Meridian in Lauderdale County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Meridian Blues & Jazz
Meridian blues and jazz performers have played important roles in musical history, both locally and nationally, not only supplying a foundation for other genres but also propelling music in new directions. Notables with Meridian roots include musicians Alvin Fielder and his brother William, Sherman Johnson, Cleo Brown, Marie Bryant, Carlia “Duke” Oatis, Carey Bell, Lovie Lee, the Mighty Rhythm Rockers, the House Rockers, Pat Brown and Jamell Richardson, and Chicago blues club owner Theresa Needham.
Meridian, the largest city in Mississippi in 1910 and 1920 during the ascent of blues and jazz, was a city of opportunity for musicians. Blues and jazz was featured in several locales including the Star Theatre here in the 5th Street African-American business and entertainment district, where Lovie Lee (Eddie Lee Watson, c.1908-1997) played piano during intermissions. Lee, who was inspired by local pianist Cap King, moved to Chicago in 1957 with protégé Carey Bell (1936-2007). Both played in the Muddy Waters band at different times, and Bell became one of the city’s top harmonica players. Each recorded several albums. A fabled blues tavern in Chicago, Theresa’s Lounge, was owned by Meridian native and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Theresa Needham (1912-1992).
Meridian’s blues and jazz women include pianist Cleo Brown (1907-1995), famed for her 1935-1936 boogie-woogie and jive records; Marie Bryant (1917-1978), a singer, dancer and film star who made calypso records in England; Helen Elizabeth Jones Woods (b. 1923), trombonist with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm; Louvet Jackson (1936-1988), who performed in New York; and Pat Brown (b. 1949) and Patrice Moncell (1962-2015), both top singers on the Jackson soul-blues scene.
Radio stations WQIC, WTOK and WOKK featured disc jockeys who were also musicians -- Sherman “Blues” Johnson, aka B.B. Johnson (1919-1982), Clifton “Sonny” Williams (1929-1996) and Lee Arthur Rhodes, “The House Rocker” (1922-2011). Johnson, a pianist and drummer, recorded for the Trumpet
Others born or based in Meridian include pianist Ernest Stewart (1908-1987); Duke Jethro (Pollard, b. 1936), organist with B.B. King; St. Louis drummer James B. Rogers (b. 1929); singer Eddie Houston (b. 1934); pianist Cooney Vaughn, who played on WCOC radio; saxophonist Rosser Emerson (1908-1987); drummer Dudley Tardo (1957-2016), founder of the House Rockers band; guitarist Jamell Richardson, “The Gulf Coast Blues Boy” (b. 1988); the blues-influenced “father of country music,” Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933); and blues historian Gayle Dean Wardlow (b. 1940).
Erected 2017 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 198.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 32° 21.748′ N, 88° 42.143′ W. Marker is in Meridian, Mississippi, in Lauderdale County. Marker is at the intersection of 25th Avenue and 5th Street, on the left when traveling north on 25th Avenue. Touch for map. Marker
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Movement (here, next to this marker); African American Business District (here, next to this marker); African-American Cultural Heritage District (a few steps from this marker); Urban Center Historic District (within shouting distance of this marker); Meridian Rhythm & Blues and Soul Music (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sit-Ins, Pickets & Boycotts (about 600 feet away); Lauderdale County World War I Memorial (about 700 feet away); The Grand Opera House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Meridian.
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on December 4, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 64 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on December 4, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.