Otha Turner Blues Marker

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Legendary fife player Otha Turner will be honored with a Mississippi Blues Trail marker this Saturday in Como. It will be the second marker in the town after Mississippi Fred McDowell was honored with one May 7 of this year.

Turner marker will make No. 2 in Como

By Jason C. Mattox

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The family of the late fife player Othar “Otha” Turner has issued an open invitation to the annual family picnic August 28-29, in conjunction to the dedication of Turner’s Mississippi Blues Trail marker.

The marker will be dedicated in Como on August 29 at 11 a.m.

“For over 50 years, people have come from all over the world to eat the famous barbecued goat and to hear all the different types of bands,” a release from Turner’s granddaughter Bobbie Turner Mallory said.

The musical portion of the picnic will be kicked off by the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band featuring another Turner grandchild, Sharda Thomas.

According to Wikipedia.org, Turner’s Rising Star Fife and Drum Band (which consisted of friends and relatives) primarily played at farm parties.

They began to receive wider recognition in the 1990s. They appeared on Mississippi Blues in Memphis Vol. 1 in 1993, followed by inclusion in many other blues collections. They released their own critically acclaimed album “Everybody Hollerin’ Goat” in 1998. This was followed by “From Senegal to Senatobia” in 1999.

Any band interested in performing is encouraged to attend.

Local Yokel favorite Mark “The Muleman” Massey of Senatobia, who will be playing the picnic this year and speaking at the dedication of the marker, said he is honored to be included in the event.

“I have played the picnic the last three or four years, and it is always a lot of fun,” he said. “But this year’s event is something special.

“The marker is a big thing for his family, his friends and his fans,” Massey continued. “He’s famous for his style of blues.”

“Otha Turner was 90 years old and he was as much a country man as he was a blues man,” Massey added. “He took fife playing to another level.”

Massey said the sounds of the fife and drums will transport the crowd to a different era.

“When people think about the blues, they usually think about the guitar, but when you hear the fife and drums play, it is just as much the blues,” he said. “This is something Otha brought to different generations of blues musicians.”

Como Mayor Judy Sumner said she is thrilled with the Turner’s selecting Como as the site for the trail marker, which will be the town’s second alongside that of Mississippi Fred McDowell.

“We are truly excited,” she said. “This shows that the Town of Como is a real blues town.”

Sumner said the town is hosting the reception, with refreshments being provided by the Como Homemakers Club.

“The family is handling the program, but we want them to know that we are here to do whatever we can to help them with whatever they might need,” she said.

Once the reception is over, the celebration will shift back to the picnic at 924 O.B. McClinton Road.

According to Mallory, free parking is available as long as it lasts, but O.B. McClinton Road residents are also charging for driveway parking if desired.

Food and beverages will be sold at the picnic.

For more information contact Mallory at 662-560-8411.