Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival
12/03/09: Superstar Robert Plant addresses Tutwiler Blues Marker Unveiling
Press Release from Panny Mayfield, blues journalist/publicist/ Tutwiler native - pannywriter@yahoo.com

Superstar Robert Plant addresses Tutwiler Blues Marker Unveiling

TUTWILER - Quintessential rock star Robert Plant emphasized the importance of this Delta railroad town in the history of blues music when a Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled here Wednesday, November 25.

Speaking at the dedication, the Led Zeppelin superstar and Grammy winner talked about visiting Tutwiler numerous times as a pilgrimage site where W. C. Handy first heard blues played outside the depot in 1903.

A dedicated and passionate blues historian who pays tribute to Mississippi Delta bluesmen from concert stages around the world, Plant sponsored Wednesday's event with town officials.

"This is remarkable; I have lived here all my life and always heard Tutwiler called the birthplace of the blues," remarked Mayor Genether Miller-Spurlock.

"This gives us recognition; we are very excited and have looked forward to greeting Mr. Plant and Heritage Trail officials," she continued

Although Plant's role in the dedication was kept under wraps until he walked into Tutwiler's downtown Railroad Park, the mayor says workers were busy for days preparing the marker site.

Other volunteers planned a reception at the Tutwiler Community Education Center where the mayor serves as educational coordinator.

An affiliate of the Tutwiler Clinic headed by Dr. Anne Brooks and operated by Catholic sisters, the center sponsors a quilting cottage industry, and hosts family reunions, gospel concerts, after-school programs for teens and parents.

Among the special reception guests were 25 members of the Tutwiler Senior Citizens Club who delayed their usual 10 a.m. Wednesday meeting to join the 11:30 a.m. unveiling and after-party.

In addition to honoring W. C. Handy, the trail marker also honors famed Aleck Miller who performed under the name of Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, and is buried one mile from the Tutwiler depot site.

The mayor opened the program from the concrete depot foundation stage, and Jerome Little, Tallahatchie County supervisor, presented the invocation followed remarks by former Tutwiler Mayor Robert Grayson, and state Sen. David Jordan, D, Greenwood .

Led Zeppelin superstar Robert Plant who talked about the global influence of Mississippi Delta blues including his own personal career was introduced by Panny Mayfield, a Tutwiler native and blues writer/photographer.

Blues Trail research director Jim O'Neal talked about his research into Tutwiler's blues history, and the marker was unveiled with photographs and the following inscription:

"W. C. Handy encountered a solitary guitar player performing one of the earliest documented blues songs. Handy, who described the sounds as 'the weirdest music I had ever heard,' later published an adaptation of the song as 'Yellow Dog Blues,' and became known as the 'Father of the Blues' after he based many of his popular orchestrations on the sounds he heard in the Delta."

Handy described the incident decades later in his 1941 autobiography, 'Father of the Blues.' A Clarksdale resident from 1903 to 1905, Handy traveled around the area playing with his dance orchestra but did not begin to incorporate the blues into his repertoire until he heard the unidentified guitarist in Tutwiler and a three-piece string band in Cleveland, Mississippi. 1903 is often given as the likely date of the Tutwiler event, and to commemorate the 100th anniverary of that date, 2003 was chosen as the Year of the Blues. Handy's most famous composition, 'St. Louis Blues', ranks as one of the most-recorded songs in any genre of music.

The Tutwiler blues trail marker also honors another local blues legend, Aleck Miller, who performed under the name of Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2. Miller's grave lies only a mile from the Tutwiler train station. Other former Tutwiler performers include banjo and fiddle player Tom Dumas, whose music harked back to Handy's era, and pianist Lee Kizart.

Press Release from Panny Mayfield, blues journalist/publicist/ Tutwiler native - pannywriter@yahoo.com


Speaking at the unveiling of the Tutwiler Blues Marker dedication as part of Mississippi's Blues Heritage Trail is quintessential rock star Robert Plant, who emphasized the importance of Tutwiler in the history of blues music. Although Plant's appearance at the event was not announced, his background as a blues historian is longstanding, and the Tutwiler dedication was made possible by his generosity.


Key figures in the Tutwiler Blues Trail dedication who unveiled the marker following their platform talks on the depot foundation site where W. C. Handy first heard blues in 1903 are (from left) Tutwiler Mayor Genether Miller-Spurlock; Blues Trail research chairman Jim O'Neal; rock superstar Robert Plant from the U.K.; former Tutwiler Mayor Robert Grayson; and state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood).


Enjoying a sunny day in Tutwiler's Railroad Park is a crowd of local and former residents, blues fans, and visitors delighted over the surprise appearance of Led Zeppelin celebrity vocalist Robert Plant. Plant paid tribute to Mississippi Delta musicians who influenced the world of music including his own group and many others.


Welcoming Robert Plant to the Blues Trail marker dedication inside the Tutwiler Community Education Center are (from left) Catholic sister Maureen Delaney; Tutwiler Mayor Genether Miller-Spurlock; and Plant. The celebrity was presented a collection of the center's well-known hand-made quilt products and a t-shirt publicizing the 15th anniversary of the Tutwiler Clinic headed by Dr. Anne Brooks.

A special Tutwiler Blues Marker cake designed and baked by Alice and Sally Chow of Clarksdale announces "Where Blues Began" above a railroad track and mini blues marker sign honoring W. C. Handy and Tutwiler. Members of the Center’s Senior Citizens Club prepared refreshments for the reception including finger sandwiches, punch, and vegetables.

Read more at Robert Plant's Official Website

Read more at Mississippi Tourism Website




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