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

Black Prairie Blues

Black Praire Blues Marker (Front) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 19, 2016
1. Black Praire Blues Marker (Front)
The roots of blues and gospel music run deep in the African American culture of the Black Prairie region. Among the performers born near Macon here in Noxubee County, Eddy Clearwater, Carey Bell, and Jesse Fortune went on to achieve renown in Chicago blues, while Brother Joe May moved to East St. Louis and starred as a gospel singer. In Prairie Point near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Willie King kindled a new blues movement as the political prophet of the juke joints.

African American music in Noxubee County dates back to antebellum days when slaves sang spirituals and work songs on local cotton plantations. Slaves who learned banjo or fiddle also served as entertainers at white social affairs. This musical legacy carried over into the 20th century, when African American family string bands featuring fiddle, guitar, and mandolin performed for both white and black audiences. Such bands included the Duck Brothers (Charlie, Albert, and Vandy Duck), the Salt and Pepper Shakers (Perie, Doc, and Preston Spiller), and the Nickersons (featuring fiddler Booger Nickerson).

Another Macon
Black Prairie Blues Marker (Rear) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 19, 2016
2. Black Prairie Blues Marker (Rear)
Click or scan to see
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fiddler, Houston H. Harrington (1924 -1972), guided his family, including sons Joe and Vernon Harrington and nephew Eddy “Clearwater” Harrington, towards careers in the blues after they relocated to Chicago in the early 1950s. Harrington, a part-time preacher and inventor, used a portable disc-cutting machine to make recordings in Macon. In Chicago he produced records by Clearwater and others for his Atomic-H label. Clearwater, born east of Macon in 1935, went on to entertain audiences around the world with a flamboyant blues and rock 'n' roll act.

Harmonica virtuoso Carey Bell, a Macon native whose real surname was also Harrington, likewise attained worldwide fame after moving to Chicago. Bell (1936 -2007) played with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, among others, and fathered a brood of blues musicians, including renowned guitarist Lurrie Bell and harmonica protege Steve Bell. Vocalist Jesse Fortune, born near Macon in 1930, also embarked on a lengthy blues career in Chicago in the 1950s. In the gospel field, Brother Joe May (1912 -1972) and Robert Blair (1927 -2001) built successful careers after leaving Macon.

Although professional musical opportunities were scant, blues singers continued to play house parties and juke joints around Macon, Brooksville, Shuqualak, Mashulaville, and Prairie Point. Big Joe Williams (1903 -1982), one of the most
Closeup of pictures on rear of marker. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 19, 2016
3. Closeup of pictures on rear of marker.
Click for closer view
prominent blues artists from the Black Prairies, came from Crawford to perform in Noxubee County at times. Williams and fellow bluesman John Wesley “Mr. Shortstuff” Macon (c. 1923 -1973) died in Macon, and guitarist Elijah Brown, another friend of Williams, was born here. Willie King (born in the Grass Hill area in 1943) later led a revival of the local blues tradition and drew widespread acclaim for his political “struggling songs,” an outgrowth of his civil rights activities in Alabama. In Brooksville, performers active on the local music scene have included Robert Earl Greathree and Brown Sugar.
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 46.)
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 year for this entry is 1935.
Location. 33° 6.414′ N, 88° 33.65′ W. Marker is in Macon, Mississippi, in Noxubee County. Marker is at the intersection of Jefferson Street (State Highway 145) and East Green Street, on the right when traveling north on Jefferson Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 401 Jefferson Street, Macon MS 39341, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance
View looking north on Jefferson Street at Green Street. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 19, 2016
4. View looking north on Jefferson Street at Green Street.
of this marker. Old Noxubee County Jail (within shouting distance of this marker); Noxubee County Confederate Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); First Court Term of Noxubee County (about 500 feet away); First Baptist Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Macon Presbyterian Church (approx. ¼ mile away); First United Methodist Church (approx. ¼ mile away); Calhoun Institute (approx. 0.4 miles away); Dancing Rabbit Creek (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Macon.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on February 20, 2016, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 274 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on February 20, 2016, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Oct. 27, 2021