, at Stratton Chapel in First Presbyterian Church, are filled with faces peering back at their viewers – fashionable women with tiny waists and large puffed sleeves (the dress of the day), wide-eyed children in timeless clothing holding adorable props, ads for merchants, riverboat scenes, Main Street long before it was first paved.” MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
and upper income family had a pretty good sampling of Norman prints.” Gandy’s wife, Joan, used her writing and publishing skills to help to create their first book of photographs, Norman’s Natchez: An Early Photographer and His Town. That was in 1978. The couple went on to publish three additional large illustrated and storied books in 1981, 1987 and 1998. Since that time, the collection has become known as The Gandy Collection. “The photographs were exhibited in New York at the opening of Showboat, at the Getty and other institutions in Los Angeles, in Australia, and at the Barbican Center in London. Exhibits were also mounted at the University of Texas in Austin, the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, and at a host of other places.” The collection is now on permanent display upstairs in the Stratton Chapel, an addition to the historic First Presbyterian Church in downtown Natchez. After Gandy passed away in 2004, Joan placed the rare negatives in the care of Louisiana State University’s digital library for safe keeping and archiving. The exhibit is visited by thousands of tourists each year, and those who take the time to saunter through the several rooms of extraordinary images are amazed by this unparalleled collection, depicting the lives and livelihoods of those who left their mark on the historic river city, Natchez. L TOP: The exhibit includes an extensive presentation on the river life of Natchez. MIDDLE: The children of Victorian Natchez are the subject of one of three large format photo books documenting the history of Natchez. BOTTOM: Those who take the time to explore the exhibit will find rare candid images, a departure from the day’s stiffly posed photographs.
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It’s What You Love About… Historic homes, the Mississippi River, the Natchez Trace, wonderful places to stay, dine, and shop: Natchez is the town to visit when it’s time to slow down and enjoy life, Southern style.
640 S. Canal Street • Natchez, Mississippi (601) 446-6345 (800) 647-6724 visitnatchez.org
“One of the Friendliest Cities in the Country” 2013 Conde Nast Traveler photos by KEN MURPHY
Words and photographs by Sally Durkin
Annual race closing in on third decade
f the question were posed to the locals, “When is the best time to come to Natchez?” there would probably be two standard answers. One would be “Spring Pilgrimage,” when the white, pink and burgundy azaleas are most vibrant against the backdrops of the city’s stately
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antebellum homes. The other would be an exuberant “balloon race weekend!” And, to what they would be referring is The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, the October event in which more than five dozen brightly colored balloons hang in the cool Natchez sky over the Mississippi River. This year’s race
FEATURE natchez, ms
is in its 28th year, and organizers and fans are already gearing up for the highly coveted event. In fact, if you try to get a hotel room in Natchez after reading this article, you’d be hard pressed to find one. Most hotel rooms are gone by mid-June and the many area bed and breakfasts are booked not long after. But for those within day trip reach or planning for next year, this is a bucket list event. The race kicks off with a unique sporting event wherein a field of balloons take to the skies early Friday morning, toting a mix of media members and amateur cyclists. They fly to a targeted place along the flight path and, once landed, unload the bike riders, who retrieve their
bikes from chase vehicles. The challenge is then on for the first rider to reach the Natchez Visitor Center. The original organizers of the long-standing event said they never imagined their efforts would have stretched nearly three decades. Balloon enthusiast and pilot Cappy Stahlman was traveling back from a race with his friend and balloon pilot, James Biglane, when the idea came up. “James and I had participated in a race in Arkansas,” Stahlman said. “And we decided on the way home that we could pull at least one year off in Natchez.” Another friend who had recently purchased and restored Monmouth Plantation, Ron Riches, became one of their first sponsors. MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
The race then ballooned into an annual event. “We named it The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race because we placed a target on a barge in the middle of the Mississippi River,” Stahlman said. “The race has grown and continued on far beyond our wildest dreams and has become one of the best tourist draws to the area.” The festival moved to the Bicentennial Gardens at the historic home Rosalie after a few years, which is where the music, food and carnival are held today. These days, the event attracts more than 40,000 visitors to Natchez and has an economic impact of about $1.3 million. Since its inception, the race has grown from 20 balloons to an average of 65, all colorfully dotting the Natchez sky. “We had a very windy first race,
taken care of. The Mississippi River has two major challenges when flying a hot air balloon. First, the Mississippi ground elevation is over 100- feet higher than the Louisiana side, creating different wind currents which often drastically affect the balloon speed and direction. Secondly, the river creates both a down draft due to a cooler water temperature that is most prevalent near the bluff, as well as a natural southern draft near the water.” Richard has won the overall competition twice. The race and weekend of activities is organized by a dedicated group of local volunteers, who pour their love and sweat into making the
“These days, the event attracts more than 40,000 visitors to Natchez and has an economic impact of about $1.3 million.”
which we held behind the Natchez Mall,” Stahlman said, “and James decided someone had to fly because we had all these people there waiting and watching, so off he went. Biglane flew, and quickly I might add, to an area about 10 miles north of Natchez known as Anna’s Bottom. Fortunately the winds died down the following morning to make conditions much more flyable.” George Richard of Baton Rouge has flown in the Natchez race for 24 of its 28 years. “It’s a favorite among all the pilots who come to Natchez,” Richard said. “The race organizers do a fantastic job of making sure we’re well
event the success it is. The proceeds from ticket, t-shirt and vendor sales help provide operating capital for the Historic Natchez Foundation. Executive director Babs Price, said the staff works year round with everything from pilot recruitment to staging, even logo creation and item sales. “It definitely takes a village for this event,” she said. The Great Mississippi Balloon Race is one of the longest sustained
Food and music on the grounds of historic Rosalie draw thousands of people to the races each year.
The Mississippi River poses challenges for Balloon pilots in that the Mississippi bank is 100 feet higher than the Louisiana bank, creating wind currents and down drafts.
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Pack your bag!
Columbus-Lowndes County has packed your weekend,
BBQ & Blues!
Friday, October 18, 11 am Old Tombigbee River Bridge at Columbus Riverwalk Come celebrate the opening of this historic bridge, now beautifully restored! H Great barbecue. H Live performance by blues artist Grady Champion, singer and harmonica virtuoso. H Local artwork on display. balloon races in the country, according to the hot air balloon pilots who travel to Natchez. One pilot has made several trips from Great Britain to take part in the competition, one of the few officially sanctioned races where pilots can accrue for a chance to compete in a national competition at year’s end. Some pilots come to Natchez simply for the fun of flying and spending time in the historic city among friends who have become family; others are simply in it to win. L WANT TO GO? The Great Natchez Balloon Race kicks off Friday, Oct. 8, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 20. Highlights include a media/biathlon balloon flight, a balloon glow, fireworks over the river, competition balloon flight and entertainment by such bands and entertainers as Cowboy Mouth, Shannon McNally, Anders Osborne and The Ramblin’ Letters. A schedule of events, along with tickets and other information can be found at www.natchezballoonrace.com.
