Bonnie's Pride and Joy

Fansite with ALL the news about Bonnie !

Mississippi Fred McDowell Blues Trail Marker

on May 8, 2009 No comments

by Martha F. T. Garrison

Thursday, May 7 will be a very special day in Como. That’s when the town will become an official destination on the Mississippi Blues Trail. In an afternoon ceremony starting at 2, on the median of Como’s Main Street across from City Hall, a handsome blues marker honoring the late Mississippi Fred McDowell will be unveiled. Singer Bonnie Raitt, who credits Fred McDowell as having exerted a major influence upon her music, is one of the guests who’ll travel to McDowell’s hometown for this ceremony. After the unveiling, guests can stroll a short way down Main Street to hear live music and enjoy refreshments in the town’s public library and its adjacent Memorial Garden.

Features of the 2 p.m. unveiling ceremony on the median include performances by a group of 11th and 12th graders, who will sing McDowell songs. These young members of a jazz stage band and a jazz choir will travel to Como from their Columbus, MS boarding school, the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. These bright young people hail from various towns all over the state. Additionally, the “Como Mamas” group will sing several gospel selections. Representatives from two Como-area churches – Hunter’s Chapel, where McDowell often attended and sang, and Hammond Hill Baptist, where he is buried – will say the invocation and the benediction. Several of the late musician’s relatives and friends will be introduced at the Ceremony.

Following the unveiling ceremony, the reception in the public library and Garden will offer guests a chance to meet McDowell’s kinfolk and hear live music by the following performers: Nathaniel Warren of Texas, who’ll play and sing several McDowell numbers; R. L. Boyce & the Como Breakdown, a well-known bluesy band; and singer Mary Ann “Action” Jackson. Organizers of the concert and reception are Como’s librarian Melba Major, Como resident Beverly Findley, and several other volunteers. The reception and concert are funded by the library and the Como Civic Club. Margaret Logan, Jo Anne Billingsley, and various other members of the Como Garden Club will create the fresh flower arrangements to decorate both the library and the Garden.

McDowell’s blues marker will permanently grace Como’s Main Street median, and it will have information about him on one side, and a map of the entire Mississippi Blues Trail on its other side. The Chairwoman of the Como Historic Preservation Commission, Meg Bartlett, assisted by her fellow Commissioners, worked extensively with the Mississippi Development Authority in preparing for the placement and unveiling of the marker.

Noted blues expert, Professor Scott Barretta, host of the Mississippi Public Radio blues-music program, Highway 61, describes McDowell as follows: “Mississippi Fred McDowell is widely viewed by blues aficionados as the most talented artist of his generation to be “discovered” during the blues revival of the late ’50s and ’60s. McDowell moved to Como, Mississippi around 1940, and performed widely around the region, influencing local bluesmen, including R.L. Burnside. In the wake of his discovery by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1959, McDowell began performing on the festival and coffeehouse circuits including the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. McDowell’s slide guitar playing had already influenced young white artists, notably Bonnie Raitt, and in 1971 the Rolling Stones covered McDowell’s version of the gospel standard “You’ve Got to Move” on their album ‘Sticky Fingers.’ “

As musicians from all over the world know, Mississippi is synonymous with blues. “The repertoire of any blues or rock band is full of songs, guitar licks, and vocal inflections borrowed from Mississippi bluesmen…,” says a Blues Trail publication. No matter where you go in this state, you are never far from the home, birthplace, or burial ground of some famous blues artist. Besides Como, other Mississippi locations which are, or soon will be, on the Mississippi Blues Trail map include Walls (Memphis Minnie), Berclair (B.B. King), McComb (Bo Diddley), Holly Springs (R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough), Meridian (Jimmy Rodgers), and Vicksburg (the Red Tops). Many other Mississippi communities will have markers honoring such blues greats as Jelly Roll Morton, Pine Top Perkins, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, and Robert Johnson. (For more information about the Mississippi Blues Trail, visit

In case of rain on May 7, the Como festivities will take place at 211 Main. The Como Historic Preservation Commission extends a cordial invitation to all – and especially to Mississippians, Memphians, and other Mid-Southerners – to come to Como to pay tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell, and to celebrate this region’s rich musical heritage. To find out more about the Como celebration, call (662) 526-5283.

Blues Trail markers and the entire Blues Trail project are made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division, and local contributions. Como’s marker honoring Fred McDowell received substantial local funding from the Panola Partnership, Inc., located in Batesville.

Mississippi Blues Trail Markers
Mississippi Blues Trail on Facebook

Related Posts

Take a look at these posts
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Also enjoy listening to Bonnie in these posts!

Popular Posts

Recommended Reading