Gulfport in Harrison County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Gulfport was once home to an active blues and rhythm & blues scene, particularly here in the North Gulfport area. Jaimoe, famed drummer with the Allman Brothers Band, was raised in Gulfport, as was the band’s onetime bassist Lamar Williams, and both performed in many clubs along the coast during their early years. Blues Hall of Fame pianist Roosevelt Sykes once lived here, and other Gulfport residents have included pianist Cozy Corley, singer Albennie Jones, and guitarist Blind Roosevelt Graves.
Gulfport has been fertile territory for musicians who not only turned this area into a hotbed of blues and R&B but also impacted popular music on an international scale. Drummer Johnnie Lee Johnson, better known as Jaimoe, grew up in Mississippi City and bassist Lamar Williams was raised in Handsboro (before both towns were annexed by Gulfport). Prior to joining the Allman Brothers Band they played locally with George Woods and the Sounds of Soul and others. They also teamed in other bands, including Sea Level, and Jaimoe later founded Jaimoe's Jasssz Band. Like many other top musicians on the coast, including
Roosevelt Sykes, composer of “Night Time is the Right Time,” “Driving Wheel,” and other blues classics, lived here in the 1950s and early ’60s and recorded “Gulfport Boogie” in tribute to “Little Conway’s” (the Beverly Lounge) near this site. Sykes was sometimes joined by guitarist Henry Townsend. The “Four Corners” intersection here was the site of the Hi-Hat Club. A party atmosphere pervaded these and many other nightspots that flourished in North Gulfport, Handsboro and Turkey Creek, including the Owl Club, Elks Club, Ebony, Night Owl and the Throne, all then outside Gulfport police jurisdiction. The roster of local blues, jazz and soul performers has included brothers Cleve and Clezell Booth, Sugar Billy, Yvonne Tims (who had the Blues Evolution band with her brother Johnny Jefferson), Buster Teague, Charles and Ruby Wheeler, Jabo Walker, Billy Gray, and more recently acts such as Dr. G.L. John. Cozy Corley, who relocated to Gulfport from Hattiesburg, was the first artist
Gulfport’s blues and jazz history dates back to the early 1900s when New Orleans jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton played the Great Southern Hotel as well as local gambling dens. Another early New Orleans figure, Lee Collins, and 1940s blues singer Albennie Jones spent some of their early years in Gulfport, and pianist Little Brother Montgomery was based here in the 1920s. Ma Rainey, “the mother of the blues,” performed in tent shows in Gulfport, and the city also became an occasional stop for rambling bluesmen such as Robert Johnson and Big Joe Williams. Blind Roosevelt Graves, whose 1930s records exemplified some of the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, settled in Gulfport in his final years. Sollie McElroy, who sang with the doo-wop group the Flamingos, was born in Gulfport, as was white vocalist Jimmy Donley, a cult figure in “swamp pop” circles. Donley added another chapter to the Gulf Coast musical saga with songs he wrote for Fats Domino.
Erected 2015 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 184.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 4603 Arkansas Avenue, Gulfport MS 39501, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Harrison County Confederate Monument (approx. 2.1 miles away); Dr. Felix Henry Dunn (approx. 2.2 miles away); Old Gulfport High School (approx. 2.4 miles away); Kellier-Sternberg House (approx. 2½ miles away); The Magnolia Route (approx. 2½ miles away); 1863 East Pascagoula Raid (approx. 2.7 miles away); Ship Island (approx. 2.7 miles away); Gulfport Civil Rights Wade-In (approx. 3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gulfport.
Also see . . . Article on unveiling of marker. (Submitted on February 23, 2015, 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 February 23, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 271 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on February 23, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.