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M. Scott Morris is an award-winning feature writer and columnist, and has worked at the Mighty Daily Journal since 1996. If you've got a story idea about an interesting person, place or thing, he'd love to hear about it.

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scott.morris@journalinc.com

Stories Written by M. Scott Morris

This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Nico (voiced by Jamie Foxx) foreground left, and Pedro (voiced by will.i.am) in a scene from the animated film "Rio 2." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox- Blue Sky Studios)

This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Nico (voiced by Jamie Foxx) foreground left, and Pedro (voiced by will.i.am) in a scene from the animated film “Rio 2.” (AP Photo/20th Century Fox- Blue Sky Studios)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Without the vocal talents of Kristin Chenoweth, I’d have to lower my grade for “Rio 2.”

She plays a poisonous frog named Gabi who’s in love with an obnoxious cockatoo named Nigel (Jermaine Clement). Pound for pound – rather, ounce for ounce – that little frog delivers massive comic relief, as well as an achingly funny love song.

The casting director deserves an award. In addition to our leads, Jesse Eisenberg as Blu and Anne Hathaway as Jewel, the cast includes Bruno Mars, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Tracy Morgan, Andy García, Rita Moreno, Leslie Mann and Janelle Monáe.

Blu and Jewel think they and their three offspring are the last living Spix’s macaws on earth, then word comes about a lost flock deep in the Amazon.

A road trip – or, since they’re birds, an air trip – later, Jewel is reunited with her father (García) and old boyfriend (Mars). She and the kids thrive in the wild, but Blu’s a city bird who can’t please his father-in-law.

It’s like “Meet the Parents” with feathers. My kids and I became uncomfortable watching Blu continuously make a fool of himself. I thought his humiliations were too predictable, while the kids didn’t like seeing the poor guy suffer so much.

I told them Blu would get his act together. After all, someone had to stop the evil humans behind an illegal logging operation in the Amazon.

Several extravagant production numbers help distract from Blu’s troubles, but nothing tops Chenoweth’s solo shot early in the film.

The colorful birds, high-fiving turtles, rapping sloth, vengeful cockatoo, slobbering dog and the rest threaten to overrun the senses at times. Plenty of stuff happens in “Rio 2,” and I had trouble putting names to faces, even after getting a look at the cast list.

During different parts of the movie, I was entertained, bored and even annoyed. But, hey, I laughed out loud numerous times, Chenoweth certainly delivered and others in the cast had their moments, so how bad could it have been?

I give “Rio 2” a C plus.

For what it’s worth, my 11-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy agreed on an A minus.

It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.

Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Jamal Keys, 19, from Chicago, is part of an eight-person AmeriCorps team that's stationed in Tupelo. On Tuesday, the group cut down trees near where the Natchez Trace Parkway intersects with Highway 41 in Chickasaw County.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Jamal Keys, 19, from Chicago, is part of an eight-person AmeriCorps team that’s stationed in Tupelo. On Tuesday, the group cut down trees near where the Natchez Trace Parkway intersects with Highway 41 in Chickasaw County.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Workers with AmeriCorps have been getting into some of the best shape of their lives.

An eight-person team has been cutting down trees, working on controlled burns and helping renovate the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society.

Daniel Deitsch, 27, team leader from Ohio, was in the military, so AmeriCorps hasn’t done much for his fitness level, but he’s in the minority.

“Everyone else is stronger,” said Kyndra Beatty, 24, from Wisconsin.

Their stint in AmeriCorps began in February and will continue until November. They’ve been stationed in Tupelo since March and have about two more weeks before moving to their next posting.

They’ve been working on projects for the Natchez Trace Parkway, and have traveled up to Tennessee for a pair of controlled burns at Meriwether Lewis.

On Tuesday, they used chain saws to cut down trees around a weather station near the Parkway’s intersection with Highway 41.

“When the wind is blocked, the station isn’t as accurate,” said Manuela Hincapie, a 21-year-old from Rhode Island.

The team went through training to learn to use chain saws, and everyone wore appropriate safety equipment, including Kevlar chaps, hard hats and safety glasses.

The workers have stayed busy, even on their off days.

“Just about every weekend we’ve volunteered at the humane society in Tupelo,” said Matt Roderick, 19, from Maryland. “They’re renovating, and we’ve been painting and scraping. We also help walk the dogs and do the dishes.”

