This Week's Featured Marker:
Black Prairie Blues
On August 19, 2008 the 46th Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled in Macon in honor of “Black Prairie Blues” and, more specifically, the music of locally born bluesmen Carey Bell, Eddy Clearwater, and Willie King. This is one of several markers that acknowledge the rich, though often overlooked, blues traditions in this area of eastern Mississippi. Like the more famous Delta to the west, the Black Prairie (or “Black Belt”) region has extremely rich soil and historically a high percentage of African American residents. Local blues artist Big Joe Shelton, who was in attendance at the ceremony, celebrated the regional blues heritage on his 2008 CD Black Prairie Blues.
Harmonica great Carey Bell unfortunately died in May of 2007, but his son Steve Bell, also a harmonica player, represented him at the ceremony and performed together with Willie King and Eddy Clearwater after the unveiling on a flatbed truck. At the time Bell was a resident of Kosciusko, Mississippi, and was playing regularly with Jackson blues musician Jesse Robinson. Carey Bell’s cousin Eddy Clearwater drove down from Chicago for the ceremony, and was overjoyed to reunite at the event with his childhood friend O. C. Gilkey, who taught Clearwater his first licks on the guitar.
The marker dedication was a dream come true for Willie King, who actively promoted local blues traditions and musicians through blues in the schools programs and his annual Freedom Creek Festival. King died in March of 2009. A short documentary about King can be watched here.
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