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Jackson in Hinds County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones

 
 
Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cleo Robertson, March 26, 2015
1. Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker
Front side.
Inscription.
~ Front Side ~

Otis Spann and Little Johnnie Jones, two of the acknowledged masters of Chicago blues piano, were cousins who lived in Jackson in the 1930s and '40s. On the vibrant post-World War II Chicago scene they both played with blues king Muddy Waters and other luminaries and were hailed for their stellar work both as accompanists and as featured recording artists. Spann and his family lived on this block of Roach Street.

~ Back Side ~

Otis Spann and Little Johnnie Jones grew up playing in church in Jackson, where they also began to focus their highly touted talents on the blues. Piano legend Little Brother Montgomery, who was based in Jackson in the 1930s and ’40s, claimed both Spann and Jones as proteges, and both were also influenced later by Big Maceo in Chicago.

Spann, a longtime member of the Muddy Waters band famed for his rippling piano style and stirring vocals, was the first pianist inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. Spann had a fondness for tall tales that resulted in a confusing biography and uncorroborated stories of many exploits. His birth date was usually cited as March 21, 1930, in Jackson, but several documents and many musicians suggested he was older. Spann also told author Paul Oliver that he was from Belzoni, where
Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cleo Robertson, March 26, 2015
2. Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker
Back side.
he learned from pianist Friday Ford. His mother, Josephine Ervin Spann, played blues guitar, and his father, Frank Houston Spann, was a carpenter and pianist. (By Montgomery’s account, however, Spann was the son of Friday Ford.) The Spanns lived in Jackson and Pelahatchie, and Otis was in Plain when he was first married in 1945. Spann’s claim to fame in Jackson was winning a talent contest at the Alamo Theater. In Chicago Spann played on records by Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and others. His own records in the U.S. and Europe featured accompaniments from Muddy, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, and Fleetwood Mac, among others. Spann, who recorded several albums a year in the late '60s, died in Chicago on April 24, 1970.

Little Johnnie (also spelled Johnie and Johnny) Jones was, like Spann, a well-liked, in-demand pianist in the Chicago clubs and studios. “I wind up teaching him,” Spann once said, “but he beat me at my own game.” Jones was born Johnie McPherson (or McFearson) in Inverness on October 10, 1924. By the late 1930s he was living in Jackson with his mother, Mary, a church pianist, and his stepfather, George Jones, a truck driver and amateur guitarist. In Chicago, Jones played for several years with Tampa Red and recorded with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Magic Sam, and others, but was best known for his tenure
Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cleo Robertson, March 26, 2015
3. Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker
Close-up of illustration portion of back side or marker, including photos of Otis Spann, Muddy Waters, Little Johnnie Jones, George "Mojo" Buford, Magic Sam, Odell Campbell, Letha Jones, Howlin' Wolf, John Sinclair, and Lucille Spann.
with Elmore James. Jones, recalled as a fun-loving entertainer with a flair for the risque as well as deep blues, died in Chicago on November 19, 1964.

Other blues and R&B performers who left Jackson for Chicago included Cicero Blake, Hip Linkchain, Melvin Taylor, Dead Eye Norris (aka Sonny Mack), Andrew Brown, the Black Lone Ranger (James Ramsey) and Buddy Scott. Others who migrated north and west included Emmit Slay (to Detroit), Mississippi Johnny Waters (Sandifer), King Solomon and Zac Harmon (to California), Millage Gilbert (to Kansas City), and Mel Brown (to Canada after several other stops).
 
Erected 2012 by Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 164.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
 
Location. 32° 17.7′ N, 90° 11.377′ W. Marker is in Jackson, Mississippi, in Hinds County. Marker is at the intersection of West South Street and South Roach Street, on the right when traveling east on West South Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 123 W. South St, Jackson MS 39201, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Ace Records (approx. 0.4 miles away); 217 W. Capitol (approx. 0.4 miles
Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cleo Robertson, March 26, 2015
4. Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker
Photo taken while facing east on the west side of the marker.
away); Edwards Hotel (approx. 0.4 miles away); Woolworth's Sit-in (approx. 0.4 miles away); Scott Radio Service Company (approx. 0.4 miles away); Jackson City Hall (approx. half a mile away); Central Station (approx. half a mile away); Temple Beth Israel (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Jackson.
 
More about this marker. Located immediately south of downtown Jackson. Recommend daytime visit only.
 
Also see . . .
1. Mississippi Blues Trail: Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones - Jackson. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
2. AllMusic: Otis Spann Biography. by Bill Dahl (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) 

3. Discogs: Otis Spann Discography. American blues pianist and vocalist. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) 

4. Wikipedia: Otis Spann. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
5. Wikipedia: Little Johnny Jones (pianist). Little Johnny
Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cleo Robertson, March 26, 2015
5. Otis Spann & Little Johnnie Jones Marker
Photo of marker facing north toward downtown Jackson along South Roach Street.
Jones was an American Chicago blues pianist and singer, best known for his work with Tampa Red, Muddy Waters and Elmore James. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) 

6. Find-a-Grave: Johnny Jones. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
7. Illustrated Little Johnny Jones Discography. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
8. Big Road Blues 4/6/08: Forgotten Blues Heroes Pt. 1 – Chicago. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
9. YouTube: Little Johnny Jones, Big Town Playboy. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
10. YouTube: Otis Spann - Spann's Blues - 1963. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
11. YouTube: Otis Spann and Muddy Waters - Nobody Knows My Trouble. Performed live at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 1968. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) 

12. YouTube: Otis Spann - Crack your head - 1964. From the album "Cracked Spanner Head - Deram SML 1036 (1969)." Very nice Soul style R&B. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) 

13. Wikipedia: Little Brother Montgomery. Eurreal Wilford "Little Brother" Montgomery was an American jazz, boogie-woogie and
Otis Spann: "Otis Blues" image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, ca.1963
6. Otis Spann: "Otis Blues"
blues pianist and singer. (Submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) 
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicEntertainmentNotable Persons
 
Little Johnny Jones and his wife Letha image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, ca.1950
7. Little Johnny Jones and his wife Letha
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This page has been viewed 222 times since then and 48 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on March 26, 2015, by Cleo Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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