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

Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town

 
 
Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, May 24, 2021
1. Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town Marker
Inscription.  Just as Amory’s history is tied to the railroad, so is much of its musical legacy. Several generations of blues, soul and gospel performers came from the families of African-American workers employed here by the Frisco line. Others worked as sharecroppers or for local businesses. Lucille Bogan was a prominent blues recording artist in the 1920s and ‘30s, and other Amory performers have included Frank Swan, James Whitfield, Roger and Dudley McKinney, the Top Hats, Al Rachel, and Michael Freeman.

Amory blues history revolves primarily around talented performers who have perpetuated the music as community entertainment, playing on weekends or after hours while holding regular daytime jobs. In a dry county, juke joints and nightclubs did not flourish as they did in many Mississippi towns, but blues has found a place in the streets, cafes, house parties, secret hideaways, festivals, schools, receptions, reunions, American Legion hut, and events here in Frisco Park.

The only Amory resident to emerge as a nationally known blues singer was Lucille (or Lucile) Bogan (1897-1948), who also recorded under the name Bessie Jackson. In the

Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town Marker (reverse) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, May 24, 2021
2. Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town Marker (reverse)
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1910 census she was living in Amory, where her father worked for the Frisco. She also married a railroad man, Nazareth Bogan. Their son Nazareth Jr., a musician, cited her birthplace as Amory when he provided details for her death certificate, but census and Social Security records indicate that she was born in Birmingham, where she lived most of her life. Her 1923-1935 recordings included many classics, some famously bawdy boasts, and songs that dealt with streetwalking women, moonshine whiskey, and trains.

In 1939 many Amory girls recorded for a Works Progress Administration/Library of Congress folk music study at Monroe County Training School. Two songs were released on an album of children’s music in 1978. Amory native Frank Swan (1940-2016) played drums on records by Earl Hooker, Ricky Allen, Big Walter Horton, Willie Dixon and others in Chicago and worked with many bands in the city and on tour. He was also a bus driver for Albert King and Little Milton. In Amory he worked at various jobs and promoted shows by Muddy Waters, Little Milton and others at the American Legion or the West Amory High School gym. Other Amory performers with recording and touring credits include Roger McKinney (1949-2017), who sang gospel with Tupelo-based Lee Williams & the Spiritual QC’s, and Tony Hooper, a member of the Christian blues-rock band Blues Counsel.

In the 1960s West Amory

Closeup of photos and captions on reverse side. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, May 24, 2021
3. Closeup of photos and captions on reverse side.
band director Charles Toy hired students to play blues and soul music in his Top Hats band at gigs in various towns. The Top Hats or other groups included Al and Richard Rachel, James and Johnny Whitfield, Cliff Mallard, John Randle, Jimmy Pounds, Johnny Jenkins, Gussie Bassett, and Michael Freeman. Older traditional bluesmen have included guitarists Albert Dooley, who also lived and played in Clarksdale, Bennie Osborn, Zimey Sykes, John Arthur, aka Guitar John, who came to town on Saturdays to play for tips, and pianist Essie Gillum.

St. Louis guitarist Cecil Travis was erroneously cited as an Amory native in one blues reference book, but St. Louis was the destination of guitarists Benny Sharp and Willie Curtis Rhoden (a railroad employee) and saxophonist Ruben McBeth from Monroe County. Others from the county who migrated north and west to various cities included Richard “Harmonica Slim” Riggins (whose birth name was Rylie Riggan), singer, producer and manager James Woodie “J.W.” Alexander, and several noted bluesmen from the Aberdeen area: Howlin’ Wolf, Bukka White and Albert King.

Did you hear, did you hear, did you hear that Frisco whistle blow?
And she blowed just like she ain’t ever blowed before.
I was standing at a station when that 4200 left town,
Burnin’ down in oil, and that train was Kansas City bound.

“Forty-Two Hundred

Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, May 24, 2021
4. Amory, Mississippi: Blues from a Railroad Town Marker
Blues” - Lucille Bogan (Bessie Jackson)
 
Erected 2019 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 208.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicRailroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail 🎶 series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1910.
 
Location. 33° 59.28′ N, 88° 29.454′ W. Marker is in Amory, Mississippi, in Monroe County. Marker is on North Main Street (Mississippi Route 25) north of 3rd Avenue North, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 314 N Main St, Amory MS 38821, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Amory's Tribute to the Heroes of 1861—1865 (approx. ¼ mile away); Gilmore Sanitarium (approx. 0.8 miles away); Chickasaw Cession (approx. 0.8 miles away); Becker Post Office (approx. 0.9 miles away); Mound Cemetery (approx. 1½ miles away); Cotton Gin Port (approx. 2.4 miles away); Bienville's Fort (approx. 3.6 miles away); Rod Brasfield (approx. 7½ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Amory.
 
Nearby mural on the wall of this pocket park. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, May 24, 2021
5. Nearby mural on the wall of this pocket park.
View towards N. Main Street. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, May 24, 2021
6. View towards N. Main Street.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 27, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 27, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 38 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 27, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Jun. 12, 2021