Thursday, July 10, 2008
Kenny Brown, David Kimbrough and Duwayne Burnside walked up, greeted friends and fans, and pulled out their guitars and started playing.
An enthusiastic group circled them at the corner of North Center Street and East College Avenue. They started clapping, dancing and singing along.
Blues music was once again alive and well in Holly Springs.
The first Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Marshall County was also unveiled Thursday at noon. It recognizes the Hill County Blues and in particular honors R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.
There were local folks on hand. But most came from out of town and out of state, some from far away. They all had one thing in common – a love for the blues.
I recognized and welcomed Bob and Judy Jacoby from Milwaukee, Wisc., who I met one year ago at the annual Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp. They were happy to be back and looking forward to the weekend ahead.
I specifically remember their personalized automobile license plate, which reads “HILCTRY.”
I met Rick Murphree from Jackson, Ga., another avid blues fan. He said he had his Cadillac packed and was en route to Potts Camp for a weekend of camping, music and fun. He said he had a good friend who recently moved to the Holly Springs area.
The Mississippi Blues Trail will be composed of more than 120 historical markers and interpretive sites located throughout the state and will continue to be developed in phases as funding becomes available. What a wonderful tourist attraction it will be for our state, Holly Springs and Marshall County.
R.L. Burnside was a blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist who lived much of his life in and around Holly Springs. Burnside was born in Harmontown in Lafayette County. Burnside spent most of his life in the rural hill country of northern Mississippi, working as a sharecropper and a commercial fisherman, as well as playing guitar at weekend house parties. His earliest recordings were made in the late 1960s by George Mitchell and released on Arhoolie Records. Another album of acoustic material was recorded that year and little else was released before Hill Country Blues, in the early 1980s.
In the 1990s, he began recording for the Oxford label Fat Possum Records. Founded by Living Blues magazine editor Peter Redvers-Lee and Matthew Johnson, the label was dedicated to recording ageing North Mississippi bluesmen such as Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Burnside remained with Fat Possum from that time until his death in 2005 at the age of 78, and he usually performed with his friend and understudy, the slide guitarist Kenny Brown, with whom he began playing in 1971 and claimed as his “adopted son.”
Junior Kimbrough was also a prominent bluesman from Mississippi. Born in Hudsonville, Kimbrough lived in the North Mississippi Hill Country around Holly Springs. He recorded for the Fat Possum Records label. He was a long-time associate of labelmate R.L. Burnside, and the Burnside and Kimbrough families often collaborated on musical projects. This relationship continues today. Burnside called Kimbrough “the beginning and end of all music.” This is written on Kimbrough’s tombstone outside his family’s church, the Kimbrough Family Church, in Holly Springs.
Beginning around 1992, Kimbrough operated a juke joint known as “Junior’s Place” in Chulahoma, which attracted visitors from around the world, including members of U2 and The Rolling Stones. Kimbrough’s sons, musicians Kinney and David Malone Kimbrough, kept it open following his death, until it burned to the ground on April 6, 2000.
Kimbrough died in 1998 at the age of 67.
The downtown marker is a fitting tribute to these two legendary blues musicians.
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