June 12, 2016

The Blues: A Mississippi Tradition



The Blues began in Mississippi well over a hundred years ago, while cotton was still king and life was hard. Back in the day, the different groups developing this treasured musical tradition were isolated from one another, so they developed different styles. I never knew that the Blues differs depending upon where one might be in Mississippi until I consulted with my oldest son for this blog. He's a true Blues lover who has made it his mission to hear as many of the old guard as he can before they're all gone. Many of the old timers have already passed on, thanks to the ravages of time, but a few brave souls have stepped in to fill the void and keep the art form alive. He loves hearing them play, too.

He told me that in the Delta,  you'll hear more of the traditional Blues (the Delta Blues), thanks to the legacy of Pinetop Perkins and L. C. Ulmer, who passed away earlier this year. Clarksdale's Juke Joint Festival, held every April, is the perfect place to hear this brand of the Blues. Terry "Harmonica" Bean is still alive and well and puts on a terrific one-man show to captivate his audience.

The Bentonia Blues Festival features music similar to the Delta Blues except that folks play it in different keys. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes began this tradition at the Blues Front Café many years ago. He's since passed on, but Kenny Brown and Bill Able are still alive and well and playing their hearts out. The B.B. King Museum in Indianola features the Delta Blues with a bit of Chicago Swing thrown in for good measure.

The Hill Country Picnic, held every year in the sultry mid-summer heat on a farm outside Holly Springs, features the Hill Country Blues, tunes with a steady beat sometimes partnered with a single chord. Rhythm drives this music made famous by T-Model Ford, R. L. Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough. My son loves it.

Folks in the Pines play another type of Blues, while those in the River/Capitol City area play another, and the people on the Gulf Coast have added their own special twist. All of this music is similar yet different. What now links all of these areas together and makes Mississippi a favorite destination of Blues enthusiasts from all over the world?

The Mississippi Blues Trail  http://www.msbluestrail.org/index.aspx

Hundreds of Blues markers stretch from the Mississippi Gulf Coast all the way up into Arkansas to denote the history of this wonderful Deep South tradition and assure it will never be forgotten. New markers are added every year, and Blues enthusiasts consider them to be a Holy Grail of sorts; places to visit at least once in their lives. Some folks set a goal of seeing every single one of them, and that can take years. The one closest to me is in Hazelhurst, the home of Blues pioneer Robert Johnson. I didn't even attempt to count all of the marker locations listed on the website.

Mississippi has a lot to offer, from a rich literary tradition that includes Eudora Welty and Willaim Faulkner, to more basic fair like great hunting and fishing, to the soul-wrenching cry of the Blues. I invite you to visit. You might just want to stay.

My books don't involve the Blues, but many of them do take place in Mississippi. My most recent release, Bayou Bounty Hunters Book Three: Unlocking Her Secrets, takes place on the Gulf Coast.

In this story, Laura Leigh Bennett, a former debutante used to the finer things in life, is accused of a crime she swears she didn't commit. In an effort to clear her name, she jumps bail and goes on the run like a common criminal. Her goal is to stay clear of the law and find the person she believes shot Gerald Wayne, but a wise-ass bounty hunter soon catches her and sends her life spiraling even further out of control.

Gideon Blake has been bored ever since he left the military. He has family money, so he doesn't have to work, but he relies on the contract jobs Bayou Bounty Hunters, Inc. throws his way to keep him out of trouble. So when Ryder calls needing a man to hunt down a woman who's jumped bail, Gideon agrees. He catches the former debutante, but before he can haul her back to jail, the two are trapped together by a terrible storm. 
 
The electricity arcing between Laura Leigh and Gideon is as powerful as the lightning popping outside. Laura Leigh feels that visceral pull and uses it in an attempt to convince Gideon to help prove her innocence before he takes her back to jail. Gideon must decide if he'll stick by his guns, or sacrifice his integrity for a woman he's just met.

You can find this book at Amazon http://bit.ly/unlockinghersecretsamzn, Desert Breeze Publishing http://bit.ly/unlockinghersecrets  and at many other online outlets. Hope you'll check it out!

For my books:  http://bit.ly/unlockinghersecretsamzn and http://bit.ly/unlockinghersecrets

My website: 
http://www.melanieatkins.com
Melanie Atkins offers up a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card to One Lucky Person who stops by and leaves a comment here!  Leave a comment and your contact info to be entered to win! 
(Pictures provided by author.  Picture of Archie Storey provided by Kristie Storey)

9 comments:

annette snyder said...

Enjoy this weeks post. Thank you for stopping by!

jrlindermuth said...

I've been to Mississippi. Wish I could come back for those blues festivals. Love the blues.

Debbie Kump said...

Hi Melanie,

It's been many, many years since I've had a chance to visit Mississippi, but I enjoyed learning more about the Blues and the deep South in your post! Thanks for sharing and good luck with your writing!

traveler said...

I love the blues and hope to visit Mississippi. Your post was fascinating.

Mary Deal said...

Nice to read about the Blues. Among her repertoire, my mother and others in her family used to sing the blues on live radio in the 20s and 30s. They traveled across the country but I don't know of them singing in Mississippi. The whole family did like the South.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

I didn't know that about my neighboring state!
Thanks for sharing such interesting info.
Good luck and God's blessings
PamT

petite said...

I could listen to the Blues forever. The Blues resonates with me. I enjoyed learning about The Mississippi Blues. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

Joyce Brown said...

I loved reading about the blues in Mississippi, and thank you for sharing the blues trail link. I love listening to the blues but didn't know much of this information. I'm sure our Kansas City jazz was built on the blues tradition.

Fiona McGier said...

I've heard of most of the Blues musicians you mentioned, and seen a few in person, mostly at Chicago's Blues-fest, held yearly in early June.

Very interesting to realize there's so much pride in musical heritage in Mississippi. Maybe someday we'll drag the camper down there and try to do as much of the Blues circuit as we can. Thanks for sharing such interesting info about your state!

fiona(dot)mcgier(at)gmail(dot)com