Caledonia Days! Friday & Saturday, October 18 & 19 Kickoff Friday, 7 pm Ola J. Pickett Park in Caledonia
Don’t miss this annual community celebration! Great for the entire family! H Friday night Kickoff concert opened by the Win Wheel Band, with featured performance by American Idol finalist Skylar Laine! H Friday night fireworks and children’s activities. H Saturday carnival featuring food and craft vendors and classic antique car show.
Tennessee Williams Home & Welcome Center 300 Main Street • 800-920-3533 • www.columbus-ms.org MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
MISSISSIPPI Demystifying a most misunderstood state WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC STONE
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aggie said: “Where are you going to get fresh tofu?” Some friends—an interracial husband and wife, two gay couples and a gay single said: “Guess we won’t be visiting you. You’ll have to come visit us from now on.” My very conservative Republican brother wondered if maybe I was finally coming around to his way of looking at the world. Despite pretty much everyone I know raising their eyebrows and saying, “Mississippi? Really?” I have moved from Los Angeles to Clarksdale, Miss. (By the way, does anyone know where I can get fresh tofu? It’s not a big issue, but it would be nice.) I love it here. The reasons are obvious to me, but
they seem to require verbal gymnastics to explain to my friends who haven’t spent time in the South. I almost always end up resorting to a money-back guarantee and “Come visit; you’ll see.” Like a lot of people who have chosen to move to Mississippi—and there are an increasing number of us expats—I first came here for the music. I was 12 and didn’t so much hear Howlin’ Wolf as feel him—deep, powerful, mysterious, elemental—ringing in my gut even more than in my ears. A couple of years later my nose was pressed to the window of a bus on something called a “teen tour.” I recall the landscape—deep, powerful, mysterious and as elemental as the music.
This June, following numerous visits over the years during which I developed an appreciation for the complexities of the place, I cashed out my house in L.A., packed my car and drove across country to get here. Crossing the state line I could feel myself relax, at least a little. When I completed the gradual descent on Highway 49 from Jackson into the Delta, when Yazoo City was on the horizon, my blood pressure lowered, my stiff shoulders slumped, and I settled into my car seat more comfortably. The voice of Skip James on the car speakers complemented the hot breeze coming through the open windows. Fresh tofu was the furthest thing from my mind. Over the years the feel of Mississippi, the scent of it, the near tactile quality of its light, the weather that is part of the landscape, the richness of the culture and the lives of the people—even in the midst of still bitter poverty and all too recent memories of a bloody past—have burrowed into me and warmed me and nurtured me as few other places have. A mixed bag of tragic and triumphant history and culture, the state as a whole, and the Delta for me in particular, is as rich as anywhere I’ve been. My friends in California and New York wondered how I could have possibly given up “all this” for “that.” To be sure, I have given up some things. But I am gaining much in return, and it is more than enough to compensate. (You bet I’m going to miss the xiao long bao [juicy pork dumplings] at J&J Shanghai. But you know, the ones at Mr. Chen’s in Jackson are pretty good, too.)
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Now that isn’t to say there aren’t problems. Coahoma County, where Clarksdale is, has been called the poorest county in the poorest state in the United States. I don’t know if that is true or not. It might be. But among other things, that means there are opportunities for people who have skills, who are willing to work hard, who want to invest cash and who desire to be an active part of the community in which they live. But when talking with my friends and acquaintances who haven’t spent much, or any, time in the South, there is always an elephant in the room: the region’s legacy of bigotry and racism. Mississippi is one of the last places that fought to preserve slavery, and battled hard to maintain or overcome Jim Crow laws and segregation. Much of the horror of that is still within living memory. And of course there still are bigots and racists here. Why, my friends wonder, did I want to move to a place like that? Sadly, the fact is that a lot of surveys find more bigots and racists and hate groups in the South than in other part of the U.S. It’s the region’s historic baggage. The South is not alone; there are plenty in Los Angeles, too, and in New York, and in Boston. The South doesn’t have a monopoly on morons and miscreants … not by a long shot. Just like in most places, most of the people I meet in Mississippi aren’t strongly political in their daily interactions. They react to people individually, regardless of race, background, religion or sexual preference and treat the people they meet with the same respect, or lack of it, that they get in return. As for the legacy of segregation, Mississippi is far less racially
segregated than Los Angeles or most other big northern and western cities. All of my white friends in Clarksdale have a lot more AfricanAmerican friends and acquaintances than anyone I know in Los Angeles. They live in neighborhoods that are far more integrated. If you want to have more than just a couple of friends or take your pick from a variety of neighborhoods, it’s pretty tough to be a racist in a town as small as Clarksdale. In one of the “reddest” states in the country, Clarksdale is in one of the “bluest” counties in the country, largely because it’s nearly 80 percent African-American. That isn’t to say it’s anywhere even remotely close to perfect. In general, the African-American population of Mississippi is poorer than the white population. (Though a lot of the white population isn’t exactly flush, either.) But I can’t think of any place in the country where that isn’t also true. That’s a disgrace for all of us, no matter where we live. There is, however, another form of segregation that is growing rapidly in the United States, and I don’t want to be a part of it: this whole “red state” vs “blue state” thing. Too many people are hunkering down in enclaves of like-minded neighbors; communities consist entirely of residents who think the same way, believe the same things, react and act the same way. That’s bad for all of us. What has allowed this country to thrive over the years has been the diversity of its population and the free range and exchange of ideas. We get our strength from our complexity and variety. In poll after poll about gay marriage, it is shown that people who have
gay friends and family members overwhelmingly support gay rights, even if they are “red staters” or very conservative or very religious. Just consider Dick Cheney—who has a lesbian daughter—if you don’t believe that. But when gay people, or atheists, or liberals, or conservatives or Christians cling only to each other and don’t socialize and do business with each other, then the sort of long-lasting, deep societal change that resonates on a respectful personal level can’t happen. The bottom line is that I moved to Mississippi because I love the place. It’s beautiful, and I can live better or at least as well here as I could in Los Angeles for a lot less money. There’s music, and literature and art, and people whom I love, too. And yeah, Mississippi has got problems. Some of them are worse than the problems in L.A. or New York; some of them are not nearly as bad. But I challenge you to find a place without problems. To my friends who have been skeptical, I say come visit and I’ll show you what I mean. To my new friends and neighbors, I say thanks for the warm welcome. I’m looking forward to being a good neighbor, learning from you and contributing what I can to my new home. L
BY CHRIS STAUDINGER PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEN FLYNT
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Wasn’t no time. Because the joints stayed open all night, all day. Anything that you wanted to spend some money on or buy, it was there. All them sawmills was open then; all them joints was open.