During their limited free time, they’ve visited the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Skate Zone.

“I want to go skating again,” Deitsch said.

“Me, too. I’ve got it down pat now,” said Jamal Keys, 19, from Illinois.

When the job ends in November, they’ll have earned about $4,000 each, plus the equivalent of a Pell Grant for school expenses.

There’s a little bit of play and a whole lot of hard work between now and then, and their bodies will feel it.

“We definitely eat a lot,” Deitsch said. “They have been eating me out of our food budget.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

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By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Three friends believe they’re at the beginning of something big.

Preston Hooper and Carlos Campbell were both 7 years old when they started dancing. Cameron Jones was 9 when he started.

“Me and Carlos met in fourth grade,” said Hooper, a 15-year-old Tupelo resident. “I met Cameron in the sixth.”

Last year, Campbell, 15, of Sherman, decided it was time to put a dance crew together. He first contacted Hooper, and sent a text message to Jones, a 14-year-old Tupelo resident.

“We always loved to dance,” Hooper said.

“It was a dream,” Campbell said.

They perform under the name Speed Limit. Campbell said the name popped into his head one day.

“It fits,” he said. “We all do our different things at different paces.”

Their overall dance style is animation, and that includes break dancing, popping, the robot, crumping and hip-hop.

Sometimes their movements are wavy and flexible, and other times they’re jerky and abrupt. It’s easy to see Michael Jackson’s influence, especially the moon walk. Madonna’s “Vogue” days are represented, but the trio call it “tutting,” as in King Tut.

There’s also some mime thrown in, as the guys use invisible ropes to “pull” their bodies along.

They dance to dubstep and hip-hop music, whatever can get the crowd going, but Jones is open to other types of music.

“I could dance to Beethoven and put my tuxedo on,” he said.

They sent an audition video to “Kid Talk with Shania Brown,” and were invited to appear on the TV show in January.

“That’s where they met Karma,” said Jones’ father and the group’s chauffeur/manager, Jermaine Jones. “Karma are from Memphis and they do anti-bullying shows all over the place.”

“We’ve been opening for them,” Hooper said.

Speed Limit has performed in Greenville, Jackson, Tenn., Huntsville, Ala., and other spots. The guys have picked up some fans, mostly female, who visit their Facebook.com page at 3SpeedLimit.

They’ve been approached about performing in music videos, and there’s the possibility of going on tour with Jacob Latimore in the summer, but nothing is firm.

“I’m trying to set up something for Tupelo,” Jermaine Jones said. “It would be great to have them perform around here.”

The trio take it one show at a time. They practice two to three times a week to perfect their 15-minute routine. They also work on new choreography for the day they return to a place where they’ve already performed.

“We want to get big enough where we’re famous,” Hooper said.

“Where we’re known,” Campbell said.

“Where we get paid,” Hooper said, and the others nodded.

“We want to dance on tour with Beyoncé or someone like that,” Jones said.

For now, they’re happy dancing at venues around the Southeast, where they can hone their skills and slowly build Speed Limit’s following.

“You’ve got to start small,” Hooper said, “then you go big.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Members of Hoop-elo meet in front of Tupelo City Hall at Fairpark at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. To learn more, call Rebecca Fischer at (662) 401-4247, or search for "Hoop-elo" at Facebook.com.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Members of Hoop-elo meet in front of Tupelo City Hall at Fairpark at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. To learn more, call Rebecca Fischer at (662) 401-4247, or search for “Hoop-elo” at Facebook.com.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A hula hoop is a simple thing, a ring made of plastic that spins in rhythm with a body’s motion.

For some, it’s a child’s toy. For members of Hoop-elo, it’s a calorie-burning tool, as well as the center of a real-life social network.

“First off, it’s great exercise. It’s great cardio. I had some back issues. It seems to make my back more flexible,” said Deb Fooshee, 59, of Mooreville. “Plus, it’s a sisterhood. It’s a group of girls who get together. That’s what I like about it.”

Fooshee’s fellow hoopers meet at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in front of Tupelo City Hall to twist and turn together. They wear jeans, workout clothes or whatever they had on during the workday.

“It’s come-as-you-are,” said Tupelo resident Rebecca Fischer.

A few years ago, Fischer saw a friend in Oxford cut loose with a hula hoop.

“I was fascinated,” she said, “so she started teaching me.”

