Duncan in Bolivar County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
The Blues Legends of Duncan
Duncan has earned its place in blues history as the birthplace or former residence of performers who achieved notoriety locally and around the world. The legendary Jimmy Reed lived on the nearby McMurchy plantation in his youth. Others with roots in the Duncan area include Chicago bluesman Eddie C. Campbell, pianists Willie Love and Ernest Lane, singer Willie "Rip" Butler, and guitarist Anthony "Big A" Sherrod. Charley Patton's daughter Rosetta Brown was also a longtime resident here.
Duncan can lay claim to a noteworthy share of the Highway 61 blues legacy. Local performers have played the blues in juke joints and on plantations here, and several followed career paths that led them to greater acclaim in other parts of the country. Willie Love (1906-1953), born in Duncan, was a prominent blues figure in the Delta, broadcasting on several stations (including KFFA in Helena, where he worked with Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2) and recording for the Trumpet label in Jackson from 1951 to 1953. Another Duncan-born pianist, Ernest Lane (1931-2012), grew up in Clarksdale alongside Ike Turner and was
Campbell, born in Duncan in 1939, lived in Clarksdale for a few years before moving to Chicago, where he joined a legendary circle of musicians, including fellow Mississippi transplants Otis Rush and Magic Sam, who created the famed West Side sound. Campbell, who toured and recorded widely, lived in Europe in the 1980s and appeared in a German production of William Faulkner’s "Requiem for a Nun." In Chicago Campbell sometimes worked as bandleader for the best-known performer with Duncan connections, blues star Jimmy Reed (1925-1976). Reed worked on the McMurchy plantation before he left Mississippi and later recalled Lynn McMurchy as “Mr. Mac . . . a nice old man.” Robert “Bilbo” Walker, a familiar figure in the juke joints around Clarksdale, Bobo, Alligator and Duncan, also knew Campbell in Chicago in the 1960s.
Others from Duncan include local favorite Willie Lee “Rip” Butler (1948-2014), a key member of the Wesley Jefferson Band who also worked with Robert Walker; Percell Perkins (1917-2003), who sang with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and other gospel groups; Menard Rogers (1929-2006), a saxophonist
Longtime Duncan resident Rosetta Patton Brown (1917-2014), although not a performer, was known to many visitors and aficionados as the daughter of Charley Patton. When she worked for the Malvezzi family in Clarksdale, she would babysit a young Jimbo Mathus when he came to town to visit his uncle, Guy Malvezzi. When Mathus later learned of her blues lineage, he recorded a tribute CD in Clarksdale, Jas. Mathus and His Knock-Down Society Play Songs for Rosetta.
Willie Love’s Trumpet recordings included “Nelson Street Blues”, “V-8 Ford”, and “Way Back”.
Eddie C. Campbell recorded the Christmas classic “Santa’s Messin’ With the Kid” on his King of the Jungle album in Chicago.
Ernest Lane made his first record for the Blues and Rhythm label in Greenville in 1952. This photo was taken at the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival.
Rosette Patton Brown poses with a photo
Jimmy Reed was one of the most popular blues artist of the 1950s and ‘60s. In this photo from a 1975 Reed appearance at the Golden Checkmate in Chicago, the guitarist in the background is Eddie C. Campbell.
Anthony Sherrod was only 11 when Bill Steber took this photo of him paying with Mr. Johnnie Billington in 1995. Sherrod, who followed in Billington’s footsteps to become a mentor to younger local musicians, is shown in the Panny Flautt Mayfield photo at right at the 2011 Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival.
In addition to singing and playing bass, Rip Butler drove a local school bus. This photo is from 1995 at King’s Lounge in Alligator.
Erected 2015 by Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 185.)
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 Mississippi Blues Trail series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1951.
Location. 34° 2.67′ N, 90° 44.717′ W. Marker is in Duncan, Mississippi, in Bolivar County. Marker is at the intersection of East Main Street (State Highway 444) and East Park South (Old State Highway Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Duncan MS 38740, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Duncan (within shouting distance of this marker); Fred Coe (approx. 3.4 miles away); Alligator Blues (approx. 3½ miles away); Henry Townsend (approx. 6.6 miles away); The Shelby Depot (approx. 6.6 miles away); Decker-Malatesta Post 0113 (approx. 6.6 miles away); Little Junior Parker (approx. 7.3 miles away); Harlem Inn (approx. 9.1 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on August 16, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 15, 2020, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 68 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on August 15, 2020, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.