An Article by Johnny Cole
Photos by Stephen Anderson
As we continue to explore the Mississippi Blues Trail, we come to the marker honoring the legendary Mississippi John Hurt, located near Avalon, Mississippi.
Mississippi John Hurt (1893-1966) became famous after having been rediscovered during the American folk music revival of the early 1960’s.
Hurt spent much of his life farming in Carroll County, Mississippi while also performing as a musician at parties and local gatherings. His earliest recorded musical work dates back to 1928. Following a recommendation by fiddle player, Willie Narmour, to Okeh Records, Hurt traveled to Memphis and New York City to record such songs as “Frankie,” “Stack O’Lee,” “Louis Collins,” “Spike Driver Blues,” “Nobody’s Dirty Business,” “Candy Man Blues” and “Got the Blues (Can’t Be Satisfied)” before returning to Mississippi to resume his simpler and more familiar life. His song “Avalon Blues” describes the homesickness he felt while recording in New York City.
Top photo: Mississippi Blues Trail marker honoring Mississippi John Hurt. The marker stands outside a small derelict country store on Carroll County Road 204 near Avalon, Carroll County, Mississippi; Above photo: Mississippi John Hurt Museum
In 1963, Musicologist Richard “Dick” Spottswood and music enthusiast Tom Hoskins located Hurt in Mississippi. Their knowledge of Hurt’s early 1920’s recordings led them to seek out the blues legend. Hoskins, who traveled to Mississippi, arranged for Hurt to move to Washington, DC and the northeast where he cut a number of albums, recorded for the Library of Congress, and became popular on the folk music circuit. Hurt would become the breakout star of that year’s Newport Folk Festival.
Hurt’s self-taught finger-picking style would come to inspire an untold number of musicians. His recordings on Okeh Records in the 1920s to Piedmont and Vanguard in the 1960s, have been covered by such artists as Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Doc Watson, Taj Mahal, David Johansen, Josh Ritter, Beck, Gillian Welch and many others.
The much loved Mississippi John Hurt returned to his beloved Mississippi and died there in 1966. His legend has continued to grow since that time.
A photo of the legendary Mississippi John Hurt & the official poster for this year’s Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival.
The Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival (Oct. 5 & 6, 2019)
As autumn approached, The Southland Music Line’s photographer, Stephen “Andy” Anderson made plans to attend this year’s annual Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival near Avalon, Mississippi.
On October 5, Anderson found himself traveling Mississippi’s country roads enroute to the site of the event. Once he arrived, he said it was exactly as he had hoped – filled with a true authenticity of Mississippi’s phenomenal musical heritage.
The Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival is a celebration of one of America’s true music legends. Though it had been called by other names in previous years, Mary Frances Hurt-Wright (Mississippi John Hurt’s granddaughter) officially changed the festival’s name to “Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival in 2018.
The festival encompasses two music-filled days: Saturday is dedicated to the blues of Mississippi John Hurt; while Sunday has a gospel theme. This year’s festival featured such artists as multi-Grammy winning Taj Mahal, Jesse Colin Young (a founding member and lead singer of the 1960s group the Youngbloods, best known for their 1960’s hit cover of “Get Together”), Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), The Howard Curry Duo, Piedmont Bluz Acoustic Duo, Jim Kweskin, the highly-acclaimed Guy Davis, Christopher James, Pastor Jay Terrell and more.
Multi-Grammy award winning Taj Mahal at the Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival
While at the festival, Anderson also toured the Mississippi John Hurt museum and was honored to visit with Hurt’s granddaughter there. He attends many festivals, in particular across the Deep South, but is quick to say this was among the most enjoyable that he has attended.
The Mississippi John Hurt Foundation (founded in 1999 by Mary Frances Hurt-Wright) which provides educational and outreach programs and the Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival, have done outstanding work to keep the legend of this incredible musician alive.
The Southland Music Line encourages all to learn more about the festival, foundation and the this much loved musician. We thank Mary Frances Hurt-Wright, the foundation and festival for a great time and look forward to returning.
Taj Mahal and Jesse Colin Young (a founding member and lead singer of the 1960s group the Youngbloods, best known for their 1960’s hit cover of “Get Together”) at the Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival
Click Here to learn more about Mississippi John Hurt
Click Here to visit Mississippi John Hurt’s Homecoming Festival’s official website.
Click Here to visit the Mississippi Blues Trail’s official website.
Click Here for more articles in the Mississippi Blues Trail Series at The Southland Music Line.
© The Southland Music Line. 2019. All rights reserved