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

Mississippi John Hurt

Mississippi John Hurt Marker (front) image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Winter
1. Mississippi John Hurt Marker (front)
World-renowned master of the acoustic guitar John Hurt, an important figure in the 1960s folk blues revival, spent most of his life doing farm work around Avalon in Carroll County and performing for parties and local gatherings. Hurt (1893-1966) only began to earn a living from music after he left Mississippi in 1963 to play at folk festivals, colleges, and coffeehouses. His first recordings, 78 rpm discs released in 1928-29, are regarded as classics of the blues genre.

Mississippi John Hurt's delicate vocals, inventive fingerpicking on guitar, and warm personality endeared him to generations of music fans. Much of Hurt’s material predated the blues, and his gentle style provided a stark contrast to the typically harsh approaches of Delta musicians such as Son House and Charley Patton. According to a family bible, Hurt was born on July 3, 1893, in Teoc, several miles southwest of here. Other sources, including his tombstone at the St. James Cemetery in Avalon, have suggested dates ranging from 1892 to 1900. He began playing guitar around age nine. By twenty Hurt was performing at parties and square

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dances, sometimes with local white fiddler Willie Narmour, who had a contract with OKeh Records. Narmour recommended Hurt to OKeh, and in 1928 Hurt traveled to Memphis and New York to record. His OKeh songs included the murder ballads “Frankie,” “Stack O’Lee,” and “Louis Collins;” “Spike Driver Blues” (Hurt’s take on the John Henry legend); “Nobody’s Dirty Business” (a tune with roots in 19th century minstrelsy); religious songs; and Hurt’s own “Candy Man Blues” and “Got the Blues Can’t Be Satisfied.”

The recordings apparently had little effect on Hurt's lifestyle, and he continued to play regularly for locals at house parties, picnics, night spots, work sheds, hunting lodges, and at the Valley Store at this site. His older brother Junious also sometimes played harmonica here. For most of his life Hurt worked as a farmer, but he also worked in a factory in Jackson and at a local gravel pit, and was employed as a laborer for Illinois Central Railroad and the Works Progress Administration. One of Hurt’s 1928 songs, “Avalon Blues,” later provided record collector Tom Hoskins with a clue to his whereabouts, and in 1963 Hoskins located Hurt in Avalon and arranged for him to move to Washington, D.C., where he cut several albums and recorded for the Library of Congress. Hurt subsequently

Mississippi John Hurt Marker (rear) image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Winter
2. Mississippi John Hurt Marker (rear)
became a popular and beloved performer on the folk music circuit. His many admirers included the folk-rock band the Lovin’ Spoonful, whose name was inspired by a line from Hurt’s “Coffee Blues.” In 1965 he moved to Grenada, Mississippi, where he died on November 2, 1966.

Other blues performers from Carroll County include G.L. Crockett, Jim Lockhart, and Art Browning from Carrollton; Brewer Phillips and Ben Wiley Payton from Coila; and Po’ Bob Phillips from Black Hawk. Rockabilly artist Mack Allen Smith, a cousin to Narmour’s partner Shell Smith, often saw Hurt playing in North Carrollton while growing up, and later recorded many blues songs as well as a version of Narmour and Smith’s “Carroll County Blues.”
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 32.)
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 July 3, 1893.
Location. 33° 37.979′ N, 90° 2.043′ W. Marker is near Avalon, Mississippi, in Carroll County. Marker is on County Road 41, 0.3 miles east of County Road 254, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Carrollton MS 38917, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers.

Closeup of rear photos image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Winter
3. Closeup of rear photos
At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named "Mississippi" John Hurt (approx. 3.3 miles away); Elliot Mission (approx. 8.2 miles away); Bryant's Grocery (approx. 10.1 miles away); Carroll County Tabernacle (approx. 10˝ miles away); Blues Deejays (approx. 10.6 miles away); Carrollton Lodge No. 36 (approx. 10.8 miles away); Namour & Smith (approx. 10.9 miles away); Elizabeth Spencer (approx. 10.9 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on March 14, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 19, 2020, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 127 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 19, 2020, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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Sep. 26, 2023