Meridian in Lauderdale County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Meridian Blues & Jazz
Meridian blues and jazz performers have played important roles in musical history, both locally and nationally, not only supplying a foundation for other genres but also propelling music in new directions. Notables with Meridian roots include musicians Alvin Fielder and his brother William, Sherman Johnson, Cleo Brown, Marie Bryant, Carlia “Duke” Oatis, Carey Bell, Lovie Lee, the Mighty Rhythm Rockers, the House Rockers, Pat Brown and Jamell Richardson, and Chicago blues club owner Theresa Needham.
Meridian, the largest city in Mississippi in 1910 and 1920 during the ascent of blues and jazz, was a city of opportunity for musicians. Blues and jazz was featured in several locales including the Star Theatre here in the 5th Street African-American business and entertainment district, where Lovie Lee (Eddie Lee Watson, c.1908-1997) played piano during intermissions. Lee, who was inspired by local pianist Cap King, moved to Chicago in 1957 with protégé Carey Bell (1936-2007). Both played in the Muddy Waters band at different times, and Bell became one of the city’s top harmonica
The Fielder family pharmacy, a 5th Street landmark, was once operated by renowned jazz drummer Alvin Fielder. He worked with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago after accompanying blues singers when he was in college. William Butler Fielder (1938-2009), an acclaimed trumpeter and educator, taught at Mississippi Valley State, Rutgers and other universities. The Fielders and others studied in Meridian under high school band director and community leader Duke Oatis (1925-2011), who also led a dance band that entertained at many social affairs.
Meridian’s blues and jazz women include pianist Cleo Brown (1907-1995), famed for her 1935-1936 boogie-woogie and jive records; Marie Bryant (1917-1978), a singer, dancer and film star who made calypso records in England; Helen Elizabeth Jones Woods (b. 1923), trombonist with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm; Louvet Jackson (1936-1988), who performed in New York; and Pat Brown (b. 1949) and Patrice Moncell (1962-2015), both top singers on the Jackson soul-blues scene.
Radio stations WQIC, WTOK and WOKK featured disc jockeys who were also musicians -- Sherman “Blues” Johnson, aka
Others born or based in Meridian include pianist Ernest Stewart (1908-1987); Duke Jethro (Pollard, b. 1936), organist with B.B. King; St. Louis drummer James B. Rogers (b. 1929); singer Eddie Houston (b. 1934); pianist Cooney Vaughn, who played on WCOC radio; saxophonist Rosser Emerson (1908-1987); drummer Dudley Tardo (1957-2016), founder of the House Rockers band; guitarist Jamell Richardson, “The Gulf Coast Blues Boy” (b. 1988); the blues-influenced “father of country music,” Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933); and blues historian Gayle Dean Wardlow (b. 1940).
Erected 2017 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 198.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Mississippi Blues Trail series lists.
Location. 32° 21.748′ N, 88° 42.143′ W. Marker is in Meridian, Mississippi, in Lauderdale County. Marker is at the intersection of 25th Avenue and 5th Street, on the left when traveling north on 25th Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 500 25th Avenue, Meridian MS 39301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Movement (here, next to this marker); African American Business District (here, next to this marker); African-American Cultural Heritage District (a few steps from this marker); Urban Center Historic District (within shouting distance of this marker); Meridian Rhythm & Blues and Soul Music (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sit-Ins, Pickets & Boycotts (about 600 feet away); Lauderdale County World War I Memorial (about 700 feet away); The Grand Opera House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Meridian.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2017. It was originally submitted on December 4, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 138 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on December 4, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.