Hoop-elo grew from that, and now anywhere from a handful to a couple of dozen women show up to swing hoops around their waists, legs, necks and arms.

There’s no fee, no one takes roll, and nobody stands in front of the class barking out encouragement or instructions. Hoop-elo is a laid-back affair, where experienced hoopers informally share what they know.

“I love the whole positive atmosphere of it,” said Leigha Oliver, 25, of Saltillo. “We come here to relax and have fun together.”

‘Hoop’ is a verb

All ages are welcome, as long as their hips are in good hula form. Kids can join the fun – the hula hoop is a child’s toy, after all.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com New hoopers start out with plain plastic hoops, but colorful hoops with computer-controlled LED lights have become popular among Hoop-elo members.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
New hoopers start out with plain plastic hoops, but colorful hoops with computer-controlled LED lights have become popular among Hoop-elo members.

At 72, Saltillo resident Rose Brooks is the oldest Hoop-elo regular and she doesn’t mind saying so (unlike a couple of younger women who kept their ages to themselves).

“At first, I didn’t really want to do it, then I realized I could lose weight doing it,” Brooks said. “I do about 500 rotations every morning. That’s my daily exercise.”

She also takes a collection of hoops on the road to nursing homes.

“They get up and hoop, too,” Brooks said.

Fooshee chimed in to explain, “‘Hoop’ is a verb. That’s what it’s called: We hoop.”

They usually hoop to music, which varies from meeting to meeting but is usually upbeat. They also seek out other opportunities to groove.

“We meet at Down on Main when they have those free concerts,” Fischer said. “It’s fun to hoop to live music.”

Lifestyle

During get-togethers at Fairpark, hooping can be a social thing or a personal experience. People can talk while their hips move from side to side; some withdraw into themselves and treat the hoop like a dance partner; and others use multiple hoops to test their focus and dexterity.

Gabrielle Lott, 34, of Oxford, is the one who introduced Fischer to the ways of the hula hoop. Her introduction came from a magazine article.

“It sounded good, so I went to a hardware store and looked on the Internet to learn how to make a hula hoop,” Lott said. “It went from there. It spiraled.”

She makes the one-hour drive to Tupelo for Hoop-elo meetings, where she spends part of her time helping newcomers and part focused on her own moves.

Lott’s hoops have become integral to her life, and it goes beyond the physical. Lott said her practice has emotional, mental and spiritual benefits.

“It gives me a way to express myself that I can’t get anywhere else. No one else hula hoops the way I hoop,” she said. “It has taken over my daily life. Most days I pick up my hoop after a hard day at work. It’s not so much about exercising. It’s getting rid of all that internal gunk. You just feel better.”

Recess

Websites, including Hooping.org and hoopcity.ca, are dedicated to the pastime, and retreats are held at far-flung places for people who want to get serious about their hooping.

“Serious” probably isn’t a good word for Hoop-elo meetings, which have their own vibe.

Leslie Geoghegan, 55, of Tupelo, summed it up: “It’s like recess for adults. It really is.”

It’s a chance for unstructured play, and hoopers sometimes incorporate moves they learned when they were kids at dance and gymnastics classes.

“I did ballet as a child,” Fischer said, “so the dance just kind of comes naturally.”

It should be noted that accidents happen. Hoops can collide with other hoops, and people can get bumps and bruises.

“One time I was trying to bring it over my head,” Oliver said, “and I hit myself in the lip and broke it open.”

Hoops range from homemade to fancy store-bought devices with tiny computers inside.

“They can cost up to $400,” said Janet Martin of Tupelo. “There are lots of different patterned LED lights, and you can adjust them.”

No one needs to invest that kind of money to become a hooper. Newcomers need only bring themselves.

“There are always extra hoops for girls to use,” Oliver said.

All of that twirling and twisting will cause muscles to burn the next day. It’s definitely a workout, and there are other benefits for those who join the sisterhood.

“It’s more than exercising,” Fischer said. “It’s about connecting with other people. It’s hard to explain. You just feel it.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

M. SCOTT MORRIS

M. SCOTT MORRIS

I have a herniated disc in my neck, and pain’s been shooting down my right arm for about two weeks.

I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s just that this has been the dominant thing on my mind.

It isn’t a big deal in the Grand Scheme of Things because I have access to 21st century medical treatment.

Wolves would’ve eaten me by now if I’d lived during the caveman days.