t the wrought iron gate of Gist Music Company, I wondered if I had gotten the time wrong. It was around one o’clock, and the man on the phone had told me he would meet me “after the noon hour.” Then he added, “Depending on the good Lord’s wishes.” One Delta bluesman told me Morse Gist is “just as important as the musicians like Sonny Boy Williams or Howlin’ Wolf.” Others describe him more simply as “legendary.” When he eased his SUV into a tight parking spot on the street, I marveled at the youthfulness of a man pushing 90. His white hair was short and spiked like a model or a ‘50s GI. He walked easily, with the slight stoop of someone three decades younger. “Do you play?” he asked me. His words were curved with the genteel Southern accent that movie stars so habitually butcher. I told him I didn’t and asked him the same question. “Only the radio,” he told me, “and not very well.” With a newspaper in one hand, Mr. Gist opened the doors for what could have been the fifteen thousandth time. Hundreds of musicians have crossed that threshold;
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thousands of others have left with records that would fill their homes and lives. People, unsurprisingly, “get a feeling” when they walk through the doors into this temple of American music. The store still uses the same wooden furnishings of the general merchandise shop that was there when the Gists moved in (in 1953). Cornet mouthpieces and saxophone reeds fill small wooden cubes once meant for candy and cookies. A poster of Michael Jackson, a pink ukulele and long lines of guitars stretch across the walls. But it’s not the appearance of the place that makes time cave in on itself. It’s Gist, who slips between today and, say, a Saturday in 1934, seamlessly. He brings me to his office, which sits plum in the middle of the shop, semi-separated from its surroundings by a glass divider that comes nowhere near the thirty-foot ceiling above. He leans back in his wooden rolling chair and rests his long legs on a stool like a teenager as he tells me “the long version,” going back to the Great Depression, to his family’s Victorian home full of kids, cows, chickens and traveling hobos, who cleaned their barn for a plate of food. His father was a low paid constable, and the family needed something else to stay afloat.
The Gist Music Company - like other Delta family businesses - has all but succumbed to big box companies and the presence of the Internet. The downtown music store has served musicians for more than 80 years. Morse Gist inherited the store from his father, a constable who needed more income to support his family. Gist got his start selling Wurlitzer jukeboxes to “increase a bar’s business by 100 percent.”
“He heard about this idea of a jukebox. A Wurlitzer. Do you remember that name, Wurlitzer?” He turns around and digs in his desk drawer to find a photo. “I’ve saved a lot of these old pictures, but I don’t know why – posterity I guess.” And he tells me about the Ford Coupe trunk his father modified to transport the 5-foot machines, “polished like fine furniture.” The strong, crisp music of the jukeboxes increased a bar’s business by 100 percent, he says. This is how Gist Music Company was born. People describe the Helena of old with an almost mythical wonder. Helena was once one of the Mississippi River’s wealthiest towns and the largest port between Memphis and Vicksburg. Steamboat traffic boomed, as did cotton, timber, and train traffic afterward, and the town gained a reputation for rowdiness. The fields, streets, and docks were alive with music.
And Helena, throughout all the booms and busts, became an oasis of song. Bluesman Ellis CeDell Davis was born in 1926, three years after Mr. Gist. He described a Helena of almost mythical proportions. “Wasn’t no time,” he said, “Because the joints stayed open all night, all day. Anything that you wanted to spend some money on or buy, it was there. All them sawmills was open then; all them joints was open.” Gist Music Company was born in those joints – or “cafes,” as Mr. Gist calls them. And it’s easy to see how closely and immediately Morse Gist’s life was intertwined with the surrounding musical story of Helena. For a nickel a song, the 78 records spun, and people danced. The most popular records, worn scratchy by play, often needed replacement. Morse decided to start selling the used records, so he took to the street with a wind-up record
player. The most popular? “B.B. King was one. Every, every time he came out with a new record we automatically ordered a couple of boxes … because his records would wear out.” Mr. Gist is at ease talking about music’s commercial qualities. He told me that in the early ‘50s, when the growing jukebox business had been moved to the spot where we sat, he decided to sell music supplies in the vacant storefront of the building. He wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce to ask them for any help in opening a music store. They sent a response, which he also keeps somewhere in his desk drawer. If you are not musically talented and able to play an instrument yourself, it would be a great mistake to open a music store. “So I didn’t follow that advice,” he laughs. His most memorable music customer was MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
described as “a commercial opportunity that I amuse myself with.” Elvis Presley walked through the glass doors, young and fresh, in the early days of the store. “He was a nice kid. He was very polite. Truly polite. And I guess he may have been in his teens or early 20s, whatever that era was.” I realized that not ten feet from where we sat, Elvis Presley walked. “He had a glossy and signed it, and it’s up there now,” Mr. Gist says casually. On the wall beyond his glass office, I see Elvis’ smiling face against a pink backdrop. “But then all at once, people started admiring that thing. And I found that there was a certain value to it.” He tells me he regrets not having the nice, young kid sign every single guitar in his shop, and he smiles. A double chime signals the front door opening. Mr. Gist walks to the front and greets a man wearing fit-over sunglasses: “Well, come on back, C.W.” The man joins us without removing the glasses. C.W. and The Band drummer, Levon Helm, grew up together and played regularly when Levon came home to Phillips County. Shortly after, the door chimes again, and a Helena police officer, Charles Garrison, joins us, “to soak up a little of the cool air.” Another old friend comes and goes, and I realize I’m sitting in a sort of papal audience chamber, vinyl chairs provided by RCA Victor. They discuss a friend who was sick. Mr. Gist picks up his telephone to call the family, and C.W. uses the opportunity to tout the famous customers and feats of the business, most notably, he says, the first ever ‘54 Telecaster sold in this country. The first ever, he repeated. The Telecaster changed popular music by giving the guitar enough pickup to rise above the other instruments of a band. It was the confluence of blues and country. It was the birth of rock. “Mr. Gist sold it to Thurlow Brown. Good guitar player,” C.W. tells me in gruff, old twang. “Now Thurlow died, didn’t he?” Mr. Gist says. “He died back in ’70.” Brown, I later learned, was Levon Helm’s mentor and inspiration. The bohemian, almost feral, cotton farmer from nearby Elaine had a pet monkey as well as a South American
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python. He was, in Helm’s words, “The best electric guitar player we had, an incredible musician.” Helm also talked about the other Helena influences to which he was indebted. He wrote in his autobiography, This Wheel’s on Fire, “When I was 14, my daddy took me back to Mr. Gist’s music store in Helena to get a real guitar. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, and the streets were packed with people from the farms, migrants, and local people … Daddy and I went up to the counter, greeted Mr. Gist, and I heard J.D. say, ‘Morse, we’d like to see the Martin guitar there for my boy Levon.’” The story of Gist Music Company has all of the celebrity and lore you would expect from a music shop with an 80-year history in the Arkansas Delta. But as Mr. Gist talked, the great bluesmen Robert Lockwood, Sonny Boy Williamson--and even Elvis--fell back into supporting roles behind an even richer story of a family, its shop, and the ever-changing town of Helena. Tacked up on his walls, next to yellowing type-written paper and black and white photos of musicians, family photos are
everywhere, in bright color. “Now it’s served its purpose,” he says of the business. “It’s carried all my kids, my family through. It was a highly profitable enterprise at one time, see?” Gist Music sits in the middle of Cherry Street, Helena’s downtown commercial corridor. As you walk the sidewalk away from the shop, there are signs of the same crumbling mortar and darkened storefronts that plague many of industrial America’s Main Street communities. On one side of Gist’s store are the dusty display windows of an old department store, its walkway flaked with the loose tiles of “J.C. Penney and Company.” On the other side, however, is a music hall, its piano covered with burlap. The town has declined with the same pomp that it was born into, still tinged with the familiar flatted notes of the blues. He sold the jukebox business when the crack epidemic overtook urban America, including Helena. He could handle drunk people during late night repair jobs, he told me, but dope did something different. It turned people violent. He tells me that his family wonders what to do with the store, now that the Internet and big
box stores have overtaken his business. There hasn’t been a consensus. Someone jokingly suggested sealing the front and back of the building with bricks and turning it into a time capsule. “The people who have been gone for 40 years, they come back and they remember their childhood when they used to buy records. There’s a certain sense that stimulates memories.” Sean “Bad Apple” is a Clarksdale musician who felt that “certain sense” when he walked through the doors of the shop for the first time. “I happened to look and thought I saw a light on in Gist Music, and I said, ‘Man it’s my lucky day.’” He had been on his way to a meeting with some local businessmen but couldn’t resist the chance to meet a hero. “I left all the folks in the meeting waiting about 45 minutes while I talked to Mr. Gist,” he says, without remorse. The meeting was to plan the opening of Apple’s new blues club, which many hope will help revitalize Helena’s ailing downtown. The club’s future home, coincidentally, is a building once owned by Morse Gist. It wouldn’t be the first time that music has pulled Helena out of a depression. L
During its 80-year history in the Arkansas Delta, Morse Gist has serviced such greats as Robert Lockwood, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elvis Presley and Levon Helm. Their stories became the supporting roles behind an even richer story of a family, its shop and the ever-changing town of Helena.
Memphis recording artist Myla Smith has relied on the MMF for career advancement. Help from successful artists who in turn give back to the MMF is the bedrock of the foundation, she says.
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From the cradle of American music
MUSIC FOUNDATION ROCKS ON WITH ARTIST SUPPORT BY KARA MARTINEZ BACHMAN PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE WORTHEM
adio personality, journalist and music industry professional Pat Mitchell Worley believes music is the cultural bedrock of Memphis.
“We always say that it is part of the DNA in the city,” she
said. “If you look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if you look at the Grammy Hall of Fame, there are more artists from the Memphis area and from a hundred mile radius of Memphis than from anywhere else in the world,” said Worley. From the blues of Beale Street to national recording artists with local roots--including Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes and now, Justin Timberlake--Memphis has always been a nexus for blues, rock and soul. “It’s something that’s passed on generation to generation. You may not grow up to be a musician, but a lot of time spent together as a family was around music. It really tells our story, our soundtrack.” So certain is Worley of that Memphis “soundtrack,” she devotes a great portion of her time to the Memphis Music Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that assists up-and-
From left, Myla Smith, Will Graves, Pat Mitchell and James Alexander at the Memphis Music Foundation, a not-for-profit organization charged with helping musicians launch their careers.
or office space for meetings with industry professionals. Or, it may be more extensive, such as guidance in promotion, venue booking or studio recording that can propel talented musicians and singers to the next rung of the career ladder. In its five years, the Foundation has amassed an impressive list of members, and its accomplishments are tangible. In 2009, Season 8 of Fox’s vocal competition American Idol included MMF members Lil Rounds and Alexis Grace, both of whom made the Top 10 and toured that summer to packed venues across the United States, including a Memphis performance at the Staples Center. This year, several MMF members appeared on NBC’s televised singing competition, The Voice.
“Emerging artists like me need a lot of guidance. We don’t have many connections in the industry, and we don’t have much money. Without either of those things, we are often left swimming in circles.” - Myla Smith, Memphis recording artist
“There were four people from Memphis,” said Worley, “and three of
them were members. And the fourth was from the music college here in town that we work with and partner with here a lot.” Jody Stephens talks with James Alexander in the control room. Emerging artists
One of the contestants was bluesy rock performer Patrick Dodd.
with limited budgets and resources are helped by the MMF with the creation of professionally recorded CDs.
Appearing on The Voice during the same season as fellow MMF member
coming musicians with growing careers in the business. As Director of
the MMF helped prepare a local performer for the national limelight.
Development and Communications for the MMF, Worley’s job is to raise awareness about its role with new artists and promote the sounds birthed in Memphis. “They connect the dots,” said Elizabeth Cawein, CEO and founder of Memphis-based Signal Flow Public Relations. “They help artists figure out where they are and what they need next, and then point them to those resources. There is so much in 2013 that an independent artist can do for himself; they just need to be empowered with the tools. The MMF does that and as a result, those artists stay in Memphis and contribute to the economy and the growing music infrastructure.”
Help provided may be something simple, such as access to computers
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artists Chris Thomas and Grace Askew, Dodd is a good example of how “He has worked with us for the last two years,” said Worley. “He came to us after playing on Beale Street and then he took a break. He wanted to do something more. He wanted to be able to tour, to get radio airplay. We helped him put out his first CD, we helped him through the process, we helped him with planning like marketing and PR.”
The Voice offered a private audition opportunity for select MMF
members, and Dodd was offered a slot on the program. Worley said she believes the MMF’s work with Dodd both before and after the competition helped him capitalize on the opportunity. “When The Voice came along, because of his work with us he
had everything lined up to be able to take advantage of it and to be able to benefit from it,” said Worley. “A lot of artists who do the popular talent shows go on and they all have music that they can sell, but once you do the show they don’t allow you to release anything new. He already had music out, so when they heard him on the show, they could already go buy his music on iTunes instead of sitting and waiting for him to come out with something new after he finished The Voice.” Though televised singing competitions are sometimes considered questionable by serious music enthusiasts, one uncontested fact remains: such an appearance can propel an artist’s career overnight. “This was a guy who went from having 2,000 or 2,500 hits on his YouTube page to, after The Voice, having over a million.”
The nonprofit is not just about aiding new
talent; it also works with performers who have been onstage for decades, such as the soul,
In its five years, the MMF has amassed an impressive list of members, and its accomplishments are tangible. As communication director, it’s Pat Mitchell Worley’s job to promote the agency’s successes and the sounds birthed in Memphis.
R&B and funk band, the Bar-Kays. With a background that includes
“Justin falls into the small category of super-celebrity musicians who
dozens of charting singles and 20 Top 10 singles during the ‘60s, ‘70s and
can afford to give back in big ways,” Smith said. “I absolutely respect him
‘80s, the Bar-Kays offer a funky, danceable sound. With 30 albums to its
for that, and would love to be able to do the same someday.”
name--including one platinum and five
gold albums—the band is among the
was the third largest employer in the
elite of Memphis music.
city,” said Worley. “The music business
“The Bar-Kays were a house band
has changed significantly since then.
at Stax, and yet they still have a career
However, we recognize that it is truly
today,” said Worley. “This year they have
a time where independent artists can
had their biggest-selling hit song since
the ‘80s, just by working with us.”
