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Mississippi Fred McDowell Blues Trail Marker

on May 8, 2009 No comments

Candice Ludlow – WKNO – 2009-05-08

Very Happy and emotional reunion of sorts, Dick Waterman and Bonnie Raitt, back in Como, Mississippi to honor their old friend Mississippi Fred McDowell
Very Happy and emotional reunion of sorts, Dick Waterman and Bonnie Raitt, back in Como, Mississippi to honor their old friend Mississippi Fred McDowell

The Mississippi Blues Trail Marker honoring Mississippi Fred McDowell was unveiled Thursday in Como, Mississippi. Candice Ludlow has more.

That’s the music of Mississippi Fred McDowell. Notice the resonating slide sound?

Como is where Mississippi Fred McDowell called home. It’s located 45 miles south of Memphis along Highway 55.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was born and raised in Rossville, TN, just outside of Memphis in the early 1900’s. He learned to play slide guitar from his father’s cousin who used a steak bone to slide along the frets as he played. Later, Mississippi Fred McDowell used a bottleneck slide.

Dick Waterman was McDowell’s manager during the 60s.

“He represents what’s called the hill country style. There’s the delta style of Charlie Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and that type that went up to Chicago. There’s a hill country style that comes from Fred. It’s really most prevalent in Como, Senatobia, Holly Springs,”

Dick Waterman said.

It was sweltering hot on Main Street, a two-lane road through town with brick storefronts. Approximately 200 people were fanning their faces as the dedication began with students from a local high school playing and singing one of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s songs.

Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt made a special appearance at the dedication for her mentor.

“Well, he was one of the first blues artists that I got to meet, and I fell in love with his music from the first time I heard it on record. To have the honor and privilege to be able to be friends and tour with him in my early career was a gift I think like no other. His style of slide playing and his rhythm playing influenced me tremendously. I don’t know why we hit it off so much, but we just loved each other very much. It was a big loss when he passed when I was only 22, so it means a lot to me to be able to be here today.”
“Well, I’m so happy to hear that they’re doing this blues trail with 150 markers, elevating the music of blues and culture to the rest of the world. It’s been long overdue. Mississippi Fred McDowell is a giant in blues and there are so many other people that deserve that attention,”

Raitt said.

Bonnie Raitt, Hubert Sumlin, Como Mayor Judy Sumner.Very Happy and emotional reunion of sorts, Dick Waterman and Bonnie Raitt, back in Como, Mississippi to honor their old friend Mississippi Fred McDowell.Bonnie Raitt and Hubert Sumlin at the Mississippi Fred McDowell Blues Marker 05/07/2009Dick Waterman - Rev. John Wilkins - Bonnie Raitt  05/07/2009The Mississippi Blues Trail, created by the Mississippi Blues Commission, is a project to place interpretive markers at notable historical blues sites throughout Mississippi. The trail extends from southern Mississippi and winds its way to Memphis, Tennessee. In Como is one such marker honoring the late "Mississippi Fred" McDowell, renowned for his bottle-neck style of playing the guitar and for his soulful singing of "Highway 61" and other blues classics. On Thursday, May 7, 2009 , a handsome Blues Marker was installed on Como's Main Street median across from Como City Hall.Dick Waterman and Bonnie RaittRev. John Wilkins, Alex Thomas, Bonnie Raitt, Hubert SumlinMelody CummingsMorris CummingsRL BoyceRicky StevensRev, John Wilkins / Bonnie RaittRev, John Wilkins / Bonnie RaittRev, John Wilkins / Bonnie RaittBonnie Raitt / Hubert SumlinDick WatermanNathaniel WarrenRL BoyceFred McDowell's familyBonnie Raitt and Fred McDowell's family.Fred's family presenting Bonnie Raitt with a home made basket and flowers.Basket of flowers presentation.Bonnie RaittDaddy MackBonnie and HubertBonnie, Hubert & Watermelon SlimBonnie and HubertBonnie and HubertRev. John Wilkins, Bonnie Raitt & Como Mayor Judy SumnerCinda & Dick WatermanCinda & Dick WatermanBlues MarkerBlackOak SlimDick Waterman / Ronnie WilliamsDick WatermanDick WatermanDick WatermanDick Waterman / Tony LaxTonyFred McDowell Marker"Mississippi" Fred McDowell  Blues Trail Marker - Rear"Mississippi" Fred McDowell  Blues Trail Marker - Rear"Mississippi" Fred McDowell  Blues Trail Marker - RearComo Mississippi Water TowerMississippi Fred McDowell's grave in Panola County, Mississippi (outside Como)Mississippi Fred McDowell's head stone in Hammond Hill Missionary Baptist Church Cemetary, Como, Ms.Back of Mississippi Fred McDowell's head stone.Lyrics to his best known song, also covered by the Rolling Stones.Mississippi Fred McDowell's head stone in Hammond Hill Missionary Baptist Church Cemetary, Como, Ms.This is a marker that has been up several years in Fred McDowell's hometown of Rossville, Tn. There is a discrepancy on the date of his birth and death between this marker and his grave stone which was purchased in 1994 by a donation from Bonnie Raitt. I think a trip to the court house may be in order to clear this up but I believe the information on the grave stone is most correct. His original grave stone is currently at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Ms.

Photo’s © by Tony Lax

Eventually, there will be 150 Blues Trail Markers throughout Mississippi and in states connected with the blues from Mississippi. The first three blues trail markers were unveiled in 2006 in Holly Ridge, Greenville and Greenwood. The first Mississippi Blues Trail marker to be placed out of state was done so today at Third and Beale.

Shows Mississippi blues singer, Fred Mc Dowell, singing and talking about his blues. Includes scenes of the area which helped to shape his country blues.
Blues Maker – by Univ Of Mississippi – Published 1969

For WKNO News, I’m Candice Ludlow in Como, Mississippi. © Copyright 2009, WKNO

Source: © Copyright WKNO 91.1FM
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