05/10/18: Extraordinary musician C.V. Veal, 91, dies May 8
Services set May 19 at Chapel Hill Baptist Church; Visitation, May 18
By Panny Flautt Mayfield, Sunflower Festival publicist
CLARKSDALE - When C.V. Veal flashed his magic smile, troubles disappeared, sadness ran for cover, and everything became possible.
No matter the setting – Chapel Hill Baptist Church where he sang in the Men’s Chorus, Smitty’s Red Top Longue where he might be talked into joining Super Chikan, or beneath a giant sombrero emceeing the Sunflower River Blues Festival, C. V. Veal was extraordinary.
A pioneer bluesman, drummer and gravel-throated vocalist, C.V. organized his own band when he was in high school, played drums with his cousin, Ike Turner, toured Europe, and became a magnet for international visitors clamoring to meet him in Clarksdale. During the Black History Month observance finale at Chapel Hill Church in 2016, historian Jimmy Wiley recited a long list of African American heroes being honored beginning with Dr. Martin Luther King.
Then a hush fell over the crowded sanctuary when Dr. Wiley began describing familiar attributes of a Chapel Hill choir member as an important person who did not leave home to become famous but “stayed here always on the go in the service of the Lord.” Veal’s usual 1,000-watt smile guaranteed to light up a basketball court disappeared; he was mute and appeared stricken.
Assisted out of the choir loft into a bishop-style chair, C.V. listened as family, church, and community representatives began citing his accomplishments as a bluesman at ease among celebrities, as a role model for younger generations, and a true friend to many. Gradually he began to recover his famous smile.
C.V. was a favorite at Hyde Brothers Lumber Company where he worked for 25 years.
Longtime Hyde Brothers owner, Milton Johnson, said he hired C.V. on the construction crew in 1980 to rebuild the lumber yard on State Street after fire destroyed the business located then on Fourth Street (Martin Luther King Blvd).
“I told Clay (C.V.) I couldn’t pay him a lot of money, but would make sure he was always paid,” says Johnson adding this promise continued through last Friday.
“Clay asked for a week off around 1984 to play with Big Jack Johnson and the Jelly Roll Kings in Amsterdam,” continued Johnson. “He brought me a pair of wooden shoes, and I donated them to the Delta Blues Museum.”
Enclosed in a Plexiglas case in the museum, the shoes are displayed along with a postcard greeting from C.V. to the Hyde Brothers staff saying:
We made it over and are having the time of my life. We rode for three hours this morning & I saw only windmills (smile). Tell Mr. Milton and “TMO” the wooden shoes cost $78 ------So oooooo. If we happen to run across a tulip patch, I’ll pick some. Give my love to all.
As ever, “C.V.”
Johnson labeled Veal “Clarksdale’s blues emissary,” recognized internationally. At Hyde Brothers both Otto Preuss and Bruce Brewer valued Veal’s friendship and worked with him for years. Brewer remembered his saying to a visitor: “Come on over, and let me introduce you to my friends.”
The visitor was C.V.’s cousin, Ike Turner.
Brewer, a talented musician with his own band, said he recorded with C. V. on “Coahoma the Blues,” the Jim O’Neal and Patty Johnson’s Rooster Records label featuring Clarksdale musicians.
“C.V. was a good person,” said Brewer. ”He didn’t see color.”
Pepper Von, C.V.’s celebrity son who lives in Sacramento, Ca., is an international dance/fitness guru, motivational speaker with stage and screen credits, and has published his first book undoubtedly reflecting his dad’s lessons: “From God, Through Me, To You.”
Veal died in Clarksdale Tuesday, May 8. He was 91, born Oct. 4, 1926. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Chapel Hill Baptist Church, 1057 Page Ave.; visitation is scheduled from 4 – 6 p.m. Friday, May 18, at Chapel Hill. Delta Burial Foundation is in charge of arrangements.