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Center of the Blues Universe
From primitive camping to full-service RV accommodations to cozy cabins, Mississippi's State Parks are fantastic places to stay. For complete information, click here.
Jack Owens became one of Mississippi's most venerated blues artists in the 1980s and ‘90s after spending most of his life as a farmer in Yazoo County. Born November 17, 1904, or 1906 according to some sources, Owens did not perform outside the state of Mississippi until 1988. During his final years he and his harmonica player, Bud Spires, traveled together to many festivals and performed on Owens’s front porch for hundreds of visitors. Owens died on February 9, 1997.
Tragedy struck Jackson State College on May 15, 1970, when Jackson police and Mississippi Highway Patrol officers suppressed student unrest with intense gunfire. Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green were killed and many injured when bullets riddled Alexander Hall and peppered nearby areas.
James "Son" Thomas, internationally famed Blues musician and folk sculptor, worked as a porter at the Montgomery Hotel, which once occupied this site. Born in the Yazoo County community of Eden October 14, 1926, Thomas moved to Leland in 1961. He made his first recordings for folklorist Bill Ferris in 1968 and later traveled the United States and Europe to perform at Blues concerts and exhibit his art. He died in Greenville on June 26, 1993.
A Liberty native, Jerry Clower (1926-1998) brought his colorful, observant, comic stories of southern life—developed as a sales tool as he worked as a fertilizer salesman—to live shows, recordings, television, bestselling books, and, for over twenty-five years beginning in 1973, Grand Ole Opry broadcasts. He became one of the most successful and acclaimed country comedians of all time.
One of the few female performers of country blues, Jessie Mae Hemphill (c. 1923 – 2006) was a multi-instrumentalist who performed in local fife and drum bands before gaining international recognition in the 1980s as a vocalist and guitarist.
Singing winningly, with storytelling clarity and physicality, of the real lives and fondest dreams of his down home audience, with varied musical backing that ranged from his own solitary guitar to rural pickers, horns, and Hawaiian bands, in just five years as a star before his early death in 1933, Jimmie Rodgers placed a defining stamp on what country music would be. Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame simply calls Meridian’s Singing Brakeman “The Man Who Started It All.”
The "Father of Country Music" is immortalized in this collection of memorabilia located in his hometown.
Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed, one of the most influential Blues artists of the 1950s and '60s, was born here on the Shady Dell plantation on September 6, 1925. Reed was one of the first Bluesmen to achieve "crossover" success, scoring hits on both the Rhythm & Blues and Pops charts with songs including "Honest I Do," "Big Boss Man," "Baby What You Want Me To Do," and "Bright Lights, Big City."
Born in October 1899, Joe Callicott spent his whole life in the area south of Memphis. His chief musical associate was Garfield Akers and it was as Akers’ second guitarist that he made his first recording in 1929. Open year-round.
Guitar icon Johnny Winter's emergence on the national music scene in 1969 created a sensation among Rock and Blues audiences. The first of his many hit albums for Columbia Records featured the song "Leland, Mississippi Blues," which paid tribute to his roots here. Winter's grandfather and father, a former mayor of Leland, operated a cotton business, J. D. Winter & Son, at this site. Winter was born in Texas in 1944 but spent parts of his childhood in Leland.
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