Marker Celebrates Meridian’s Contribution to Blues and Jazz | Local news
The unveiling of the Meridian Blues & Jazz marker at the corner of Fifth Street and 25th Avenue commemorated brilliant Meridian musicians from the past.
This took place, after all, on the site of the Fielder & Brooks Drug Store.
The store is gone now, but it’s where jazz drummer Alvin Fielder, one of the famous musicians on the Marker, operated a family pharmacy after soaring as a musician in cities like Chicago.
But Thursday afternoon’s ceremony did more than just look back. One of the artists honored on the marker, Jamell Richardson, is part of a younger generation of blues artists who work – and perform – to grow the genre.
âMy music is mostly a new breed of blues,â said Richardson, known as âThe Gulf Coast Blues Boyâ.
“I try to write music and record music that will appeal to the new generation so that the blues can evolve.”
Richardson said his music is based on the “rock and soul” of the blues.
âIt can go from funk to good R&B, but it still kind of keeps that same soul integrated,â he said. âBut with so many blends and flavors, you still have that main ingredient. “
Kamel King, who represents Visit Mississippi, opened Thursday’s ceremony, reminding the crowd that “Meridian is a home of entertainment.”
More than 30 musicians, King noted, are recognized on the marker – the 198th to be unveiled along the Mississippi Blues Trail.
The marker is the fourth unveiled in Meridian; others recognize the city’s contribution to R&B and soul music, Peavey Electronics and Jimmie Rodgers, widely known as the “Father of Country Music.”
Dede Mogollon, Executive Director of Visit Meridian / Lauderdale County Tourism, reminded the audience that the unveiling of the 200th and final marker is approaching.
âThe 200th marker will be unveiled next week in Clarksdale to coincide with the state of Mississippi’s bicentennial,â she said.
Reverend Gary E. Houston, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, led the crowd in a moving prayer after noting, âYou can go anywhere in the world from here. “
Houston also observed that his father, Eddie Houston, was among the honored musicians on the marker. After the unveiling, he reflected on his upbringing in such a musical home.
âDad made a lot of records,â said Gary Houston. âWe remember when he had the band in the living room. He was a singer – he was like a James Brown. He put all the pieces together and made it. He had great bands.
He remembered hearing his father when he was little.
âThey were rehearsing in our living room,â remembers the young Houston. âI was probably about three or four years old. I remember when they would leave, and all the instruments would still be in the living room. My brothers and I would walk in and hit something.
Houston remembers his father singing at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University and other important places. He also remembers how his father helped him and his siblings develop their own musical talents.
âMy dad gave me a trombone, he gave my brother a trumpet, and he gave my older brother a bass guitar and drums,â he said. âSo we all grew up being musicians. “
Thursday’s ceremony also featured remarks by Weston Lindemann, District 5 member of Meridian City Council; Jonathan Wells, District 1 Supervisor of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors; and the Mayor of Meridian, Percy Bland.
Bland, in particular, picked up on the theme of Meridian’s current musical power.
âWhere we are now is a historic district, but it will also be an entertainment district for the city of Meridian,â he said, noting the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, which is slated to open. next April on Front Street.
âWe don’t have an entertainment department yet, but we’re getting close to it,â he added. âWe want to be a city of fun andâ¦ we want to attract people to the city of Meridian. “
The past, present and future seemed to intertwine throughout Thursday’s presentation – and the mix continued in the various conversations that ensued. As Meridian-born Jamell Richardson spoke about his own music today, he recalled his family’s past influence growing up in the nearby town of Butler, Alabama.
Richardson was in Meridian Thursday with his uncle, Johnny Brooks. As they both remembered, it was Brooks who gave Richardson his first guitar.
And as Gary Houston recounted his father’s nurturing musical education, he also noted that his father was still alive, living in Nashville, and still making music.
âHe still sings and he still records,â he said.
More information about the Mississippi Blues Trail can be found at msbluestrail.org.