A diverse crowd including blues artists, tourism officials and community members converged on the site of Bradfordville Blues Club in Tallahassee, Florida, for the unveiling of the newest marker on the Mississippi Blues Trailer on November 20.
Yes, the location was northern Florida, not Mississippi. Why? The musical ties between Florida and Mississippi run deep. North Florida’s urban clubs and rural roadhouses, including clubs that have operated at the historic Bradfordville location, have played an important role in the history of the Gulf Coast “chitlin circuit” for touring African American blues, jazz and R&B musicians. Mississippi-born artists B. B. King, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and many more have performed and recorded in Florida while some Floridians, including bluesman Benny Latimore, recorded at studios in Mississippi as well.
Also, Florida has long provided work for traveling musicians with its many entertainment centers. Seasonal jobs in agriculture and other fields also drew itinerant bluesmen from Mississippi and other states. Several Mississippi musicians have recorded in Florida: John Lee Hooker and his cousin Earl Hooker, Ike Turner, Johnny O’Neal and Little Sammy Davis. Floridians who recorded in Mississippi include Pensacola bandleader Wally Mercer and Homestead native Tommy Tate, a vocalist/songwriter/drummer at Malaco Records in Jackson, where Miami’s Benny Latimore made many records. The interchange has also been saluted in songs such as “Mississippi Mud” by Ray Charles and “Deep Down in Florida” by Muddy “Mississippi” Waters.
The Bradfordville Blues Club marker is the 119th marker and the eighth marker dedicated outside of the state. Other out-of-state markers are located in Chicago; Memphis; Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Ferriday, Louisiana; Helena, Arkansas; Rockland, Maine; and Grafton, Wisconsin.
For more information about the Mississippi Blues Trail, visit http://www.msbluestrail.org/ or http://www.visitmississippi.org/.
(Photos courtesy of Larry Coltharp of Tallahassee, Florida)