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Mississippi - Canton: Worth Long Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Worth Long in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Dent asks about music in Canton and Long discusses a fan harmonica player named Sam Meyers, Lonnie Pitchford, Board Rivers, Clyde Maxwell and Belton Suthermen. Long also mentions a revival recorded by Alan Womack in a Baptist church near Canton. Long explains that a "music town" was defined by its juke joints and access to alcohol. Dry counties could still have access to liquor though bootleggers and paid-off policemen. Juke joints were primarily dance halls, called barrels houses after the barrels of whiskey. They are places for "boogie-woogie" dance blues played on piano. Smaller gatherings may have a single musician on a guitar but the dance halls tended to be larger bands with combinations of piano, vocal, bass, lead, guitar and drum. Long says there is a line drawn in Mississippi between blues and religious music. Long explains that blues is "the devil's music" to religious authorities and that Whites looked down on it. Dent says this is not the case in New Orleans. Long states that Neshoba County was a wet county that brought in a lot of musicians. Fayette and Philadelphia also had popular clubs owned by Charles Evers, Medgar Evers' older brother. Meridian and Jackson also had active night life. Long also mentions that there were several talented and respected female blues musicians including Sister Babe Stovall from near Hazlehurst who played with The Sweethearts of Rhythm. Mississippi John Hurt was also from the area. Dent and Long discuss the childhood of Chester Barnette, otherwise known as Howling Wolf. Long mentions that he knew Barnette personally. Long discusses the importance of Memphis to the blues and some of his personal experiences there. They discuss the origins of blues lyrics which include field hollers, work calls, lullabies, and levy camp/railroad calls that made their way into a "blues lexicon." There is also a "protest lyric" genre within the lexicon which tends to not be produced by White labels. Long lists Indianola, Greenville, Vicksburg, Hollandale and Clarksdale as famous blues towns. Though not all of them are connected with water, many are. Vicksburg was particularly connected with piano based dance music and had its own form of blues. The police protected blues musicians within the city. Long mentions that the dynamic changes once juke boxes replace live musicians. Long says that there are two particularly important musicians out of the delta: Skip James and Elmore James. Elmore James, in Holms County, was the first to make the guitar the lead instrument over the piano. Guitar's significance came hand in hand with amplification because it could not be heard over the piano previously. Slide guitar was also a significant innovation. They discuss middle notes and ways to create a blues scale. Long says a man named Dudlow created boogie-woggie blues on the piano by hitting the keys hard, almost like a drum. Similarly, Robert Johnson's great innovation was to make guitar playing drum-like.
Worth Long's family can be heard in the background, particularly a baby
African AmericansBluesCivil rightsJazzMusicRace relations
Dent, Thomas C.Evers, Charles, 1922-Evers, Medgar Wiley, 1925-1963Long, Worth W.Maxwell, ClydeMeyers, SamPitchford, LonnieStovall, Babe, 1907-1974
Canton (Ms.)Neshoba County (Ms.)Memphis (Tn.)Indianola (Ms.)Greenville (Ms.)Vicksburg (Ms.)Hollandale (Ms.)Clarksdale (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 153, Item 5, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. Copyright Laws.