DID YOU HEAR THE BLUES?

d n english

Here is another bit of Jackson

DID YOU HEAR THE MUSIC ?

d n English

One day at a Farmers Market in downtown Jackson I was talking to Mr. Robert Tucker. He would laugh and tell me when I asked him his age “I own up to being over 60.” I asked him if he had any memories of Shannon St. he wanted to share.“ Now mind you I remember hearing stories there was music but at night my mother would tell me there was a lot of meanness.” Mr. Robert said.

He went on to say he had always been told in the early 1900’sIn the basement of the Anderson Building at the corner of Shannon and Lafayette there was a Barber Shop Late at night and on Saturday you could hear the Music.

Shannon St would be the place that my people would come to shop for clothes, groceries, feed and seed, etc.. We were more comfortable here than in the white stores downtown. Shannon street area was just a street nothing special it had a few pool halls and a few bars it was just a regular street in Jackson Tn . “ It was nothing like Beale St. in Memphis.”

He added.The music could be heard in the back of the pool halls, in the Barber shop and in private homes further down Shannon. On the weekend men would come off their railroad jobs, the lumber yards and the farms with their guitars, “juice harps”and find a place to play. There was always a upright piano in these places I was told.Now as they were playing they would start making up songs as they went along. Crowds would gather as they heard the musicand on occasion a lady would join in and start singing adding her words to the music.

In the early days very few wrote down the music. People would remember the songs eventually someone would write the words down . Unfortunately in many cases it wasn’t the original artist.The music was another story no two blues played alike similar but not alike.What the musician felt as they played came out as they played. As more heard “the Blues” the more they would imitate it ,claim it as there own and take it to other places.

Sonny Boy Williamson was one of these many musicians who started here in Jackson. Sonny Boy heard, wrote and felt the blues and you could feel it as he played his music. Other musician would travel from Brownsville to Jackson. Two of these musicians were Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixion.Several of the songs Sonny Boy is given credit for mention Shannon St. adding to the importance of Shannon St to the blues heritage.

One day I was visiting with Shine Wilbourne ,when he worked shinning shoes at the New Southern Hotel, he introduced me to Mr.Evans. Mr. Evans laughed as he told me “young lady I am old enough to have heard Sonny Boy play in Jackson and in Chicago”“When Sonny Boy would play in the clubs his audience would be mostly black folks but as soon as the music started the white folks would wander in and soon they would be mixing and jamming. Yes mam music would bring them together.”Mr. Evans went on to tell me several times a week he would take the bus to downtown and sit with Shine as he worked and played music. “Now you know Shine ain’t the only reason I come.” As he pointed to the ladies that were around listening and talking. “You never to old to flirt” he said “That right Mr. Evans” Shine said smiling soon he began to play his juice harp stopping long enough to sing a few bars.

.I stayed around for awhile then continued to wander downtown to see what other story I could uncover.

Story first appeared in Still Wandering Downtown. 2004 d n English

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