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

Booker "Bukka" White

Booker "Bukka" White Marker (side 1) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 22, 2020
1. Booker "Bukka" White Marker (side 1)
Inscription.  (Side 1)
Houston area native Booker T. Washington White (c. 1904–1977) was one of the most expressive vocalists and powerful slide guitarists in the blues. A remarkable lyricist as well, he recorded such classics as “Shake ‘Em On Down” and “Fixin’ to Die Blues” between 1930 and 1940 under the names Washington White or Bukka White. An important influence on his cousin B. B. King, White enjoyed a second career as a performer and recording artist beginning in 1963.

(Side 2)
"Bukka" White White recalled, in a 1976 interview with Robin Mathis of Houston radio station WCPC, that he was born about five miles south of Houston on the farm of Willie Harrington. Various documents list his birth date as November 12, between 1900 and 1909, but the earliest census data suggest 1904. His father John White, a multi-instrumentalist who performed at local gatherings, gave him his first guitar and other local musicians taught him his signature bottleneck slide technique. He further developed his skills on guitar and piano during stays in Tallahatchie County (in the Delta) and St. Louis. At sixteen White
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married for the first of several times, but was soon back to rambling across the South and Midwest.

Recording agent Ralph Lembo of Itta Bena arranged for White to record his first blues and gospel songs in 1930 in Memphis. In 1937 White recorded a minor hit, “Shake ‘Em On Down,” in Chicago, but that year he was also sentenced for a shooting incident to Parchman Penitentiary, where John Lomax of the Library of Congress recorded him in 1939. After his release White recorded twelve of his best-known songs at a Chicago session in 1940. During the war he settled in Memphis and worked at a defense plant. In Memphis he also performed with blues legend Frank Stokes, among others, and helped his cousin B.B. King become established on the local music scene. After he began to tour and record again in the 1960s White, still a skilled and energetic performer, became a popular figure on the folk music circuit and traveled as far as Mexico and Europe. On May 27, 1976, White returned to Houston as the featured artist at the city’s bicentennial celebration. He died in Memphis on February 26, 1977.

Other notable singers from the Houston area include brothers Cleave (born c. 1928) and Clay Graham (b. 1936) of the famed gospel group the Pilgrim Jubilees, who were raised in the Horse Nation community. Otho Lee Gaines (1914-1987) of Buena Vista was the founder and bass
Booker "Bukka" White Marker (side 2) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 22, 2020
2. Booker "Bukka" White Marker (side 2)
singer of the popular vocal group the Delta Rhythm Boys. Milan Williams (1948- 2006) of Okolona was a founding member and keyboardist of the R&B group the Commodores, and wrote or cowrote many of their songs. Other blues artists from the area include vocalist Willie Buck (b. 1937) of Houston and guitarist C. D. Dobbs (1917-1993) of Okolona. The music of famous Chickasaw County native Bobbie Gentry (born Roberta Lee Streeter in 1944 and best known as a pop or country singer) borrowed heavily from soul and blues. In turn, her classic 1967 recording, “Ode to Billie Joe,” has been performed by countless African American soul, blues, and jazz performers.

Top label: On "Shake "Em On Down" and most of White's other records, his first name appeared as "Bukka" (pronounced "book-uh"), probably stemming from a misunderstanding of his pronunciation of "Booker".

On one of Booker (Bukka) T. Washington White's first recordings, Victor Records advertised him in the October 11, 1930, Chicago Defender as Washington White, "The Singing Preacher".

The Pilgrim Jubilees, circa 1964. From left: Cleave Graham, Maurice Dollison, Clay Graham (bottom), Major Roberson, Roosevelt English. The "Jubes" founded in 1944, scored an important hit in 1960 with "Stretch Out", which featured the bass playing of producer Willie Dixon, one of the most
Booker "Bukka" White Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 22, 2020
3. Booker "Bukka" White Marker
influential songwriters and producers in the blues.

The diverse programming of Houston radio station WCPC, founded in 1955 by brothers Robin and Ralph Mathis, included Sacred Harp music and an R&B / rock 'n' roll show hosted by Aubrey Freeman. From left: Ralph Mathis, J.B. Skelton, Charles Hester, Aubrey Freeman, and Robin Mathis, mid-'60s.

The Delta Rhythm Boys' sophisticated harmonies influence many later R&B groups. Their best-known song, "Dry Bones", was first recorded in 1940. They appeared in many films and radio programs. Lee Gaines appears at the top.

Vocalist Willie Buck sang at local clubs before moving in the early 1950s to Chicago. He appeared in the movie "Hoop Dreams".
Erected 2009 by Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 89.)
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 February 26, 1977.
Location. 33° 53.525′ N, 88° 59.63′ W. Marker is in Houston, Mississippi, in Chickasaw County. Marker is on Woodland Circle, 0.1 miles north of Starkville Road, on the left when traveling north. Marker is located in front of the Chickasaw County
Booker "Bukka" White Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 22, 2020
4. Booker "Bukka" White Marker
Heritage Museum in Joe Brigance Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 446 Woodland Circle, Houston MS 38851, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Parkersburg Depot (within shouting distance of this marker); 1927 Schoolhouse (approx. 0.3 miles away); Light Columns (approx. 0.3 miles away); Chickasaw County CSA Monument (approx. half a mile away); Pinson Square (approx. half a mile away); Natchez Trace Through Chickasaw County (approx. half a mile away); Chickasaw County Veterans Memorial (approx. half a mile away); Carnegie Library (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Houston.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 28, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 26, 2020, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 249 times since then and 65 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on August 26, 2020, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 4, 2023