Blues Trail

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 6, 2009

Betty Turner Freeman was in the crowd that heard blues writer/researcher Scott Barretta (right) describe Mississippi Fred McDowell’s career and widespread influence in music. Barretta is chief researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail marker project and came to Como Wednesday to help celebrate a marker that will be placed there to honor McDowell. Freeman is the daughter of the late Otha Turner whose fife and drum music attracts hundreds each year to the annual festival at Gravel Springs in

Blues Trail marker now includes Como

By John Howell Sr.

The fellowship hall at Como’s Methodist church overflowed Wednesday to help blues aficionado Scott Barretta celebrate a Blues Trail marker to commemorate Fred McDowell and his music.

That’s Mississippi Fred McDowell as in Como, Mississippi.

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Though born in Rossville, Tennessee and later a Memphis resident, McDowell called Como home and was buried near there at Hammond Hill Baptist Church.

Barretta, principal writer and researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail, and host of the Highway 61 radio program broadcast Saturday nights on Mississippi Public Radio, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting of the Como Rotary Club. He said that 63 markers have been placed across Mississippi to commemorate the state’s blues heritage.

The Como marker will recognize McDowell’s influence, with his unique vocals and slide guitar, in shaping what would come to be known as a North Mississippi style of blues music, subtly distinct from the Delta blues tradition, Barretta said.

Establishing the marker in Como will also acknowledge McDowell’s influence on other musicians, Barretta said.

“R. L. Burnside studied under Fred McDowell,” he said. The Rolling Stones recorded his You Gotta Move on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album, and McDowell taught Bonnie Raitt his slide guitar style, Barretta continued.

The tentative date for unveiling the marker is May 18. Selection of a location in Como is yet to be determined.

Como Rotary President David McBride acknowledged Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons among guests and acknowledged the Partnership’s funding the marker.