“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Southaven in Desoto County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)

Documenting the Blues

Reverse side of the Documenting the Blues Marker. image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler
1. Reverse side of the Documenting the Blues Marker.
Inscription.  Living Blues, the first American magazine dedicated exclusively to the blues, was founded in 1970 by seven young enthusiasts in Chicago. Cofounders Amy van Singel and Jim O’Neal became owners and publishers of the magazine in 1971, operating it until its transfer to the University of Mississippi in 1983. Cofounder Bruce Iglauer formed Alligator Records, which became the most prominent independent blues label, while cofounder Paul Garon wrote several books, including Blues and the Poetic Spirit and biographies of blues artists Memphis Minnie and Peetie Wheatstraw. Living Blues soon became a journal of record for the African American blues tradition, specializing in lengthy, first-person narratives of living blues artists and chronicling local blues activity around the country, including Mississippi. The magazine, which began as a forty-page quarterly priced at fifty cents, entered its fortieth year of publication in 2009.

The Center for the Study of the Southern Culture, established at the University in 1977, acquired Living Blues in 1983. The Center’s director at the time was Dr. William R. Ferris, a Vicksburg
Living Blues Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler
2. Living Blues Marker
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native who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Delta blues traditions and was a contributor to Living Blues. O’Neal, who lived in Biloxi and Oxford as a child, and van Singel moved from Chicago to Oxford after the transfer of the magazine. In 1980 they cofounded the Rooster Blvues record label, and O’Neal later started the Stackhouse label and helped establish the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale. The Center launched its own Southern Culture label in 1983 to document Mississippi blues, gospel, and folk music. Living Blues was later edited by Peter Lee, who was a founder of the Oxford-based Fat Possum record label, David Nelson, Scott Barretta, and Brett J. Bonner. Ferris, Nelson, and Barretta also served as hosts of the University-produced radio show “Highway 61,” which began its long tenure on Mississippi Public Broadcasting in 1984.

Ferris was also instrumental in establishing the University’s Blues Archive, which opened in 1984. Ferris arranged for his friend B. B. King to contribute his large record collection and for O’Neal and van Singel to donate the Living Blues Collection of records, photos, subject files, and memorabilia. Other major components of the Archive, which is housed at the J. D. Williams Library, include the Trumpet Records Collection, donated by Lillian McMurry of Jackson, and the Sheldon Harris
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Collection. The Archive has aided thousands of researchers and has been headed by archivists Suzanne Flandreau, Edward Komara, and Greg Johnson. The University has also offered courses on blues topics taught by Ferris, Peter Aschoff, Adam Gussow, David Evans, and others, and in 2003 began hosting “Blues Today: A Living Blues Symposium.”
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicCommunicationsEntertainment. A significant historical year for this entry is 1970.
Location. 34° 56.17′ N, 89° 59.519′ W. Marker is in Southaven, Mississippi, in Desoto County. Marker can be reached from Airways Blvd. Marker is located at the Tanger Outlet Mall. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5205 Airways Blvd, Southaven MS 38671, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Hubert Sumlin (within shouting distance of this marker); Charley Patton (within shouting distance of this marker); The Peavine Branch (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Birthplace of the Blues? (about 300 feet away); Po' Monkey's (about 300 feet away); Club Ebony (about 400 feet away); Albert King (about 400 feet away); Big Walter Horton (approx. 2.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southaven.
More about this marker. This is part of a display at the mall and not the original marker. It does not include the front of the marker, only the rear side.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. The original
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site of this marker.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 10, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 208 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 23, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 16, 2021