I’ve read that you’re supposed to think of those worse off than you when you’re feeling low, and think about people doing better than you whenever you get uppity.

If I catch myself complaining too much about this or that, I remember a cousin who never made it past age 12.

Cancer got him through no fault of his own. I would’ve hated to have shared his fate, but it would’ve been worse to have faced what his parents faced.

This isn’t about pity. Rather, it’s understanding how capricious life can be. A single gene or piece of DNA can mean the difference between a full life and an early grave.

My mind periodically travels to dark territory, and I find myself thinking about all the Jews, Gypsies, gays, disabled people and others who were killed in concentration camps during World War II. The only difference between those people and me is the accident of birth, which no one can control, just as no one can pick which path a tornado takes.

At times, I’ve considered the 18-year-old men who were drafted and sent to Vietnam. The draft ended by the time it would’ve affected me, but I’ve imagined what it would be like to receive notice in the mail that my life belonged to the U.S. military for the foreseeable future. I sometimes picture bombs exploding and wonder how I’d react.

I’m a science fiction fan, so I’ve read a bunch of stories that envisioned what life could become during a post-apocalyptic age.

It’s not pretty, and the health care options are often the same as the cavemen had, if not worse, because cavemen might’ve had specialized knowledge about medicinal herbs that those surviving the fall of civilization wouldn’t have access to.

To sum up, I haven’t spent much time thinking about my herniated disc or the radiating pain while considering what others have faced in the past or will face in the uncertain future.

According to the book I’d read, the goal is to find the happy medium, the place at the middle of the Cosmic Seesaw, where you’re neither up or down but right in the middle, overflowing with calm equilibrium.

There’s no way I’ve achieved anything close to that standard, but you’ve probably learned a lesson: Steer clear of me when things aren’t quite right with my world. But if you happen to get stuck with me, imagine how much worse things could get. Just a suggestion.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Cole Randle straightens up a display of T-shirts at Reed’s Department Store. The shirts sell for $20, and all of the money goes to Tupelo Police Department Officer Joseph Maher and his family and the late Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer’s family.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Cole Randle straightens up a display of T-shirts at Reed’s Department Store. The shirts sell for $20, and all of the money goes to Tupelo Police Department Officer Joseph Maher and his family and the late Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer’s family.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A pair of businesses are combining forces to help Tupelo Police Department Officer Joseph Maher and his family and the late Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer’s family.

But Tupelo Screen Printing and Reed’s Department Store need support from the community.

Russell Stafford, owner of Tupelo Screen Printing, wanted to do something for the officers who responded to a bank robbery three days before Christmas. Stauffer was killed and Maher gravely injured.

After checking with TPD officials and the officers’ families, Stauffer designed a T-shirt in dark blue, light blue and white that says, “Tupelo Police Department: To Protect & Serve.”

“I just want people to realize that the men and women in law enforcement and the military put it all on the line every day they go to work,” Stafford said. “And when things go bad, it affects them, their families, their friends and the entire community.”

He paid for the materials and the printing, and Reed’s is selling the shirts for $20 at stores in downtown Tupelo and at The Mall at Barnes Crossing.

“This young man came in and said, ‘I’ve got an idea,’ and we were happy to partner with him,” said Jack Reed Jr., president of R.W. Reed Co. “The full $20 for each shirt will go to the families.”

The shirts range in size from medium to 2XL. They’re in the men’s department at the downtown store and by the register at the mall store.

“This project isn’t about me giving back. It’s about us all giving back any way we can, even if it’s something as simple as buying a T-shirt,” Stafford said. “I want these T-shirts to sell out.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) stumble on a conspiracy that could cost them their lives in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (AP Photo/Marvel-Disney)

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) stumble on a conspiracy that could cost them their lives in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (AP Photo/Marvel-Disney)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Questions about freedom and security make up the heart of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Marvel’s world is filled with threats, and some would argue that drastic actions are needed to keep people safe. If that means everyone’s computer records and cell phone calls are government property, so be it.

Captain America (Chris Evans) works for S.H.I.E.L.D., an agency responsible for protecting the innocent, but he’s not sure about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s methods.

His doubts and questions of conscience eventually turn him into a hunted man.

His allies are Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose morals are far slipperier than Captain America’s, and Sam Wilson, a retired soldier who’s willing to suit up for the right cause.

