Oxford in Lafayette County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Oxford & Lafayette County Blues
Lafayette County’s blues history has encompassed a wide range of activity by scholars, promoters, record companies, and musicians. The nightlife of Oxford has welcomed both local performers and national touring acts. The most famous musician born in the county, R. L. Burnside, achieved international acclaim while recording for Oxford-based Fat Possum Records. Some of the earliest documentation of blues was conducted here by Howard Odum in the early 1900s.
Lafayette County is best known as the home of Ole Miss and William Faulkner, but it also shares the “hill country” blues traditions found in neighboring counties Marshall, Panola, and Tate. The region’s distinctive fife and drum picnics often took place in Oxford on the property of African American businesswoman Molly Barr, performed by fife player Tom Lewis, drummers Lacey Redmond and Clint Yarborough, and others. R. L. Burnside (1926-2005), who became the most famous exponent of hill country blues in the 1990s, was born in the College Hill community north of Oxford. He later settled near Holly Springs, but often performed in Oxford, as did his sons Duwayne and Garry and grandsons Cedric and Cody. The Fat Possum label, founded in Oxford in 1991, recorded Burnside and other hill country blues artists including
In the 1960s the leading blues and R&B group in Oxford was the Checkmates, whose initial lead vocalist, Henry Cook, had earlier led Little Henry and the Houserockers. Vocalist-bassist Herbert Wiley, a cousin of Cook’s, later fronted the Checkmates, which also included Melvin Booker, Ivory Redmond, and Samuel Torrance, the band director at Oxford Training School. The Checkmates performed at campus fraternity parties, at clubs as far away as Chicago, and for local African American audiences at clubs on Old Sardis Road including Floyd Holman’s, “Tom Charlie’s,” and the Backwater Inn, run by “Big Boy” and “Little Boy” Pegues, who also ran a juke joint on the east end of Oxford. Other local blues musicians included guitarist Sam Langhorn, his brother, vocalist Paul Willis Langhorn, bandleader-guitarist Tommy Brooks, and guitarists Jim Boles and Louwell Goodman. According to Herbert Wiley, 1930s recording artist Geeshie Wiley was a distant cousin; it is also likely that Tom Dickson, who recorded for OKeh in1928, was from Oxford.
Blues achieved a higher profile in Oxford with the establishment at Ole Miss in 1977 of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, whose founding director was blues scholar Dr. William Ferris. The many blues aficionados attracted
Erected 2011 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 143.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 34° 22.006′ N, 89° 31.143′ W. Marker is in Oxford, Mississippi, in Lafayette County. Marker is at the intersection of East Jackson Street and Courthouse Square, on the left when traveling west on East Jackson Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 114 Courthouse Square, Oxford MS 38655, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Lafayette County Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Lafayette County Confederate Monument Oxford (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Oxford Cemetery (about 800 feet away); Mississippi Central R.R. Campaign (approx. 0.2 miles away); Burns "Belfry" Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Freedmen Town (approx. ¼ mile away); L. Q. C. Lamar House (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Oxford.
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 69 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 17, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photograph of the Rooster’s Blues House located next to this marker. • Can you help?