This Week's Featured Marker:
On October 12, 2011, the 143rd Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled on the downtown Square in Oxford to honor the wide variety of blues activity that has taken place in Lafayette County. In February of 2009 another marker, “Documenting the Blues,” was unveiled on the nearby University of Mississippi to address topics including the presence on campus of the Blues Archive, Living Blues magazine, and other forms of blues scholarship.
The marker is located on the square less than fifty feet from the shoe repair shop that was run for many years by Herbert Wiley, who fronted the soul/blues band the Checkmates throughout the ‘60s and then once again beginning in the early 2000s. In addition to performing locally, the Checkmates have toured across the country and backed various soul veterans at New Orleans’ annual Ponderosa Stomp festival. Oxford boasts one of the most active live music scenes in Mississippi, and clubs near the marker that feature blues regularly include Rooster’s Blues House, Two Stick, Irie, Proud Larry’s, Soulshine Pizza, and Ajax, which hosted a reception after the unveiling. The headquarters of Fat Possum Records, whose first offices were on the Square, is currently located about a mile to the north.
Attendees at the ceremony included Herbert Wiley, Checkmates members J.D. Mark and Mattie Crockett, guitarist Kenny Brown, who has often performed in Oxford with R.L. Burnside as well as with his own band, and the family of Bill Perry, including his children Bill, Jr. and Sharo, who both play in his band. Perry, Sr., who lives in nearby Abbeville, also works as an instructor in the blues education program at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, located about sixty miles west of Oxford. Also in attendance were Dr. Edgar Smith, a member of the Mississippi Blues Commission, and his wife Inez, a native of Oxford and the sister of Herbert Wiley.
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