Pontotoc in Pontotoc County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Pontotoc County Blues
Pontotoc County's wide-ranging musical legacy encompasses African American blues from Baby Face Leroy Foster, Lee Gates, R. C. Weatherall, and Terry "Harmonica" Bean as well as music by white artists who combined blues or R&B with country, rock 'n' roll, pop, or gospel, including Harmonica Frank Floyd, Jim Weatherly, Delaney Bramlett, and Cordell Jackson. African American theatrical and classical vocalist Ruby Elzy also featured some blues and spirituals in her stage repertoire.
Pontotoc County musicians have rendered variations of the blues in a diverse array of settings, both geographically and stylistically, from Chicago blues to Broadway, from medicine shows to rock concerts. Baby Face Leroy Foster (1923-1958) was heralded for his work with the Muddy Waters band as well as for his own recordings that adapted the raw blues of Mississippi to the electric sound of Chicago. Foster, a drummer and guitarist, was born in Winston County and later resided in Algoma, just south of Pontotoc. Juilliard-trained diva Ruby Elzy (1908-1943), born in Pontotoc, was a renowned classical singer who performed in the original Broadway cast of Porgy and Bess and sang “St. Louis Blues” in the 1941 movie Birth of the Blues.
Terry "Harmonica" Bean (b. 1961), a baseball star in high school, created a one-man guitar-and-harmonica act in the 1990s. He recorded several CDs and began traveling to festivals from coast to coast and overseas while continuing to work in a Pontotoc furniture factory. His father, Eddie Bean, and his brothers Jerry Lee and Jimmy also performed. Jerry Lee sang with the local Legends of the Blues group. Lee Gates, one of Milwaukee's premier blues artists, was born near Pontotoc in 1937. Gates, his guitar-playing brothers George, Ozell and Bobby Joe, and a cousin from New Albany, Hugh West Souter, all moved to Wisconsin. Gates'
Pontotoc native Jim Weatherly (b. 1943), a celebrated Ole Miss quarterback, played rock, R&B, and blues with his first bands, the Empaladors in high school and the Vegas in college. He became a successful country songwriter, and several tunes, including “Midnight Train to Georgia,” also became smash hits for soul singer Gladys Knight. Rock icon Delaney Bramlett (1939-2008) learned to play the blues from Pontotoc bluesman R. C. Weatherall (1927-2008). Bramlett immortalized Weatherall in the song “Poor Elijah” on the Delaney & Bonnie album On Tour With Eric Clapton. On his final CD, A New Kind of Blues, Bramlett paid tribute to his home town with the song “Pontotoc.”
Erected 2012 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 155.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 34° 14.868′ N, 88° 59.9′ W. Marker is in Pontotoc, Mississippi, in Pontotoc County. Marker is on East Marion Street east of South Main Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 14 East Marion Street, Pontotoc MS 38863, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At Pontotoc County Confederate Monument (a few steps from this marker); Pontotoc Creek Treaty (within shouting distance of this marker); Pontotoc County Memorial Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Pierre D'Artaguiette (within shouting distance of this marker); Chickasaw Female College (approx. 0.4 miles away); Maj. Gen. William Colbert (approx. half a mile away); Lochinvar (approx. 2 miles away); Old Campground Methodist Church (approx. 4.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pontotoc.
Also see . . . DJournal article: Pontotoc County notes blues history. (Submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2017. This page originally submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 82 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.