Vicksburg in Warren County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
The Red Tops
Between 1953 and 1974 the Vicksburg-based Red Tops entertained legions of dancers with their distinctive mix of blues, jazz, and pop. Under the strict direction of drummer and manager Walter Osborne, the group developed a devoted fan base across Mississippi and neighboring states. Most of the ten original members had played with an earlier Vicksburg band, the Rebops. Vocalist Rufus McKay’s rendition of “Danny Boy” was a crowd favorite.
The Red Tops were the most popular band in Mississippi during an era when nightlife centered on the dance floor and couples and hopeful singles donned their finest clothes for evenings out on the town. The group, part of a long line of dance bands in Vicksburg, started during World War II as the Rebops. On weekends the Rebops played on Morrissey’s Showboat, a barge moored on DeSoto Island on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River, where alcohol laws were less strict than in Mississippi. Under the leadership of drummer Walter Osborne, the Rebops reorganized as the Red Tops. Their first performance was at the Sequoia Hills Club in Bovina, just east of Vicksburg, on June 20, 1953. The majority of the Red Tops’ performances over the course of their history were for white audiences at venues including country clubs, restaurants, ballrooms, high schools, and colleges across Mississippi as well as in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. In Vicksburg these included the Vicksburg Auditorium, site of an annual New Year’s Eve dance; the Hotel Vicksburg; and the “BB Club,” housed at this location in the elaborate quarters of the
The group also performed regularly for African American audiences at clubs including the Blue Room in Vicksburg, Stevens Rose Room in Jackson, Ruby’s Night Spot in Leland, the Harlem Inn in Winstonville, the Plaza Hotel in Greenwood, and various Elks lodges. They were joined on occasion by blues harmonica great Sonny Boy Williamson II or the Knights, a local doo-wop group that included future blues recording artist Terry Evans. Saxophonist/bassist Anderson “Andy” Hardwick, the youngest of the Red Tops, spent many summers touring with various national artists, including Lowell Fulson, B.B. King, Otis Redding, Fats Domino, and James Brown. In the early ‘60s Hardwick and vocalist Rufus McKay left the Red Tops and formed the Fabulous Corvettes, a band whose repertoire was more blues and R&B-oriented than the Red Tops’.
Most Red Tops performances were on weekends, as all of the members had full-time day jobs. Unlike most bands, the Red Tops operated very strictly as a business, with detailed ledgers, annual audits, and bookings often scheduled a year in advance. Their matching uniforms were tailor-made, members were subject to regular inspections and rules of conduct, and rehearsals were held every Monday evening at the YMCA on Jackson Street. The Red Tops stopped performing regularly in the mid-‘70s but reunited on a number of special occasions. Multi-instrumentalist Andy Hardwick continued performing regularly as a jazz pianist, while Rufus McKay moved to Las Vegas and sang with Stanley Morgan’s Ink Spots and other vocal groups before returning to Vicksburg in 2000.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 32° 21.004′ N, 90° 52.875′ W. Marker is in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in Warren County. Marker is on Clay Street west of Walnut Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 717 Clay Street, Vicksburg MS 39183, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Blue Room (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Vicksburg & Queen of the West (about 700 feet away); Firing on the A.O. Tyler (about 800 feet away); The Steamer Sultana (approx. 0.2 miles away); C.S.S. Arkansas (approx. 0.2 miles away); Joseph Biedenharn and the the First Bottling of Coca-Cola (approx. 0.2 miles away); Dedication of the Illinois Monument (approx. 0.2 miles away); Crossing the Mississippi (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Vicksburg.
Regarding The Red Tops. They played regular dates in two buildings near this marker: the BB Club, located in the B’nai B’rith Literary Club at 721 Clay Street, and the Hotel Vicksburg, located at 801 Clay Street on the northeast corner of the intersection of Clay and Walnut Streets, just across Walnut Street from this marker.
Also see . . . Mississippi Blues Trail website. (Submitted on May 29, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on May 30, 2017. This page originally submitted on May 29, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 45 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 29, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photo of the B’nai B’rith Literary Club, to the right, at 721 Clay Street and the Vicksburg Hotel at 801 Club Street on the nearby corner. • Can you help?