Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Senatobia in Tate County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Jessie Mae Hemphill

 
 
Jessie Mae Hemphill Marker (front) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
1. Jessie Mae Hemphill Marker (front)
Inscription.  
Front
One of the few female performers of country blues, Jessie Mae Hemphill (c. 1923 – 2006) was a multi-instrumentalist who performed in local fife and drum bands before gaining international recognition in the 1980s as a vocalist and guitarist. Her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, was a leading musician in the area, and his daughters, including Jessie Mae’s mother Virgie Lee, all played drums and stringed instruments. She is buried here at the Senatobia Memorial Cemetery.

Rear
Jessie Mae Hemphill, who struck a unique chord with blues fans due to her colorful personality and attire and her choice of instruments, represented deep and rich traditions in the Senatobia area. Her great-grandfather, Dock Hemphill, was a fiddler who was born a slave, and her grandfather, Sid Hemphill (c. 1876-1963), played fiddle, guitar, banjo, drums, fife, mandolin, organ, and quills. Folklorists Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress and Lewis Jones of Fisk University documented Hemphill’s broad repertoire at a recording session in Sledge in 1942. Lomax, who recorded music around the world and returned to record Hemphill in 1959, later recalled that encountering Hemphill's fife and drum music was the “main find of my whole career.”

Sid Hemphill’s daughters, Rosa Lee, Sidney, and Virgie Lee, were all musicians, and when Jessie Mae was a small girl her grandfather inspired her to take up guitar, harmonica, and drums. During the 1950s she sang briefly with bands in Memphis, but
Paid Advertisement
Click on the ad for more information.
Please report objectionable advertising to the Editor.
Click or scan to see
this page online
most of her early musical experiences were local. Folklorist George Mitchell, who included chapters on her and her aunt Rosa Lee Hill in his book Blow My Blues Away, recorded her in the late '60s. Her first 45 rpm single, produced by Dr. David Evans, was released on the University of Memphis' High Water label in 1980. Hemphill subsequently toured the U.S. and Europe, recorded several albums, and won several W. C. Handy Awards for traditional blues. She played drums behind fife player Otha Turner on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and gained broader acclaim via her appearance in the 1992 documentary film Deep Blues. In 1993 Hemphill suffered a stroke that prevented her from playing guitar, but she continued to sing, and in 2004 she was featured singing and playing tambourine on the album Dare You to Do It Again, which featured many local musicians.

Other Senatobia area musicians who played in distinctive local folk traditions include many members of the extended family of Otha Turner, including his granddaughter and fife player Sharde Thomas; fife players Napolian Strickland and Ed Young; drummers Lonnie Young, Abe (“Cag” or "Kag") Young and R. L. Boyce; diddley bow players Glen Faulkner and Compton Jones; guitarists Sandy Palmer and Ranie Burnette (who was a major influence on R. L. Burnside); harmonica player Johnny Woods; banjoist Lucius Smith; and vocalist James Shorter, who recorded with Jessie Mae Hemphill. Artists who left the area and performed in more modern styles include guitarist Willie Johnson and bassists Calvin “Fuzz” Jones and Aron Burton, all of whom moved to Chicago; Wordie Perkins, guitarist with the Memphis band the Fieldstones; and Kalamazoo, Michigan, soul/blues vocalist Lou Wilson.
 
Erected
Jessie Mae Hemphill Marker (rear) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
2. Jessie Mae Hemphill Marker (rear)
2011 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 125.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicEntertainmentWomen. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Mississippi Blues Trail series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1923.
 
Location. 34° 35.588′ N, 89° 58.101′ W. Marker is in Senatobia, Mississippi, in Tate County. Marker is on U.S. 51, 0.3 miles north of State Route 740, on the right when traveling north. Located in front of the Senatobia Memorial Cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Senatobia MS 38668, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bethesda Cemetery (approx. 1.3 miles away); Tate County World War I Memorial (approx. 1.3 miles away); Sid Hemphill (approx. 1.6 miles away); O.B. McClinton (approx. 1.7 miles away); Senatobia (approx. 1.8 miles away); Otha Turner (approx. 5.8 miles away); Mississippi Fred McDowell (approx. 5.8 miles away); Napolian Strickland (approx. 5.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Senatobia.
 
Closeup of photos on reverse side of marker. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
3. Closeup of photos on reverse side of marker.
View of marker in front of cemetery. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
4. View of marker in front of cemetery.
View from marker north on U.S. Highway 51. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
5. View from marker north on U.S. Highway 51.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 27, 2018. It was originally submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 344 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

Share this page.  
Share on Tumblr
m=102871

CeraNet Cloud Computing sponsors the Historical Marker Database.
This website earns income from purchases you make after using our links to Amazon.com. We appreciate your support.
Paid Advertisement
May. 18, 2024