Hailing from Shake Rag, Tenn.,
provides publicity and marketing for
MMF recording artist Myla Smith has
indie musicians, she knows firsthand
several CD releases under her belt and is
how changing market conditions affect
gaining traction. The performer can boast
the artists she represents.
of a 2012 climb to the No. 1 position on
Amazon’s Pop Singer/Songwriter charts.
sometimes call it the democratization of
Specifically mentored and funded by
sound; sound is easier to make and it’s
an unnamed MMF donor who was
easier to access,” said Cawein. “You can
impressed with her work, Smith gladly
record an album in your home studio,
acknowledges the role the Foundation
but so can a million other people and all
has played in her career.
of those albums are available on Spotify,
“Emerging artists like me need a lot
YouTube and more. As an artist it is
of guidance,” she said. “We don’t have
more critical than ever to understand
many connections in the industry, and
how to differentiate and market your
we don’t have much money. Without
product and get to your audience.”
either of those things, we are often left
swimming in circles.”
names in music would be a sweet enough
Smith, who released her pop album
reward, the Foundation’s goals reside
“Hiding Places” in September, thrives
more in preserving the musical roots that
under MMF guidance. “The staff at the
Memphis Music Foundation helped me
get specific with my musical goals, and
necessarily the end goal; it’s making a
connected me with people who could
living,” said Cawein. “That’s what access
help me achieve them, all at zero cost to
has really done. If you look at how many
me,” she said. “Empowerment is one the
artists are making millions in 2013,
biggest gifts you can give someone, and
it may be nothing compared to 1990.
that’s what they are there to do.”
But if you look at how that wealth has
Just as the DNA of Memphis music
spread and how many musicians are able
is passed on from one generation of
to make a sustainable living, it’s very
musicians to the next, funding for artists like Dodd and Smith often comes from successful performers who are “giving back” to the region that helped shape their own distinctive sounds.
Myla Smith, left, who released her pop album “Hiding Places” in September with the help of MMF members Will Graves, Pat Mitchell Worley, Jody Stephens, and James Alexander, thrives under MMF guidance. “The staff at the Memphis Music Foundation helped me get specific with my musical goals, and connected me with people who could help me achieve them, all at zero cost to me. Empowerment is one the biggest gifts you can give someone, and that’s what they are there to do.”
“For Memphis in the ‘70s, music
Cawein agrees. Since her firm
“Access has changed everything. I
Although helping to create big
“Signing a big label deal isn’t
By all indications, the Foundation
is a labor of love.
“Often we are in the background,”
Worley said. “Nobody wants to see how
One notable supporter includes Memphis native Justin Timberlake, the
the cake is made. They just want to see the cake.”
MMF’s largest individual donor.
44 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
And Memphis’ sonic DNA sweetly rocks on.
46 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
BY CHRIS STAUDINGER AND LISA FOSTER PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIANNE TODD
sked what sets Monmouth Plantation apart from other Natchez mansions, Hal Davis squints behind his glasses for a second and says, “Well, one is that
I’m here.” It is an offbeat departure from his long-hardened role as porter and host, which he has carried out with gracious gravity for the last 24 years. And although he laughs to shake off any vanity, everyone knows it’s true. Ask almost anyone at Monmouth why they like visiting or working at the antebellum compound, and they’ll say “it’s the people.” They don’t necessarily mean the dead ones, the generals, the governors, the belles or the Union Soldiers who occupied and looted the grounds during the Civil War. They mean Shirley Adams, who has worked in the dining room at Monmouth for the last seven years. She exudes an almost mythic Southern Hospitality: “That Southern Hospitality,” she says with a rhythm, adding proudly that she doesn’t need to say “y’all” – and that she has the magical facility to pry a smile out of anyone at will, without saying a word. It happens often. True, the allure of the hilltop grounds and the storied, opulent walls keep a constant flow of new visitors arriving from all corners of the country and abroad. The rooms are a time warp of damask upholstered furniture, canopy beds, and floor-to-ceiling silk drapery. The building carries the weight of its most prominent owner, John Quitman, who served as governor, senator and hero of the Mexican-American War (four towns in four different states are named after the man). He purchased the MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
home in 1826 for $12,000.
understand. “Mr. Roosevelt” has tended his booth-shaped, marble bar in
Its story reads like a Southern romance novel. “I was sitting quietly
the Quitman Lounge for 24 years and has been featured for his mixology,
by my window just after dinner when the report of heavy guns and some
he says, in three magazines, two commercials and three cookbooks. “He’s
balls went crashing through the branches in the little woods,” a Monmouth
a grown man, though he might not look it,” Adams said of the youthful
neighbor wrote during the 1862 bombardment of Natchez. Quitman’s
man who stands under 5 feet, 5 inches and has two grandchildren.
daughters were real life Scarlett O’Hara’s who watched their home fall to
The dimly-lit lounge is full of clinks of ice and low chatter. A portrait
ruins during the war and were forced to sell off furniture to pay mounting
of General Quitman hangs on the wall behind the bar, as well as a
framed red bandana that his wife sewed for him to rally his troops. Also
Quitman didn’t live long enough to witness the siege. Three years
framed on the wall is a much newer certificate declaring that “Honorable
earlier at President Buchanan’s inauguration he became sick by what had
Roosevelt Owens is commissioned a Kentucky Colonel” – the highest
later become known as National Hotel Disease and passed away a few
honor awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
months later at Monmouth, believing he was poisoned by abolitionists.
“Yep,” he says, “I’ve been doing pretty good with my Mint Juleps.”
Filled with period furnishings, guests have the opportunity to sleep in
They’re a slow-boiled, seven-ingredient concoction, more than 30
General Quitman’s own bed in Room 22 or sit in the upstairs foyer and
years in the making, served in a silver glass and best enjoyed under the
listen to a tune on the “Sublime Harmonie” music box, just as a guest in
breeze of the courtyard ceiling fans or over conversation with their maker.
the Quitman home may have done more than 150 years ago.
Roosevelt says he hopes to be behind the bar for 20 more years. With two
But Maria Mikronis, a receptionist, says that Monmouth sees heavy
new owners at the helm of the hotel, and several new ducklings waddling
repeat guests because of the staff. Go talk to Roosevelt, they all say, you’ll
through the courtyard, things look startlingly fresh for an 1818 building
48 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
OPPOSITE: The rooms are a time warp of damask upholstered furniture, canopy beds and floor-to-ceiling silk drapery. TOP LEFT: clockwise, the dining room reminiscent of 19th Century life; statuary in the vine-wrapped pergola; Hal Davis, porter and host of 24 years; complimentary breakfast of stuffed French toast polished with confectionary sugar, scrambled eggs and fresh coffee.
that once was shuttered in ruins.
• Complimentary full Southern breakfast
Guests are welcome stroll beside the magnolias, crepe myrtles and
• Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cocktails from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
moss-filled oaks or sit beneath the wisteria-wrapped pergola and enjoy
Restaurant 1818 is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
the angel statuary and fountains punctuating the property. “The biggest complaint I hear is that people have to leave; they wish they’d stayed longer,” said Nancy Reuther, co-owner and manager of
(reservations recommended but not required) Quitman’s Lounge is open from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., seven nights a week
Monmouth. People leave Monmouth feeling refreshed and, she says, it
Daily Tours – 10 a.m., $12 per person
“even makes the employees happy.”
Directions: Located on Melrose Avenue and John A. Quitman Drive; Take
U.S. Hwy. 61 to Junkin Street. At the second traffic light, turn right on John Amenities
Quitman Drive, where Monmouth is immediately on the left.
• Plush in-room robes
Contact: (601) 442-5852 or (800) 828-4531,
• Luxury Gilchrist & Soames bath amenities
• Weekday newspaper service • Free Wi-Fi in every room and common areas MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
COME FOR THE BLUES
LEAVE WITH THE WISDOM BY SHIRLEY WARING
Anchored by the granddaddy of blues festivals, the King Biscuit
the story of the grooving roots music.
Blues Festival of Helena, Ark., Bridging the Blues is a jammin’ three-
week blues pilgrimage through Mississippi, Arkansas and Memphis.
feel the wisdom of the VBS mantra, “I may have been born yesterday,
At the end of each top-flight blues performance, music lovers
It culminates on its southern end in the river city of Vicksburg. And
but I stayed up all night with the Blues.”
the fun is just about to begin.
And spanning three weekends of BTB entertainment, blues
As part of its ongoing Heritage Music Series, the Vicksburg Blues
enthusiasts can get their share of acts dazzling the blues world with
Society presents live blues every Friday and Saturday at Ameristar
their energy, showmanship and off-the-chain talent. The showcase
Casino’s Bottleneck Blues Bar – a modern juke with ambiance and
promises to be the Triple Crown of entertainment with all acts
a feel of authenticity. Original art and the funky handmade décor
boasting the coveted International Blues Challenge pedigree.
with inscriptions such as “The Blues without music can kill you,” tell
Photo by Ken Flynt
International Blues Challenge Winner 2010 Sept. 27 and 28 • 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Raised on a small farm outside of Canton, Miss., as the youngest of 28 children, Grady Champion understands hard work and living the blues. His respect and love for the roots music rises from his background, his faith and his spirit. His music reflects hard times, a loving family and his determination to make a good life. When Champion takes the stage, he’s there to do one thing: entertain his listeners to the bone. Personable and authentic, he flashes a dazzling smile. With a dozen harmonicas belted around him, Grady takes command and doesn’t wait to build the show. From the first note, his high-energy performance showcases his raspy voice and sensational harmonica work. Using a nostalgic microphone, he blasts favorites like his original tune “Make that Monkey Jump” and his hot rendition of “Smoke Stack
50 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
Lightnin’.” Champion also claims another side to the blues. His original number “Mississippi Pride” sometimes brings listeners to tears. Touring nationally and internationally, Champion’s band dazzles audiences with more than 180 performances each year.
mr. sipp the mississippi blues child
Photo by Ken Flynt
International Blues Challenge Finalist 2013 Oct. 4 and 5 • 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Castro Coleman, a.k.a. Mr. Sipp the Mississippi Blues Child, began playing the guitar at the age of six. Family and friends in his hometown of McComb remember the guitar being taller than the little boy with a giant talent. With a sensational career in gospel music, Coleman has recently been bitten by the blues bug, adding the genre to his mastery of musical stylings. Reaching the finals in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this year, Mr. Sipp has taken the blues world by storm. In just months since his birth on the stage at the Bottleneck Blues Bar, Mr. Sipp has played the Chicago Blues Festival, appeared with Zac Harmon, Bobby Rush and B.B. King. Dressed as an Urkel look-alike, Mr. Sipp sports black Buddy Holly eyeglass frames, wrapped at the bridge with white tape. His signature look on stage runs from plaid sweater vests and bow ties to short cropped pants and high top tennis shoes. Very nerdy. Very cool. Then there are the white shoes. The only thing brighter is Mr. Sipp’s brilliant smile. Engaging you through his
lens-less eyeglasses, listeners cannot help but fall in love. Performing with amazing agility and polished choreography, Mr. Sipp dances across the stage. In the middle of a strut, he levels his guitar and takes aim, as though he’s taking his audience hostage; and he does. With his exceptional vocals and guitar work, Mr. Sipp blends his show with excellent original material and renditions of traditional Delta and Chicago blues. You’ll be humming and hearing his lyrics in your brain long after he leaves the stage. I’m telling you, he is addictive.
selwyn birchwood International Blues Challenge Winner 2013 IBC Albert King Best Blues Guitarist Oct. 11 and 12 • 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Having grown up in Florida, Selwyn Birchwood is the son of an immigrant from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Winning the IBC this year at age 28, Birchwood is well-established in the blues world. On stage he delivers a high-energy show that is swampy like Kenny Neal and soulful like Joe Louis Walker. Throw in the showmanship of Nappy Brown and his academic disciplines on stage and Birchwood becomes hard to beat. Holding an MBA from the University of Florida, Birchwood is a student of
veteran entertainers. With precision and attention to detail, he brings excellence to his performance. Birchwood and his band have opened for Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker Jr. and Joe Louis Walker. They perform a hip-shaking, roof-rattling mix of blues. Birchwood’s show consists of all original material. He plays guitar, lap steel, and sings. And then there’s the gator dance. It’s not the silly gyrations college boys do around these parts after too many beers; you’ve just gotta see it to believe it.