Captain America has no shortage of enemies, and some of them are people he once would’ve trusted with his life.

The action is tense and well choreographed. The movie is filled with colorful explosions, as well as fight scenes that actually push the story forward by revealing new information about the characters.

Obviously, writers Ed Brubaker, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus pulled from recent headlines about government spying when penning this story, but “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” doesn’t seem like a movie with an ax to grind.

Maybe that’s because Chris Evans does such a good job of bringing Steve Rogers/Captain America to life.

For those unfamiliar with his origin, he was a World War II hero who was frozen for more than half a century, so he brings an old-school sensibility to our new world.

It’s sort of like the old story of putting a frog in boiling water. It’ll just jump out, but put the frog in cold water and slowly increase the temperature and the frog will happily boil.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was built to entertain, and it certainly does that with help from Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson as powerful men who aren’t afraid to cut corners in order to serve the greater good.

Questions about freedom and security are worth asking in Marvel’s world, as well as our own.

I give “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” an A.

It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.

Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

You'll find Mississippi Stomp where rock, blues, country and gospel meet. From left are Bryan McCutchen, Matt Jones, Gid Stuckey, Kenny Burroughs, Charlie Smart and Sunny Stuckey. (Courtesy photo)

You’ll find Mississippi Stomp where rock, blues, country and gospel meet. From left are Bryan McCutchen, Matt Jones, Gid Stuckey, Kenny Burroughs, Charlie Smart and Sunny Stuckey. (Courtesy photo)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Bar bands know the surest way to get someone in the audience to sing along is to play somebody else’s songs.

“We’ve hit our share of bars over the years, everywhere you can imagine around here,” said Charlie Smart, a bass player who’s spent the past 20 years or so making music with his friends.

Smart and his musical buddies have played together and apart in a number of bands, including The Leftovers, Easy Chair, Resident Alien, Mr. Jack, Jimi Pearl and Dirty Side Down.

Now, they’ve come together as Mississippi Stomp, and they’re traveling new territory. The band members are focused on making original music that’s distilled from a mix of country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll with gospel harmonies thrown in for good measure.

“We decided to make a shift from playing a lot of covers to doing our own stuff,” said Gid Stuckey, the band’s lead vocalist.

“We took all this music that we’ve had for years and years and years, and we took it into the studio and it came out as a whole project,” said Matt Jones, lead guitarist.

The result is “Chickasaw Lodge,” an album named after a Tupelo bar that burned down. Released on March 21, it features 20-year-old songs, as well as recently penned numbers, and it’s already gathered a following.

Music lovers from Canada, France and Russia have found Mississippi’s Stomp’s debut on iTunes, while people from England, Spain and Taiwan have discovered the album on the band’s website, www.mississippistomp.com.

“It blows my mind that you can put something on the Web and people across the world will find it and like it,” Jones said.

The album comes with an injection of Magnolia State prestige thanks to Grammy winner Jimbo Mathus. He produced the record with Ryan “Rando” Rogers,” and by all accounts, both producers used light touches.

“They allowed us to do what we wanted to do,” Gid Stuckey said. “They let us kind of do our thing, then they added ideas that made the songs that much better.”

“The cool thing about recording is the sound we got out of the studio now became our live sound,” Jones said.

Family time

Mississippi Stomp members live in Tupelo, Pontotoc and Olive Branch. There are three bankers, a lawyer, a small business owner and a GED instructor. Except for Jones, who joined about five years ago, the group has been making music together for two decades.

Mississippi Stomp’s debut album, “Chickasaw Lodge,” is available at www.mississippistomp.com, as well as iTunes, CD Baby and other online outlets. The CD is $12.99, and $9.99 for download. (Courtesy photo)

Mississippi Stomp’s debut album, “Chickasaw Lodge,” is available at www.mississippistomp.com, as well as iTunes, CD Baby and other online outlets. The CD is $12.99, and $9.99 for download. (Courtesy photo)

“If we weren’t playing a show, we’d just play at people’s homes,” said guitarist Bryan McCutchen. “We always get together with each other and our families. The guitars are always going to come out. We do everything as a family.”

“Just about every year, we try to get together for New Year’s Eve and we play into the wee hours of the morning,” Gid Stuckey said. “We’ve always been loyal, like old dogs.

“The gravity of music keeps pulling us back together,” said Kenny Burroughs, the drummer.

And an unexpected event as irrefutable as gravity caused the band members to rethink their goals.

Burroughs’ brother, Dan “The Man” Burroughs, died three years ago on July 4.

“He was our No. 1 fan,” said Sunny Stuckey, keyboardist and vocalist.

“He had this quote: ‘Don’t just talk about it, do it,’” McCutchen said.

After his death, the band took about six months to regroup, then came a year of gathering and polishing material, followed by recording time at Mathus’ Sand Dog Studios.

“It’s in Sardis, out in the middle of nowhere,” Smart said.

“A fish camp,” Jones said.

“It’s a great place to record,” Gid Stuckey said.

“Mojo,” McCutchen said.

“It’s got its own vibe to it,” Gid Stuckey said.

What’s in a name?

“Chickasaw Lodge” ended up with its own vibe, too, and Sunny Stuckey decided the band needed a new name to go with its new direction. As she thought about the possibilities, she kept returning to Mississippi’s rich musical and cultural roots.

Dirty Side Down was done, and Mississippi Stomp was born.

“I think we’re infused with many influences,” she said. “All of us have so many different influences, and we bring it all to the table.”

“We’ve got north Mississippi and we’ve got south Mississippi,” Smart said. “It’s a lot of different feels.”

“I grew up with blues, bluegrass, anything that’s good music. We don’t have to label it,” Gid Stuckey said. “I grew up with a big gospel background, singing as a kid, and I have a love for harmonies.”

“Yeah, harmonies,” Burroughs said. “We’ve always been that sing-along kind of group.”

The band members were hesitant to define their sound or pin it down, but Mississippi Stomp has its own channel at Jango.com music streaming service, and the mix includes The Black Crowes and The Derek Trucks Band.

People can hear for themselves when Mississippi Stomp performs at 2 p.m. Saturday at the WROX Radio Museum during the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale. That’ll be followed by a headlining gig at 4 p.m. April 26 at Tunica Riverfest.

A cover song or two might get thrown in, but the clear purpose of the shows will be to introduce listeners to Mississippi Stomp’s original music and new direction.

“The No. 1 thing has been the interest by music lovers and their reactions,” Burroughs said. “I really want to see how other people see what we’ve done.”

“We’ve worked a long time to get to this point,” McCutchen said. ““We want to get out there and share it.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

M. SCOTT MORRIS

M. SCOTT MORRIS

Before Thursday, I couldn’t tell you how long it’d been since I’d last used the word “spry.”

It describes an energetic and active elderly person, but it’s become a cliché, which is one of the reasons I haven’t used it often.

The other reason is I’ve met a few seniors who were annoyed by the word.

In the past, I could more or less understand their objections. Spry implies a certain amount of cuteness, and a lot of full-grown adults don’t want to be associated with cute things.

But I had a rare moment on Thursday when the usual fog lifted and I could see clearly for years and years, if not miles and miles.

Philip Phipps was cutting my hair, causing clumps of white and gray to float gently to the dark, wooden floor, and the truth revealed itself.

“I need to set a new goal in my life,” I said.

“Oh, yeah?” Philip said.

“I want to be spry. I want to be the kind of old man who annoys his wife by flirting with all the nurses,” I said.

“It’s good to have a goal,” he said.

I went on to explain that I’m of a certain age and need to be realistic about what life still has to offer me.

Though it’s not in horrible condition, this body of mine isn’t what it once was. The problem comes when you project the changes I’ve experienced over the past 10 years into the next 40 years.

A scary question: What will today’s creaks and groans become given the inevitable march of time?

(Of course, I’m hoping for the march of time to continue, knowing full well my participation is more optional than inevitable.)

Suddenly, I’m wondering what it would take for me to achieve some level of spryness in my twilight years.

Maybe medical science will intervene and make the path from here to there easier, though I’d bet quality-of-life-sustaining advances will go to Donald Trump, Jay-Z and company long before trickling down to me.

Barring a lottery win, I’ll have to take charge of my own health. That means doing more of the things that build me up and less of the things that tear me down.

Sounds great in theory.

But the real world has Krystal cheeseburgers and many wonderful-yet-terrible things like them.

How much goodness do we have to give up in order to live the good life? For our answer, let’s borrow from Credence Clearwater Revival and say, “More, more, more.”

