Macon in Noxubee County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Black Prairie Blues
The roots of blues and gospel music run deep in the African American culture of the Black Prairie region. Among the performers born near Macon here in Noxubee County, Eddy Clearwater, Carey Bell, and Jesse Fortune went on to achieve renown in Chicago blues, while Brother Joe May moved to East St. Louis and starred as a gospel singer. In Prairie Point near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Willie King kindled a new blues movement as the political prophet of the juke joints.
African American music in Noxubee County dates back to antebellum days when slaves sang spirituals and work songs on local cotton plantations. Slaves who learned banjo or fiddle also served as entertainers at white social affairs. This musical legacy carried over into the 20th century, when African American family string bands featuring fiddle, guitar, and mandolin performed for both white and black audiences. Such bands included the Duck Brothers (Charlie, Albert, and Vandy Duck), the Salt and Pepper Shakers (Perie, Doc, and Preston Spiller), and the Nickersons (featuring fiddler Booger Nickerson).
Another Macon fiddler, Houston H. Harrington (1924 -1972), guided his family, including sons Joe and Vernon Harrington and nephew Eddy “Clearwater” Harrington, towards careers in the blues after
Harmonica virtuoso Carey Bell, a Macon native whose real surname was also Harrington, likewise attained worldwide fame after moving to Chicago. Bell (1936 -2007) played with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, among others, and fathered a brood of blues musicians, including renowned guitarist Lurrie Bell and harmonica protege Steve Bell. Vocalist Jesse Fortune, born near Macon in 1930, also embarked on a lengthy blues career in Chicago in the 1950s. In the gospel field, Brother Joe May (1912 -1972) and Robert Blair (1927 -2001) built successful careers after leaving Macon.
Although professional musical opportunities were scant, blues singers continued to play house parties and juke joints around Macon, Brooksville, Shuqualak, Mashulaville, and Prairie Point. Big Joe Williams (1903 -1982), one of the most prominent blues artists from the Black Prairies, came from Crawford to perform in Noxubee County at times. Williams and fellow bluesman John Wesley “Mr. Shortstuff” Macon (c. 1923 -1973)
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 46.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 33° 6.414′ N, 88° 33.65′ W. Marker is in Macon, Mississippi, in Noxubee County. Marker is at the intersection of Jefferson Street (State Highway 145) and East Green Street, on the right when traveling north on Jefferson Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 401 Jefferson Street, Macon MS 39341, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Old Noxubee County Jail (within shouting distance of this marker); Noxubee County Confederate Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); First Court Term of Noxubee County Macon Presbyterian Church (approx. ¼ mile away); Calhoun Institute (approx. 0.4 miles away); Dancing Rabbit Creek (approx. half a mile away); Allen-Morgan Place (approx. 0.9 miles away); Big Joe Williams (approx. 13.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Macon.
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on February 20, 2016, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 183 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on February 20, 2016, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.