Natchez in Adams County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
The Ealey family of Sibley has produced some of the most talented musicians to emerge from the Natchez area. Brothers Theodis, YZ, and Melwyn Ealey performed together locally in the band YZ Ealey and the Merry Makers in the early 1960s. They later became recording artists, as did their older brother, David (“Bubba”) Ealey. Theodis developed a captivating blend of traditional blues and modern funk and soul music to achieve national prominence after leaving Mississippi.
Theodis Ealey gained national recognition in 2004 when his song “Stand Up In It” became a radio hit and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales chart. Although the song introduced Ealey (b. 1947) to many blues fans, he had at the time already played music professionally for over forty years. Born at the family farm in Sibley, fifteen miles south of Natchez, Theodis began playing bass at thirteen with YZ and the Merry Makers, which included his older brothers YZ (b. 1937) on guitar and Melwin (also spelled Melwyn) (1942-2005), on vocals and drums. YZ was mentored by his older brother (“Bubba”) (b. 1927), who began playing guitar locally in his teens and soon moved to New Orleans, where he played at house parties in a style similar to Lightnin’ Hopkins
YZ received his first guitar from Bubba and began performing at local juke joints with Melwin as a teenager. After a stint in the Navy, YZ settled in Oakland, where he performed with L.C. “Good Rockin’” Robinson, Big Mama Thornton, and others. After several years he returned to Natchez, where he formed the Merry Makers with his younger brothers and local musicians including Tobe Smith, Jonathan Grennell, and A.J. Reed. For several years they served as the house band at Haney’s Big House in nearby Ferriday, the most important club in the region from the late ‘40s until mid-‘60s. YZ continued to work locally for decades, later employing the band of Harvey Knox, born in Tallulah, and vocalist Al Watson, a native of Vidalia.
In 1963 Melwin moved to Oakland, where he performed as a vocalist at local venues for decades, singing rhythm and blues, country, and ballads. In Natchez Theodis worked locally as a guitarist with Eugene Butler and the Rocking Royals, whose members included Zollie Polk, later active as a harmonica player in the Los Angeles area. In the mid-‘60s Theodis joined the military, forming his first band while stationed in Hawaii. In 1970 he moved to Oakland
Erected 2011 by Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 129.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 31° 33.756′ N, 91° 24.36′ W. Marker is in Natchez, Mississippi, in Adams County. Marker can be reached from N. Broadway Street north of Main Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is located in Bluff Park next to the fountain. Marker is in this post office area: Natchez MS 39120, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bluff Park and South Broadway Street (a few steps from this marker); The Natchez Trace (within shouting distance of this marker); Bluff Park and North Broadway Street Spanish Colonial Natchez (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Bluff Park - Playground for the City (about 300 feet away); Natchez (about 400 feet away); Richard N. Wright (about 400 feet away); Bluff Park - Memorials and Louisiana Connections (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Natchez.
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 30, 2017. This page originally submitted on August 14, 2015, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page has been viewed 317 times since then and 70 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 14, 2015, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas.