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    True Blues

    The Delta is the crucible in which the Blues was formed of heartache, joy, worry, hard times, lost love, late nights and boogie rhythms. There are many types of Blues, but they all owe their existence to the fertile soils you tread on here in the Mississippi Delta.

    Downtown Leland Mural Project

    The Leland Blues Project depicts the great musical history of the area through a series of striking murals painted on downtown buildings. These often-photographed mural are a must-see when touring the Delta; they lead visitors to a variety of interesting shops and local craftspeople.

    Highway 61 Blues Festival

    The Leland Blues Project sponsors the Annual Highway 61 Blues Festival, held the first Saturday in June and dedicated each year to its headlining musicians. On Sunday, the Holly Ridge Store hosts a blues jam like no other with some truly unique bands. The Highway 61 Blues Stage is now a part of the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival at Warfield Point in Greenville.

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    Highway 61 Blues Museum

    307 North Broad Street, Leland • 1-866-285-7646 • 662-686-7646

    Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    In the heyday of the blues, over 150 bluesmen lived within a 100-mile radius of Leland. This museum chronicles the story of the Delta Blues and the musicians who helped make it famous and features memorabilia from Little Milton, B.B. King, James “Son” Thomas, Bougaloo Ames, Eddie Cusic, and many others. Be greeted by Pat Thomas, son of legendary “Son” Thomas, a local bluesman, and ask him to draw you a cat head.

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    Old Highway 61 – The Original Blues Highway

    When the first Delta Bluesmen took Highway 61 to the industrial North to find work, they also took their music. Today, the music born in the Delta is revered worldwide and recognized as the roots of jazz, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and hip hop. The Delta Blues Festival, held in Washington County each September, along with the Highway 61 Blues Festival in Leland each June, attracts music fans from all over the world.

    Prince McCoy

    Main Street, Greenville, MS

    Prince McCoy – Greenville

    Prince McCoy (1882-1968), a prominent early 20th century Greenville musician, played a pivotal yet long unacknowledged role in blues history. At a dance in Cleveland, Mississippi, an astonished W.C. Handy watched a crowd throw money at the feet of a trio led by McCoy. Handy described it as the moment of enlightenment that set him on a path to fame as the “Father of the Blues.” But McCoy’s legacy remained an anonymous one for many years because Handy omitted his name from the 1941 book Father of the Blues, referring to McCoy only as “a long-legged chocolate boy.”

    Prince McCoy would have been a familiar name in blues history long ago had W.C. Handy followed his first instinct to cite McCoy by name in his book Father of the Blues. Handy did in fact name McCoy in at least three pre-publication manuscripts. But in the final 1941 published version, McCoy’s name had been dropped, perhaps at the suggestion of a collaborator, even though Handy did describe McCoy’s performance in Cleveland (c. 1903) where he realized “the beauty of primitive music . . . Folks would pay money for it.” In one of the previously unpublished texts, Handy described McCoy’s trio: “They were led by a long-legged chocolate boy called Prince McCoy, and their band consisted of just three pieces, a battered guitar, a mandolin and a bass. The musicians themselves were a sorry lot, too. Dressed in their Sunday best, they still managed to convey the impression that they had just slept in the cotton patch . . . . Prince McCoy had evidently submitted to an old-fashioned mammy hair cut. It left him with the appearance of a mule that had just been roached.”

    In an earlier, also unpublished, manuscript, Handy wrote: “McCoy used to play a piece called: ‘I’m A Winding Ball And I Don’t Deny My Name.’” The song, also known as “Winin’ (or Windin’) Boy Blues” among other titles, is identified with New Orleans icon Jelly Roll Morton, although Morton did not record it until 1938. Another seminal number played by McCoy resulted in Handy’s first published musical work, “Memphis Blues,” according to Handy band member Stack Mangham of Clarksdale, who recalled, “It was the same thing we heard that night in Cleveland.” A clarinetist who later played in McCoy’s band, Douglas Williams, also had connections with Handy. In 1917 Handy published and recorded a Williams composition, “Hooking Cow Blues.” Williams recorded 24 sides of his own in Memphis for Victor in 1928-1930.

    Prince Albert McCoy was born in St. Joseph. Louisiana, on March 19, 1882, and moved to Greenville as a youngster. Handy may have viewed McCoy as a ragged musician, but news accounts indicate McCoy developed his music and led seven- and eight-piece orchestras. In 1909 the Vicksburg Herald reported that his band was already “of Delta-wide fame.” He performed for many dances and civic affairs, including the 1910 Ole Miss-Alabama football game in Greenville, a 1916 street dance here on this block of Main Street, courthouse dances in Cleveland and Rosedale, and even the Mt. Heroden Literary Society in Vicksburg where he played violin solos and duets in 1921.

    By 1927 McCoy had left Mississippi for Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he was employed in the traveling musical troupe of Maxey’s Medicine Shows. McCoy was with the Maxey outfit until at least 1937 and later worked in Winston-Salem as a laborer and janitor. He died there in obscurity on February 4, 1968, never having come to the attention of historians who might have restored his rightful place in the annals of blues.

    content © Mississippi Blues Commission

    Special thanks to Elliott Hurwitt, who first noticed and informed us of Prince McCoy’sname ina W.C. Handy manuscript in 2009. Additional research assistance: David Evans, Bob Eagle, Gaile Welker, Keith Maxey, Randy Parker, Brenda Haskins, Nancy Kossman, T. DeWayne Moore, Rogert Anthony (North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina), Famlee Brown, Jr., and Audra Eagle (Forsythe County, N.C., Library), Leslie McCarty (Davies County, Kentucky, Library); Lynn Abbott (Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University); David Seubert and Samuel

    Walnut Street Blues Bar

    128 South Walnut Street, Greenville, MS 38701 • 662-378-2254

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