Near Bentonia in Yazoo County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Jack Owens became one of Mississippi's most venerated blues artists in the 1980s and ‘90s after spending most of his life as a farmer in Yazoo County. Born November 17, 1904, or 1906 according to some sources, Owens did not perform outside the state of Mississippi until 1988. During his final years he and his harmonica player, Bud Spires, traveled together to many festivals and performed on Owens’s front porch for hundreds of visitors. Owens died on February 9, 1997.
Jack Owens belonged to the pioneering generation of Bentonia bluesmen, which included Nehemiah “Skip” James (1902-1969) and Henry Stuckey (1897-1966). Stuckey is often regarded as the seminal local blues figure, but researchers have yet to discover any recordings or photographs of him. James ranks as Bentonia’s most internationally renowned musician, known for the striking quality of the music on his 1931 recordings for the Paramount label and for a briefly rejuvenated career during the blues revival of the 1960s. Just as James’s recording career was nearing its end, Owens was beginning his, in 1966; his first album, produced by musicologist Dr. David Evans, was not released until 1971. But during the following decades Owens became Bentonia’s resident celebrity. Local citizens grew accustomed to the
The music of Owens and James, as Evans wrote, was distinguished by “haunting, brooding lyrics dealing with such themes as loneliness, death and the supernatural...Altogether it is one of the eeriest, loneliest and deepest blues sounds ever recorded.” Neither Owens’s music nor his lifestyle in Bentonia changed much over the years. He clung to old ways and superstitions, including burying money in the ground and hanging bottles from his trees, and was reputed to be the last farmer in the area to plow with a mule. He once made moonshine and ran juke joints in or near his house. Even in his nineties he kept a pistol or shotgun at hand but claimed he had not shot anyone in several years. Documentary filmmakers were duly fascinated, and Owens appeared in Alan Lomax’s Land Where the Blues Began and Robert Mugge’s Deep Blues, as well as a commercial for Levi’s 501 Blues. After making a few festival appearances in Mississippi, he accepted offers to perform in Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Europe, and elsewhere, and took his first plane flight in 1992. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a National Heritage Fellowship in 1993.
Owens is buried
Erected 2009 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 6.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 32° 39.381′ N, 90° 20.828′ W. Marker is near Bentonia, Mississippi, in Yazoo County. Marker is at the intersection of State Highway 433 and Rosehill Road, on the left when traveling east on State Highway 433. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6 Rosehill Road, Bentonia MS 39040, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Blue Front Café (approx. 1.5 miles away); Nehemiah “Skip” James Skirmish at Concord Baptist Church (approx. 4.8 miles away); Redoubt McKee (approx. 13.4 miles away); Confederate Navy Yard (approx. 13.4 miles away); Pocahontas Mounds (approx. 13.5 miles away); The Oakes House (approx. 13.5 miles away); Town Creek (approx. 13.5 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bentonia.
Also see . . .
1. Wikipedia entry on Jack Owens. (Submitted on September 19, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Mississippi Blues Trail. (Submitted on September 19, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 18, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 219 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 19, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.