The blues form reached both artistic and emotional peaks in the works of Otis Rush, who was born south of Philadelphia in Neshoba County in 1935. His music, shaped by the hardships and troubles of his early life in Mississippi, came to fruition in Chicago in the 1950s. As a singer, guitarist, bandleader, and songwriter, Rush set new standards in Chicago blues and influenced countless blues and rock musicians, including Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Otis Rush rose from the poverty of a Mississippi sharecropper’s life to international fame as one of the most passionate singers and brilliant guitarists in the blues world. Rush, the sixth of seven children, was born in 1935, according to family sources, although biographies often give his birth date as 1934. His mother, Julia Campbell Boyd, ended up raising her family alone on farms in Neshoba and Kemper counties. During the throes of the Great Depression in a segregated society, although times were hard, with the children often missing school to work in the cotton fields, Julia Boyd did own a wind-up Victrola record player.
When his oldest brother, Leroy Boyd, was away from home, Otis started secretly playing Leroy’s guitar. With no musical training, he devised his own unorthodox method, playing left-handed with the guitar upside down. Rush’s distinctive style was rooted in his self-taught technique and his ability to transform sounds he heard into notes on his guitar. One sound he recalled from his childhood was Leroy's whistling.
As a young teen, Rush was already married, sharecropping cotton and corn on a five-acre plot. On Otis Lewis’s farm, Rush heard guitarist Vaughan Adams, a friend of his mother's, but there were few other blues musicians around Philadelphia. Rush only became inspired to be a professional musician after visiting his sister in Chicago. She took him to a Muddy Waters performance, and, as Rush recalled, “I flipped out, man. I said, ‘Damn. This is for me.’”
Rush moved to Chicago and learned Waters’s music, but soon developed a more modern, original approach that made him one of the most exciting young talents in the blues world. In 1956, his first record, “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” produced by Willie Dixon on the Cobra label, was a national rhythm & blues hit, later covered
Erected 2007 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 26.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Grammy Award Winners, and the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. Marker is missing. It was located near 32° 46.291′ N, 89° 7.021′ W. Marker was in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Neshoba County. Marker could be reached from West Beacon Street (Mississippi Route 21) west of Front Ave, on the left when traveling west. Located at the Old Depot (Welcome Center). Touch for map. Marker was at or near this postal address: 256 West Beacon Street, Philadelphia MS 39350, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Marty Stuart (approx. 0.4 miles away); Marty Gamblin (approx. 0.4 miles away); Neshoba County Confederate Monument (approx. 0.4 miles away); Old Neshoba County Jail (approx. 0.4 miles away); Booker T. Washington School (approx. half a mile away); Adam Monroe Byrd (approx. 0.6 miles away); Grierson's Raid 1863 (approx. 0.6 miles away); Philadelphia Historic District (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
More about this marker. According to the nearby Welcome Center inside the train depot, this marker was taken down to be refurbished.
Also see . . .
1. Wikipedia entry on Otis Rush w/photo. (Submitted on October 10, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Marker dedication. (Submitted on October 11, 2019, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida.)
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
More. Search the internet for Otis Rush.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 11, 2019. This page originally submitted on October 10, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 47 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 10, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.