Near Belzoni in Humphreys County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Blues piano master Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins was born on July 7, 1913, on the Honey Island Plantation, seven miles southeast of Belzoni. Perkins spent much of his career accompanying blues icons such as Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2 and Muddy Waters. After he began to tour and record as a featured singer and soloist in the 1980s, Perkins earned a devoted following among enthusiasts who hailed him as the venerated elder statesman of blues piano.
Pinetop Perkins did not have an album under his own name in the United States until he was seventy-five years old (in 1988), but during the next two decades he recorded more than fifteen LPs and CDs as the reigning patriarch of blues piano. Perkins started out on guitar, but he also learned piano as a youngster, influenced by local pianists and by the records of Clarence “Pine Top” Smith and others. Smith’s “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” of 1929 was so popular that many pianists, including Perkins, took up boogie woogie and sometimes even adopted the name “Pine Top,” or “Pinetop.”
Perkins spent much of his childhood moving around the Delta, living with his mother or other relatives, or with his friend, guitarist Boyd Gilmore, on a plantation with Gilmore’s grandparents.
Perkins first recorded as pianist on a Nighthawk session in Chicago in 1950. In 1953 Perkins recorded two versions of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” when he, Boyd Gilmore, and Earl Hooker did a session together for Sam Phillips’s Sun label in Memphis. Pinetop continued to play with Nighthawk, Hooker, and others at different times and also worked at a laundry and a garage. In 1969, when Otis Spann–another noted pianist with Belzoni roots–left the Muddy Waters band, Waters called on Perkins to take his place. International touring and recording with Muddy brought him widespread recognition, and he made his first album in 1976 for a French label. In 1980
In addition to Perkins and Spann, other blues artists who were born in on near Belzoni or who lived here include Denise LaSalle, Boyd Gilmore, Eddie Burns, Paul “Wine” Jones, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, and Elmore James.
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Department Archives and History. (Marker Number 38.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 33° 11.702′ N, 90° 30.299′ W. Marker is near Belzoni, Mississippi, in Humphreys County. Marker is on U.S. 49W one mile north of State Highway 7, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 17150 Highway 49, Belzoni MS 39038, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 12 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Reverend George Lee (approx. 1.2 miles away); Turner's Drug Store (approx. 1.5 miles away); Denise LaSalle (approx. 1.6 miles away); Hank Cochran (approx. 6.2 miles away); Little Milton Campbell (approx. 12.1 miles away); Inverness (approx. 12.1 miles away).
Also see . . .
1. Pinetop Perkins Biography. (Submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Mississippi Blues Trail. (Submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 9, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 192 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.