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

James Cotton

 
 
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
1. James Cotton Marker
Inscription. James Cotton, one of the world’s most popular and dynamic blues harmonica players, was born just east of this site on the Bonnie Blue plantation on July 1, 1935. Cotton apprenticed with harmonica master Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2 (Rice Miller) in Helena, Arkansas, and spent twelve years in Muddy Waters’s band in Chicago. In 1966 Cotton left Muddy to start his own band, and later earned the nickname “Mr. Superharp” for his high-energy performances.

(Back):
James Cotton took to the blues life at an early age. He used his first harmonica, a gift from his mother, to imitate the sounds of trains and cackling hens, when he was five or six years old. But blues music was unwelcome in his parents’ religious household, and Cotton preferred to stay with his bachelor uncle, Wiley Green, who made bootleg whiskey, gambled, and played blues piano. In about 1944 Green introduced Cotton to Sonny Boy Williamson, who was broadcasting the blues over KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas. Williamson took the youngster in, and Cotton lived with Williamson and his wife Mattie for several years, first in Helena and then in West Memphis. When Williamson moved from West Memphis, he left his band and his radio show on KWEM with his protege. Cotton found himself unprepared to be a bandleader, however, and ended up working as an ice hauler,
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
2. James Cotton Marker
short order cook, shoe shine boy, and dump truck driver, although he continued to perform with Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Nix, and others. In 1952 he made his first studio appearance at Sam Phillips’s Memphis Recording Service, playing harmonica on Wolf’s Chess recording “Saddle My Pony.” Phillips called Cotton back into the studio in 1953-54 to cut his first tracks as a singer for Sun Records, including “Straighten Up Baby” and “Cotton Crop Blues.” In 1954 Muddy Waters needed a harmonica player to replace Junior Wells, who had left the band during a Southern tour, and when he got to Memphis, Waters hired Cotton. Cotton moved to Chicago and put in more years with the band than any of Muddy’s other harmonica players, while continuing to record singles and assorted album tracks on his own, including two records made in England in 1961. Cotton formed the James Cotton Blues Band in 1966. Through friendships with Chicagoans Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, who were instrumental in bringing the blues to rock audiences of the 1960s, Cotton signed with Butterfield’s manager, Albert Grossman, who also represented Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. Cotton was subsequently able to work consistently at both rock venues and blues clubs and festivals while recording albums for Verve, Vanguard, and many other labels. Though throat surgery forced him to curtail his
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
3. James Cotton Marker
singing in the 1990s, he continued to perform as one of the world’s premier blues harmonicists, heralded for his explosive style and for his mission to carry on the legacy of the blues masters who groomed him. A recipient of several Blues Music Awards, Cotton also won the 1996 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album with his CD Deep in the Blues. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.
 
Erected by Mississippi Blues Commission.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
 
Location. 34° 35.859′ N, 90° 23.947′ W. Marker is in Tunica, Mississippi, in Tunica County. Marker is at the intersection of Bonnie Blue Road and U.S. 61 on Bonnie Blue Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Tunica MS 38676, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 12 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Town of Tunica Veterans Memorial (approx. 6.2 miles away); Harold "Hardface" Clanton (approx. 6.3 miles away); "Hell-in-Arkansas" (approx. 11.5 miles away in Arkansas); Service with Distinction (approx. 11.6 miles away in Arkansas); "the gun boat Tyler saved the day "
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
4. James Cotton Marker
(approx. 11.6 miles away in Arkansas); Phillips County Court House (approx. 11.7 miles away in Arkansas); World War I 1917-1918 (approx. 11.7 miles away in Arkansas); Helena, Arkansas (approx. 11.7 miles away in Arkansas). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tunica.
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, Music
 
Muddy Waters, James Cotton, and Johnny Winter at Hofstra University, Feb. 27, 1977 image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
5. Muddy Waters, James Cotton, and Johnny Winter at Hofstra University, Feb. 27, 1977
I ain't gonna raise no more cotton. I'll tell you the reason why I say so. Well, and you don't get nothin' for your cotton, And your seed's so doggone low. Well, like raisin' a good cotton crop Just like a lucky man shootin' dice. Work all the summer to make your cotton, When fall come it still ain't no price. "Cotton Crop Blues" -James Cotton (1954) (Original lyrics from "Cotton Seed Blues" By Roosevelt Sykes, 1930)
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
6. James Cotton Marker
The Bonnie Blue Plantation, here at Clayton Junction has been cited by blues guitarist CeDell Davis as the site of the crossroads where blues icon Robert Johnson made his alleged deal with the devil, but the tale has not been corroborated by researchers, and James Cotton never heard about it when was questioned in 2008. However Cotton did record several versions of a song called "Dealing With the Devil." The James Cotton Blues Band shared bills with many rock bands at ballrooms and concert halls such as the Sound Factory in Sacramento, California. This poster is from 1968.
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
7. James Cotton Marker
The devil also appeared in "Nightmare (Johnny's Dream)," a 1953 recording by another Clayton native, O'Neal Johnson (b. 1920). Johnson, who recorded under the names of Johnny O'Neal and Brother Bell, sang with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm in Clarksdale and East St. Louis, Illinois.
James Cotton 1961 image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
8. James Cotton 1961
The cover photo of the Deep in the Blues CD, taken in 1995, shows James Cotton sitting on the porch of the abandoned commissary building on the plantation where he lived with his uncle, Wiley Green, near Maud, Mississippi.
James Cotton Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, January 17, 2012
9. James Cotton Marker
This picture can be seen at the Delta Cultural Center 141 Cherry Street Helena, AR 72342-3501.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 19, 2012, by Sandra Hughes of Killen, Usa. This page has been viewed 740 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on January 19, 2012, by Sandra Hughes of Killen, Usa. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
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