By Johnny Cole
Photos by Stephen Anderson
The Southland Music Line continues our Mississippi Blues Trail Series at the marker recognizing the legendary Trumpet Records located at 309 North Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi.
Trumpet Records was the first record company in Mississippi to achieve national stature through its distribution, sales, radio airplay, and promotion of its roster of talent. In his book, Trumpet Records: Diamonds on Farish Street, Marc W. Ryan provides a detailed look back at this short lived, yet historically, influential music label. In 1949, a white woman named Lillian McMurry and her husband, Willard, purchased a hardware store on Farish Street, located on the boundary of Jackson’s white and black business and entertainment districts. While Lillian was taking inventory of the store’s original stock, she discovered a stack of unsold records. After listening to one of the records, Wynonie Harris’s recording of “All She Wants to Do Is Rock”, Lillian’s musical curiosity led to the founding of Trumpet Records.
“It was the most unusual, sincere and solid sound I’d ever heard. I’d never heard a black record before and I’d never heard anything with such rhythm and freedom.” – Lillian McMurry.
Top photo: Mississippi Blues Trail marker at 309 North Farish Street in Jackson, MS; above photo: The street view of Trumpet Records location on North Farish Street in Jackson, MS.
When the McMurry’s opened their store on North Farish Street, a portion of it was designated as a record store called Record Mart. Shortly thereafter, Trumpet Records was officially founded with a goal of recording regional talent that did not have access to recording studios in New York City or Los Angeles. Along with its competitor, the Bihari Brothers of Modern Records, Trumpet recorded some of the era’s best blues music. Elmore James recorded his original “Dust My Broom” at Trumpet and the label was the first to record Sonny Boy Williams II (Rice Miller), who became the label’s primary recording artist.
A substantial roster of other music artists recorded at Trumpet, including bluesmen Willie Love, Jerry McCain, Big Joe Williams, Tiny Kennedy, Luther Huff, Arthur Crudup, Clayton Love, Wally Mercer, and Sherman Johnson; gospel groups such as the Southern Sons Quartette and the Blue Jay Gospel Singers; and country singers, including Lucky Joe Almond and Jimmy Swan.
Initially, Trumpet artists recorded at several studios in Jackson, including the Scott Radio Service Company, operated by Ivan M. Scott (1907-1986). In 1953, based on a design by Bill Holford, McMurry’s Record Mart was remodeled and became Diamond Recording Studio.
Trumpet Records closed in 1956. Creditors sold the artists’ recording contracts to a variety of labels. Sonny Boy Williamson II went on to record for Chess Records in Chicago where he released another 70 songs. Although it existed for only a few years, Trumpet Records was influential and is considered of utmost importance by music historians.
Lillian McMurry was known for her sense of fairness and her meticulous accounting. She firmly believed in protecting the label’s music rights and making sure royalties were paid to the original artists, songwriters, and their heirs. Mrs. McMurry was elected to the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in 1998. She died on March 18, 1999, nearly three years following the death of husband, Willard, who provided the backbone of support for their business ventures.
Mississippi Blues Trail marker honoring Trumpet Records at 309 North Farish Street in Jackson, MS (the front side of marker)
Mississippi Blues Trail marker honoring Trumpet Records at 309 North Farish Street in Jackson, MS (the back side of marker)
Lillian McMurry (Dec. 30, 1921 – Mar. 18, 1999) was one of the earliest American female record producers and owner of Trumpet Records. She was influential in the development of blues music, particularly through her recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson II and her discovery of the guitarist Elmore James. (photo featured on marker and provided by Vitrice McMurry)
Click Here for Other Articles in our Mississippi Blues Trail Series.
1. Mississippi Blues Trail official website
2. Trumpet Records: Diamonds on Farish Street, Marc W. Ryan
3. Mississippi Blues Travellers official website.
4. Downbeat: Jazz, Blues & Beyond official website
Page Designed & Edited by Johnny Cole
Additional Editing by Deborah Chatham
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