Piney Woods in Rankin County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Piney Woods School
One of the main educational concerns of Professor Laurence Clifton Jones, who founded the Piney Woods Country Life School in 1909, was musical training. The school boasted a piano while it was still housed in a converted sheep shed, and beginning in 1923 Jones sent out various groups named the Cotton Blossom Singers across the nation on fundraising tours, sometimes for months at a time. The “Mississippi School for the Blind for Negroes” was also located at Piney Woods between 1929 and 1951, and among the groups who performed a mix of spirituals and popular songs was a quartet of blind students led by Archie Brownlee (1925-1960). The group began singing on campus in 1936
In the mid-‘30s Jones started several new jazz bands at Piney Woods, including the all-male Syncollegians and the all-female Sweethearts of Rhythm. Consuella Carter, the first leader of the group, later directed the music program at Coahoma Junior College in Clarksdale. Most of the Sweethearts were African Americans, but the group earned the tag “international” due to the Chinese, Mexican and Hawaiian heritage of some of its members. The Sweethearts began touring nationally in 1939, but in early 1941 they cut ties with the school and went professional. They became the most popular of the female bands that proliferated during World War II, when many male musicians were serving in the military. Their understudies at Piney Woods, the Junior Sweethearts of Rhythm, continued to perform as the Swinging Rays of Rhythm.
Laurel-born bluesman Sam Myers (1936-2006), who was legally blind, began attending Piney Woods at age 10, and soon played trumpet and drums and sang in the school’s groups.
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 47.)
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 1909.
Location. 32° 3.659′ N, 89° 59.849′ W. Marker is in Piney Woods, Mississippi, in Rankin County. Marker is on Piney Woods Drive, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Piney Woods MS 39148, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named The Piney Woods School (here, next to this marker); Martha Louise Morrow Foxx (here, next to this marker); Flags Over Simpson County (approx. 2.7 miles away); BraxtonFaith Hill (approx. 3.6 miles away); Mendenhall (approx. 10.1 miles away); Weathersby and Choctaw Heritage (approx. 12.9 miles away); Westville, Mississippi (approx. 13.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Piney Woods.
Also see . . .
1. Mississippi Blues Trail. (Submitted on December 21, 2015.)
2. Piney Woods Country Life School. Wikipedia (Submitted on October 25, 2017, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee.)
Credits. This page was last revised on October 27, 2017. It was originally submitted on December 26, 2011, by Jeff Lovorn of Florence, Mississippi. This page has been viewed 863 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 26, 2011, by Jeff Lovorn of Florence, Mississippi. 3, 4. submitted on October 25, 2017, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.