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Weir in Choctaw County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Choctaw County Blues

 
 
Choctaw County Blues Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 26, 2022
1. Choctaw County Blues Marker
Inscription.  Choctaw County’s blues history is distinguished by the accomplishments of two artists in particular, both of them singers, songwriters, and guitarists; Levester “Big Lucky” Carter, who was born in Weir and raised on his family’s farm in French Camp, and Texas Johnny Brown from Ackerman. Carter, born on February 10, 1920, began recording in Memphis in the 1950s and climaxed his career with the award-winning CD Luck 13 in 1998. He died in Memphis on December 24, 2002.

Choctaw County’s small African American community, although relatively isolated from the major centers of blues development in Mississippi, has produced musicians who achieved international renown in blues circles. In the Weir/French Camp area, the related Carter and Hemphill families laid much of the groundwork for the area’s blues legacy.

Levester “Big Lucky” Carter (1920-2002), a longtime singer, guitarist, and songwriter in Memphis, was born in Weir, where his father was a sharecropper. The family moved to his grandmother’s in French Camp, where Carter attended the Mt. Salem M.B. Church and school. (Texas Johnny Brown, another acclaimed Choctaw County
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bluesman, attended a different Mt. Salem church and school near Ackerman). Carter’s father, Charlie, sang blues and gospel, as did many other farm workers, Lucky recalled: “Late afternoon, you could hear the farers in the fields. It was better than a radio station. You could hear people singing all around.” He also heard piano music at home from his aunt and his grandmother Susie Carter, and from his uncle’s blues records. Guitarists Big Boy Anderson (who also played fiddle), James Henry, Arlee Miller, and men who made music beating on a box and playing a handsaw entertained at local dances. Carter’s mother’s father, Geet (or Gete, aka G.D.) Hemphill, also played fiddle, as did Dock Hemphill, the progenitor of a prolific musical family that moved to the Tate/Panola County area. Dock’s son, multi-instrumentalists Sid Hemphill, recorded for the Library of Congress in 1942 in Sledge. Sid’s daughters played guitar, and his granddaughter Jessie Mae Hemphill (1923-2006) was hailed as one of the world’s premier female blues performers.

In Memphis Carter often performed in a band led by trumpeter Ed “Prince Gabe” Kirby (1929-1987), a cousin on the Hemphill side. The group recorded in 1957 for Sam Phillips of Sun Records, although the tracks were not released until the 1980s. in the ‘60s Carter recorded four singles, including two for another famed Memphis producer, Willie Mitchell.
Choctaw County Blues Marker (Back) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 26, 2022
2. Choctaw County Blues Marker (Back)
His only CD, Lucky 13, on the British label Blueside, won awards from the magazines Living Blues in the U.S. and Soul Bag in France. French filmmaker Marc Oriol produced a documentary on Carter, Le Blues du Survivant.

Harmonica player Andrew Willie Brown, also known as Little Willie Brown, Harpkiller, and Lighting (1921-1981), claimed Weir as his birthplace when he registered for military service in 1942, but cited Ackerman at other time. He worked out of East St. Louis and recorded several singles in the 1950s and ‘60s. The famed Staple Singers family also had Choctaw County roots. Roebuck “Pops” Staples’ grandfather, William Staples (born c. 1835), and father, Warren, (b. 1869), were from an area near Huntsville that was carved out to form part of Montgomery County in 1872. Rev. Archie Fair (c. 1909 – 1960), whose guitar playing inspired B. B. King, was born in French Camp.

[Captions] There may be sometime you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone. I’ll be down at the river with my guitar somewhere singing a song. Maybe I won’t get a note on Beale Street, Nor my name in the Hall of Fame, But you can tell from my European record I was in the game. – poem by Levester “Big Lucky” Carter

Big Lucky Carter 1950s

Big Lucky Carter holds a package of graveyard dirt at Schwab’s on Beale Street in Memphis. Such dirt is
Choctaw County Blues Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 26, 2022
3. Choctaw County Blues Marker
used to make “goofer dust”, a hoodoo concoction that was also the title of one of Carter’s records.

The DVD Le Blues du Survivant, filmed in Weir, French Camp, Como, Memphis, and France, includes scenes of Carter with Jessie Mae Hemphill and Arlee Miller (c. 1907-1999, identified in the documentary as R. Lee Miller), shown at right in shots from the DVD.

Carter’s award-winning CD Luck 13 was recorded in Memphis and produced by Dr. David Evans and Mike Vernon.
[Caption] Little Willie Brown’s last record was on the K-Ark label in 1969. He also had 45s on Suntan, Chart, Great, Topic, and Do-Ra-Me. [Caption] The Staple Singers were heralded for their gospel and inspirational soul records. Pop Staples (1914-2000), an accomplished Delta blues guitarist in his early years, credited his grandfather, Choctaw County native William Staples, with passing on spirituals that became features of the group’s repertoire. [Caption] Carter performing at Wild Bill’s in Memphis.
 
Erected 2012 by Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 160.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, Music. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail series list. A significant historical date for this entry is February 10, 1920.
 
Location. 33° 
Choctaw County Blues Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, August 26, 2022
4. Choctaw County Blues Marker
16.021′ N, 89° 17.346′ W. Marker is in Weir, Mississippi, in Choctaw County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Front Street, on the right when traveling north on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Weir MS 39772, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Col. John Weir House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Coleman's Mill (approx. 4.1 miles away); South Union Church and Camp Meeting (approx. 5.4 miles away); South Union Church Campmeeting (approx. 5.4 miles away); Old Concord Cemetery (approx. 5.7 miles away); Old Lebanon Presbyterian Church and Campground (approx. 5.7 miles away); Col. James Drane (approx. 6.7 miles away); French Camp (approx. 6.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Weir.
 
Choctaw County Blues Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, March 12, 2024
5. Choctaw County Blues Marker
Choctaw County Blues Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, March 12, 2024
6. Choctaw County Blues Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 11, 2024. It was originally submitted on September 5, 2022, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 231 times since then and 39 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 5, 2022, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee.   5, 6. submitted on April 7, 2024, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 19, 2024