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Como in Panola County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Mississippi Fred McDowell

 
 
Mississippi Fred McDowell Marker (Front) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
1. Mississippi Fred McDowell Marker (Front)
Inscription.  
Front
Fred McDowell, a seminal figure in Mississippi hill country blues, was one of the most vibrant performers of the 1960s blues revival. McDowell (c. 1906-1972) was a sharecropper and local entertainer in 1959 when he made his first recordings at his home on a farm north of Como for noted folklorist Alan Lomax. The depth and originality of McDowell’s music brought him such worldwide acclaim that he was able to record and tour prolifically during his final years.

Rear
“Mississippi” Fred McDowell, as he was usually billed, was actually born and raised in Rossville, Tennessee. He never knew his birth date–January 12, 1904 is often cited, although census and Social Security documents point to 1906 or 1907. His music blended the sounds he heard from local guitarists in Tennessee with the pulsating juke joint grooves of the North Mississippi hills and the hard-edged blues he picked up during several years spent in the Delta. Spirituals were an important part of his repertoire, and one, “ You Got to Move,” recorded by McDowell in 1965, gained widespread fame when
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the Rolling Stones recorded it on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.

McDowell, who learned to fret his guitar strings with a bottleneck or metal slide after seeing his father’s cousin play with a steak bone, honed his skills under the tutelage of longtime friend and neighbor Eli Green, who was said to possess magical powers. Green’s song “Write Me a Few Lines” became a McDowell signature piece and was later recorded by one of McDowell’s biggest admirers, Bonnie Raitt. McDowell was also so well known for the rhythmic tour-de-force “Shake ’Em On Down” that he earned the nickname “Shake ’Em.” His music laid the groundwork for generations of hill country musicians to come, most notably R. L. Burnside, who started out by playing McDowell’s guitar at a house party. Alan Lomax described McDowell as “a bluesman quite the equal of Son House and Muddy Waters, but, musically speaking, their granddaddy.”

The highly acclaimed albums that McDowell waxed during his belated recording career (1959-1971) proved that some of the greatest country blues music had gone undiscovered by the record companies that scoured the South for talent in the 1920s and ‘30s. McDowell found himself in demand at folk and blues clubs and festivals, yet kept a job pumping gas at the Stuckey’s candy store and service station on I-55 during his
Mississippi Fred McDowell Marker (rear) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
2. Mississippi Fred McDowell Marker (rear)
final years, even when he was at last able to support himself as a musician. Stuckey’s became his social hangout and his office, where he would receive phone calls from booking agents and record producers. In earlier years, McDowell held a variety of jobs, including picking cotton, driving a tractor, and working for an oil mill, a dairy, and a logging company. In 1940, when he applied for a Social Security card, he was employed by the Hotel Peabody in Memphis. Fifty-one years later the Peabody was the site of McDowell’s posthumous induction into the Blues Hall of Fame. McDowell died at Baptist Hospital in Memphis on July 3, 1972. He is buried in the Hammond Hill M. B. Church cemetery north of Como.
 
Erected 2009 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 71.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicEntertainment. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail series list. A significant historical date for this entry is January 12, 1904.
 
Location. 34° 30.763′ N, 89° 56.484′ W. Marker is in Como, Mississippi, in Panola County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Sledge Street, in the median on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 211 Main Street, Como MS 38619, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers
Closeup of reverse side photos. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
3. Closeup of reverse side photos.
are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Otha Turner (a few steps from this marker); Napolian Strickland (within shouting distance of this marker); Stark Young (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Stark Young (about 600 feet away); Como (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sardis (approx. 5.4 miles away); Jessie Mae Hemphill (approx. 5.8 miles away); Walton Chapel Vocational High School (approx. 5.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Como.
 
Also see . . .  Wikipedia article on Fred McDowell. (Submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
 
View of marker, in forefront, in median of Main Street. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 8, 2017
4. View of marker, in forefront, in median of Main Street.
Mississippi Fred McDowell (January 12, 1906 – July 3, 1972) image. Click for full size.
Courtesy Fred Seibert (CC BY-SA 2.0), 1972
5. Mississippi Fred McDowell (January 12, 1906 – July 3, 1972)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2017. It was originally submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 324 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Feb. 20, 2024