Mississippi's rich musical heritage came back to me a few days ago while I was walking through the Greek Revival-style building in Jackson that was the state's Capitol from 1839 to 1903.
Here in the same building where state legislators voted to keep blacks in slavery and where Jefferson Davis walked are exhibits detailing the civil rights struggles of black Mississippians and their musical accomplishments.
The long list of blues musicians from Mississippi includes "Big Bill" Bronzy, "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett, "Little Milton" Campbell, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, "Honeyboy" Edwards, John Lee Hooker, Eddie James "Son" House, "Mississippi" John Hurt, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Walter "Furry" Lewis, Jimmy Reed, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thorton and Tina Turner's former husband, Ike.
Country music's most famous black artist, Charley Pride, was born in Sledge, Miss., where his family were share-croppers. He grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio and learned to play a guitar at 14.
Among white country artists, the state claims Moe Bandy, Rod Brasfield, Hank Cochran, Paul Davis, Mickey Gilley, Faith Hill, Chris LeDoux, Paul Overstreet, Ben Peters, Elvis Presley, Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Russell, Lisa Stewart, Marty Stuart, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette.
You can learn more about the state's musical heritage through the Web site of the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame at msmusic.org.
Land for a hall of fame building has been secured in Clinton, Miss., according to Dr. Jim Brewer, chairman of the hall's board of directors. Fund-raising efforts for the building are under way.
The first 27 members of the hall were inducted on April Fools' Day at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson. The list included Mr. Presley, Mr. Rodgers, Miss Wynette, Mr. Johnson and Mr. King, as well as gospel star James Blackwood, rock star Jimmy Buffett, rhythm-and-blues stars Bo Didley and Sam Cooke and classical music stars Leontyne Price and William Grant Still.
The hall of fame organization has produced a compact disc with six nationally known jazz-guitar players from Mississippi. Another compact disc featuring a variety of Mississippi artists is in the works, and a book on Mississippi artists is due out in October.
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 29 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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