1. May 2013 07:57
Johnnie Billington (Video)
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
Vol 9 No 5,
Wed May 1, 2013
This issue is a memoriam for “Mr. Johnnie” Johnnie Billington 1935 - 2013
Master blues musician, who dedicated his life to teaching children the music of the Delta, passed away on April 1, 2013. His inspiration led directly to the formation of the Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program. When I first came to Clarksdale in 1991 Mr. Johnnie took me under his wing and through several years of instruction he alternately fostered, cajoled and then finally tricked me into learning blues keyboard (I had originally asked him to learn guitar!) My blues career died a decade later after a tenure with the Wesley Jefferson Band and a long stint with Tater the Music Maker. But Mr. Johnnie endowed me with a life-long commitment to keep important skills and traditions alive through the youngsters of the community. “If you know something of value,” Mr. Johnnie often taught, “you’d better share it. Otherwise it will die when you die…” That simple thought has sustained me through many bumps on the road of working with disadvantaged youth. Mr. Johnnie’s example led me to form the Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program for Mississippi Delta youth to learn the skills of carving canoes and then paddle them on the big river. The program is all about self-knowledge, leadership, team-skills, and learning to overcome the challenges of becoming adults in a confusing and difficult world. In Mr. Johnnie words, its all about “helping a boy become a young man, and a girl become a young woman.” I am forever grateful to Mr. Johnnie’s unbending ethics and keen sense of leadership. Its not necessarily the kind of leadership that leads you to fame & fortune, but definitely the kind that leads you to a thoughtful and passionate life. His lessons were often difficult to accept. But ultimately they have led me and many others to become better individuals and citizens. Although he sometimes seemed short on compassion, his never-ending mantra was “Love is what its all about…” One of his favorite songs to perform was Bobby Blue Bland’s “I’ll Take Care of You.” He often introduced the song specifically for children, addressing the youth in his band or in the audience with the admonition to love and care for your parents. He named his last homesite, located in Lambert along the meandering Possum Bayou, “The H&H Ranch,” which stands for “Health and Happiness.” Long live Mr. Johnnie’s teachings! They surely live on through his his talented apprentices turned professional blues musicians: Arthneice Jones “the Gas Man,” Anthony “Big A” Sherrard, Lee Williams, “Big T” Terry Williams, Billy Gibson, and many, many others. They also live on in unexpected directions like the Mighty Quapaws. In honor and respect of Mr. Johnnie, may his gift of Health and Happiness reach you wherever you are!
- John Ruskey, Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
4. December 2012 10:23
Mississippi, if you don't already know it, is the Birthplace of America's Music. This claim is indisputable, fact, cannot be denied, undeniably true - period. This is especially true with regards to the Blues, a soulful genre of music born of back-breaking work, sweat of the brow, down on your luck, misery and pain. But, you don't have to live it to feel it. Just follow the Mississippi Blues Trail and discover the rich musical heritage that makes Mississippi a one of a kind unique experience. This music trail will take you along a path well traveled by legendary bluesmen - and women - whose lives influenced some of the world's most famous musicians, singers and songwriters. The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley and the Beatles are just a few who gained so much from the bluesmen of Mississippi. If you love Blues music, don't miss out on traveling along the Mississippi Blues Trail.
17. February 2012 10:22
As we approach the unveiling of the 150th Mississippi Blues Trail
next Tuesday, two new blues trail markers were erected in the Mississippi Delta this week.
On Thursday, February 16, Tommy McClennan was recognized with a marker at W. Broadway and N. Water Streets in Yazoo City
. McClennan (c. 1905-1961) was one of America's most successful down-home blues recording artists during the period when he recorded 20 singles for the Bluebird label (1939-1942). Among McClennan's most notable numbers were “Bottle It Up and Go,” “Cross Cut Saw,” “Travelin’ Highway Man,” “Deep Blue Sea Blues,” “Whiskey Head Woman” and “New Highway No. 51 Blues.” McClennan, famed for his raucous, uninhibited singing and guitar playing, frequented the Water Street section of Yazoo City when he lived on the nearby J. F. Sligh plantation.
Pianist, vocalist and songwriter Mose Allison also received a blues trail marker in his hometown of Tippo. Allison performed at the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University earlier this week and was the recipient of the Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi Arts Commission during a ceremony in Jackson. Allison was born on November 11, 1927, in his grandfather’s farmhouse on the island in Tippo Bayou, about three miles from town. In 1956, Allison moved to New York City, where he soon achieved acclaim as a jazz artist. His music always retained a strong blues influence though, and in addition to covering the songs of Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, Allison authored blues standards, including “Parchman Farm.”
Join us as we celebrate the unveiling of the150th Mississippi Blues marker on Tuesday, February 21, 2012, honoring Furry Lewis. The ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the intersection of Lamar Street and Carrollton Avenue in Greenwood
, Miss. A reception will be held at the Crystal Grill
immediately following the unveiling ceremony.