Shirley Waring is president of the Vicksburg Blues Society, Inc. Find more information about the Heritage Music Series at www.VickburgHeritage.com • www.Ameristar.com • www.VisitVicksburg.com • ShirleyWaring@VicksburgHeritage.com
MUSIC FEATURE L
new orleans, la
52 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
elcome to Mississippi, Birthplace of American Music,” proclaim the official highway welcome signs. Few people typify that unique American music
form called the blues quite like Little Freddie King, now claimed by New Orleans as one of her own. King spent his first three decades in New Orleans soaking up life and near-death experiences. Shootings and stabbings (by his wife, among others) jail sentences, drinking, all night rambling, hard work and losing his home to Hurricane Katrina (“a tough frog to swallow”) shaped him into the gritty bluesman he is today, a rough hewn veteran with raw vocal intensity accompanied by rural electric gut bucket blues. Now back in his New Orleans home, King is comfortable in his Habitat for Humanity Home in the Musician’s Village. Against his “wall of fame,” covered with awards, photos and newspaper articles, leans “Lucille,” a guitar gifted by the Gibson Guitar Company. The treasure is a far cry from his first model. “I made my first guitar out of a cigar box and a board from a picket fence,” he says. “Then, I didn’t have no strings so I pulled some hair out of a horse’s tail, put it on and made sound. “I used to be down, but I ain’t down no more,” he muses. King and his band have a penchant for hardhitting, minimalist chords and lyrics with a steady rolling, seductive groove delivered by his cracked and gritty, heavily lived-in voice. “You gotta make those strings ring and bellow out what you hear in your head... Oh, baby, please don’t go… But once you play it and get it off your chest, it’s just like taking a dose of doctor’s medicine; it makes you feel good.” His newest CD, “Chasing tha Blues,” won the 2013 Independent Music Association Award for
54 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
Best Blues Album. The tracks take listeners on a journey via the back end of the bike King frequently rides through the French Quarter. The gritty blues anthem “Born Dead,” is reminiscent of cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta, fields that were clearly made for hanging. When he sings about rocking the d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street then laments about the toxic drywall that drove him out of his first post-Katrina housing, he’s singing about his life, drenched with the blues. New Orleans’ Monarch of the Blues and Louisiana Music Hall of Fame member was born in 1940 yards from Bo Diddley’s home in McComb, Miss. Fred E. Martin, a.k.a. Little Freddie King, grew up playing alongside his blues guitar-picking father on what was known as the Chitlin’ Circuit. More than half a century ago, fueled by a little courage from Muscat wine, “I threw my clothes in a 50-pound flour sack, jumped a train and headed for New Orleans where everything was swinging,” he says. King honed his guitar chops while dodging bullets at New Orleans juke joints like the Dew Drop Inn and the Bucket of Blood, which he later immortalized in song. “Yeah, I squatted behind a juke box at a bar over there near where that Superdome is now a few times so I wouldn’t catch a shot,” he says. Through the years, he has played with his cousin, Lightnin’ Hopkins, as well as Bo Diddley, Freddie King, Babe Stovall, Buddy Guy, Slim Harpo, Champion Jack Dupre, Snooks Eaglin and John Lee Hooker. He reminisces about those who have passed away, “Yeah, we all gotta cash that check one day. I was born with the blues, lived with the blues, worked with the blues and even had the blues all in my shoes.”
In a city known for its music and food, the crescent city blues & bbq festival combines the best of both worlds. The free festival heats up the heart of New Orleans’ Central Business District as the weather starts to cool down with live music, crafts and barbecue delights, local favorites, desserts and vegetarian options. A presentation of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival & Foundation, this festival will take place October 18 through October 20 in Lafayette Square. The lineup includes harmonica legend James Cotton, slide guitar shredder Sonny Landreth, Grammy winning blues/rock stomper Jonny Lang debuting his first studio album since 2006, Fight for My Soul, poignant electric blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, Blues Music Award “Blues Drummer of The Year” winner Cedric Burnside Project, sacred steel ensemble The Lee Boys, rhythm and blues singer Mel Waiters, and red clay soul/blues vocalist Mighty Sam McClain, among others. Can’t make it to the fest? Many acts will be streamed live on local listenersupported, non-commercial radio station, the “Guardians of the Groove,” 90.7 FM and WWOZ.org.
CELEBRATE! NEW YEAR’S EVE Come Celebrate New Year’s Eve Here At Hilton-Jackson!
Live entertainment provided by “The Consoulers” from Nashville, TN
For more information or reservations contact: email@example.com Reservations will open 9/9/2013 72 hour cancellation required
1001 E County Line Road - Jackson, MS 39211 601-957-2800 - www.jacksonhilton.com
56 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
November 2 & 3
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday OCEAN SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI
Blue Moon Art Project Winner – Elizabeth Huffmaster
Mary Kay Samouce
Blue Moon Art Project 400 Fine Arts, Crafts & Food Vendors Live Music & MORE! Known as the largest fine arts festival in Mississippi!
2013 Great American Main Street Award Community
www.peterandersonfestival.com Shearwater Pottery Celebrating 85 years! This Mississippi Gulf Coast event is sponsored by a grant from BP MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
new orleans, la
58 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
nless you’re in search of it, you may never know about Riccobono’s
the nearby suburb of Metairie--had the same response of “feeling at home”
Panola Street Cafe. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood
when he first entered the old building that now houses the restaurant.
off Carrollton Avenue in Uptown New Orleans, this cafe is an
Having served as a restaurant in the past, the building was perfect for
unassuming local spot that sits quietly on an ordinary street corner,
Riccobono’s new enterprise.
nestled among homes.
“When I was a child, my father and my grandfather opened Rick’s
In a city known for its special neighborhood gems, Panola Street
Pancake Cottage on Canal Street, the original Rick’s Pancake Cottage,”
Cafe stands as a quality example of a casual restaurant that reflects the
said Riccobono. “I was running Peppermill, and my waffle guy came in
surrounding neighborhood vibe. It primarily offers a breakfast-style menu,
and said, ‘They’ve got this little restaurant Uptown. It’s closed now; you
but offerings range from simple American breakfast fare to complex egg
ought to go look at it.’ When I walked in the front door, it was like walking
medleys that weave local flavor into traditional favorites.
into Rick’s Pancake Cottage—the high ceilings, the pick-up window, the
The day Legends visited, we happened to chance upon one of the
counter – I had to have it. I bought it, and I’ve been here about 15 years
cafe’s biggest fans, Uptown resident and musician Armand St. Martin,
keyboardist and front man for the New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll band, Armand
In a city that is often cited as having more restaurants per capita than
St. Martin and his Bayou Bohemians. St. Martin considers the restaurant
any other in the United States, there are ample choices for visitors. Located
his a.m. spot of choice.
in an area primarily inhabited by college kids from Tulane and Loyola,
“I am very comfortable here. I love to do crosswords, and I’m here
Riccobono’s Panola Street Cafe is not about tourism as much as it is about
sometimes as long as two hours. I’m very relaxed and nobody makes me
social and culinary realness.
hurry,” said St. Martin. “They all know me, and it’s a wonderful place. It’s
“Basically, this is a true New Orleans neighborhood restaurant serving
open, airy and very comfortable. I feel at home here.”
New Orleans food to locals,” said Riccobono. “It’s almost a place that you
Owner Vincent J. Riccobono--who also owns Riccobono’s Peppermill in
have to know it’s here, because it’s right in the middle of a neighborhood.
60 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
We do get our share of tourists because of word of mouth. People visit family and friends and they bring them here, but this is not like a French Quarter restaurant. This is a real New Orleans restaurant.” Menu offerings reflect a local palate. It may seem like a difficult feat to give breakfast a South Louisiana flavor, but for the cafe, NOLA favorites are just a normal part of the breakfast kitchen. The cafe offers specials that may range from a Crawfish Etouffee Omelet to a Shrimp Creole Omelet, which Riccobono claims “is even better than shrimp creole with rice.” A special menu item is the Crabcake Benedict. The standard poached eggs covered in homemade Hollandaise is served with a delectable twist: atop two crab cakes instead of an English muffin. Served with a choice of either potatoes or grits, this dish--described by the cafe as an “all-time neighborhood favorite”--makes for a delightful breakfast at a more than reasonable $13.95. “You can get eggs any way you want, like a traditional breakfast. But you can also get Eggs Benedict, Crabmeat Benedict, dishes that you would expect to find in real high-end restaurants,” said Riccobono, comparing his “Benedicts” to fare usually found only in fine dining environments. “And they are as good as or better than anything you can get,” he added. The menu is full. More than 20 breakfast plates--including Crawfish Saute and Huevos Rancheros--are offered alongside pancake stacks, Belgian waffles and healthy choices such as an Egg White Plate or Fresh Fruit Bowl. Additional lunch items include salads, light sandwiches and hand-pattied burgers served on French buns by local bakery, Leidenheimer. With most items priced in the $6 to $9 range, a fulfilling meal can be had for a steal. Because it’s in a residential neighborhood, there’s no parking lot. Streetside parking may take a moment to find on a busy morning, such as on Sunday mornings, but you are certain to find a spot within an easy block or two of the restaurant. For ardent fan St. Martin, a visit is not a special one-off treat; it is
“I’m only five blocks from home,” he said. “Some people wake up and go down to their kitchen; I wake up and go down to Riccobono’s.”
WANT TO GO? Riccobono’s Panola Sreet Cafe 7801 Panola St. - New Orleans • (504) 314-1810 Hours: Mon-Sun • 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.
simply a part of life.
ABOVE LEFT: Crabcake Benedict, a standard poached eggs covered in homemade Hollandaise is served with a delectable twist -- atop two crab cakes instead of an English muffin. ABOVE RIGHT: Huevos Rancheros are offered alongside pancake stacks, Belgian waffles and healthy choices such as an Egg White Plate or Fresh Fruit Bowl. MISSISSIPPILEGENDS.COM
LEGENDS IS A PROUD SPONSOR... Y’all come on down for some seriously unforgettable, soul-searching music The granddaddy of blues festivals, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, opens its classic lineup this year on Oct. 10. Scheduled to run through the 12th in historic Helena, Ark., the Biscuit this year will feature such notables as Sonny Landreth, Marcia Ball, Robert Cray, James Cotton, Joe Louis Walker, Bobby Rush and The Gregg Allman Band – along with all our regional favorites. Now it its 28th year, the Biscuit is considered one of the foremost showcases of blues music in the nation. Steeped in historic culture, many of the artists remember when the Biscuit got its start on KFFA, the Helena radio show that paid tribute to emerging – and mostly penniless – musicians. Most played for a few bucks and all the whiskey they could drink. Now those artists come back to the banks of the Mississippi each year in celebration of this river town’s musical roots. The staff of Legends cordially invites you to take part in this national event encompassing five stages of entertainment. We promise, it’ll be an experience you won’t soon forget. WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit the Biscuit at www.kingbiscuitfestival.com (Photographs by Ken Flynt)
62 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
Ruthie Foster Bill Abel
what’s shakin’ in the cradle? bay st. louis October 12...................Second Saturday Artwalk - www.mswestcoast.org October 6-13...............Cruisin’ The Coast - www.cruisinthecoast.com October 31...................Halloween Cemetery Tour-Cedar Crest Cemetery - www.mswestcoast.org
biloxi September 14-15..........32th Annual Biloxi Seafood Festival – (228) 604-0014 – www.gulfcoast.org/visitors/events/index.cfm?EventID=409 September 29...............Chefs of the Coast - Biloxi Civic Center – (228) 236-1420 October 19-20.............27th Annual Fall Muster-Beauvior – www.beauvoir.org
clarksdale September 27-29..........Delta Busking Festival-Downtown - (662) 627-7337 – www.visitclarksdale.com October 4-5.................MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival – (662) 627-7337 – www.visitclarksdale.com October 13...................Pinetop Perkins Homecoming-Hopkins Plantation – (662) 637-7337 – www.visitclarksdale.com
cleveland October 11-12.............Octoberfest – Downtown – (662) 843-2712 – www.visitclevelandms.com October 27...................A Night At The Movies-Bologna Performing Arts Center – (662) 846-4626 – www.visitclevelandms.com
columbus October 18-19.............BBQ & Blues and Caledonia Days – www.columbus-ms.org
greenville September 21...............36th Annual Mississippi Blues & Heritage Festival - Washington County Convention Center – (888) 812-5837 September 28...............Sam Chatmon Festival Hollandale – www.bridgingtheblues.com October 4-6.................The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival - Warfield Point Park – www.mightymississippimusicfestival.com – (662) 347-4223
hattiesburg Aug. 26-Sept. 20..........Exhibition of the Brian Blair Collection by Lucile Parker-Lucile Parker Gallery at 512 Tuscan Ave., William Carey University ....................................(601) 318-6192 – www.hattiesburg.org October 5.....................Mobile St. Renaissance Fair - Downtown - 866.4HATTIE – www.hattiesburg.org October 26...................USM Homecoming Parade & Game - The parade is at 10 a.m. in Downtown Hattiesburg. ....................................Game follows with kick-off at 6 p.m. against North Texas – www.hattiesburg.org
indianola September 28...............Indian Bayou Arts Festival - On the Bayou – www.bridgingtheblues.com
jackson September 28...............International Gumbo Festival - Smith Park - Downtown – www.jacksongumbo.com October 2-13...............Mississippi State fair-Fairgounds – (601) 961-4000 – www.visitjackson.com
memphis September 14...............Cooper Young Festival – www.cooperyoungfestival.com October 25-27.............River Arts Fest – www.riverartsmemphis.org
meridian September 19...............Blues Traveler - MSU Riley Center – (601) 696-2200 – www.msurileycenter.com October 4.....................Sucarnochee Revue, “Retro Country Classics” - Temple Theater – www.meridiantempletheater.com
natchez Sept. 27-Oct. 14..........Fall Pilgrimage – www.natchezpilgrimage.com/natchez-fall-pilgrimage.php October 18-20.............The Great Mississippi Balloon Race – www.natchezballoonrace.com
new orleans October 10-17.............24th Annual New Orleans Film Festival – www.neworleansfilmsociety.org November 9-10............Treme Creole Gumbo Festival – www.jazzandheritage.org/treme-gumbo
tunica September 20-22..........Smokin Aces BBQ Festival – www.smokinacesfestival.com October 19...................Charlie Daniels Band comes to Sam’s Town Tunica. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster or by calling (800) 745-3000
tupelo September 13-14..........Up Up and Away Balloon Festival – www.upupnawayfest.info October 22...................John Fogerty - Bancorp South – www.bcsarena.com
southaven September 20-21..........Wide Spread Panic - Snowden Grove – www.Ticketmaster.com or call (800) 745-3000 September 20-29..........Mid South Fair - Landers Center – www.midsouthfair.com
vicksburg September 17...............Rick Springfield - Lady Luck Casino – www.vicksburg.isleofcapricasinos.com September 27...............Grady Champion - Ameristar Bottleneck Blues Bar-www.ameristar.com October 5.....................Downtown Fall Fest – www.downtownvicksburg.org
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68 • OCTOBER // NOVEMBER 2013
Legends is an 'Arts & Entertainment' magazine distributed throughout the state of Mississippi. I am graphic designer / creative director for...