My rare glimpse into the future gets cloudy again, and the spryly ideal becomes far-off and unreachable, an exotic mountain peak beyond a turbulent sea.

So today I suggest we praise those who’ve taken everything life’s thrown at them and emerged spry on the other side. Cute or not, it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating and, if we’re lucky, emulating.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

Jim Weatherly has spent some 50 years in the music business. He still writes and records songs, which are available at www.jimweatherly.com. (Courtesy photo)

Jim Weatherly has spent some 50 years in the music business. He still writes and records songs, which are available at www.jimweatherly.com. (Courtesy photo)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – These days, Jim Weatherly is a music man whose songs have topped the charts for decades.

But at one time, he was “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.”

That happened on a fall afternoon in 1962, when he was quarterback of the Ole Miss Rebels and his team was facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

“I missed the handoff on a trap play, so I just put the ball on my hip and ran around the right end and there was nobody there,” the 71-year-old Pontotoc native said. “I ran for 40 or 45 yards, something like that, for a touchdown.”

The play has become legendary among Ole Miss fans, and people still bring it up. While he was with the Rebels, the team won two SEC championships and a national championship. Many thought he’d take his skills to the next level, and the Boston Patriots offered him a $12,000 contract.

“But $12,000? I thought, good gracious, I could make that playing clubs,” Weatherly said during a phone interview from his home in Brentwood, Tenn. “I just decided to go into music. Really, it was just the natural choice.”

Weatherly talks football

Great music grew out of that decision. Gladys Knight & The Pips took a little song he wrote called “Midnight Train to Georgia” to No. 1 on the pop and R&B charts. Glen Campbell won a Dove Award with Weatherly’s “Where Shadows Never Fall.”

Ray Price, Bill Anderson, Reba McIntire, Neil Diamond, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney and hundreds of others have recorded his songs. Earlier this year, Weatherly was given a Mississippi Governor’s Award for the Arts. On June 12, he’ll travel to New York to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“A lot of these awards have come later in life,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to realize people are looking back and recognizing me for a career, not just for a song or a period of time.”

Early inspiration

Elvis Presley gets some credit for that career. Weatherly did more than listen when the King of Rock ’n’ Roll came onto the scene.

Weatherly was a quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels, and in the offseason he played gigs with his band, Jimmy Weatherly & the Vegas. (Courtesy photo)

Weatherly was a quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels, and in the offseason he played gigs with his band, Jimmy Weatherly & the Vegas. (Courtesy photo)

“I was a huge Elvis fan,” Weatherly said. “I must’ve been 12 or 13 or something and I formed a band, and we just started playing. Our first job was the local VFW club. I started to write things like I heard on the radio, so we could play them with the band.”

He got another group together in college, and when football season was over, Jimmy Weatherly & The Vegas played high school dances and fraternity parties.

Weatherly completed the course work to become a physical education teacher and coach. All he lacked was his student teaching. He and his band mates went to Los Angeles in the summer with a plan to return to school in the fall to finish their degrees.

“We stayed there, I don’t know, maybe it was four or five weeks before we got our first job. The day we ran out of money was the day we got our first job, so we were able stay out a little bit longer,” he said. “Then the bookings just picked up and we began to make a small living at it. It wasn’t anything major, but we could stay out there and have fun, and that was basically what we were doing, just enjoying ourselves.”

Weatherly kept writing songs and caught the attention of Larry Gordon, who became his publisher and manager.

“I’ve never been a salesman. I’m a songwriter. I was fortunate enough to find a guy in L.A. who believed 100 percent in what I was doing,” Weatherly said. “Larry was the one who formed the relationships with the producers and artists. He’s the one that got all my songs cut.”

Houston to Georgia

Football and a healthy dose of flexibility led to one of Weatherly’s biggest successes.

“I was playing flag football with a group of guys and one of those guys was Lee Majors, who was ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’” Weatherly said. “Lee had just started dating Farrah Fawcett.”

He called Majors’ house one day and Fawcett answered and said she was packing her bags for a midnight plane to Houston.

“A little bell went off in my head when I heard that, so when I got off the phone with her I wrote a little song called ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’ in about 30 or 45 minutes,” he said. “I put it on my first album that way. It’s on YouTube as ‘Midnight Plane to Houston.’”

He got a call from Cissy Houston’s manager. She wanted to change the song to “Midnight Train to Georgia” to give it more of an R&B feel.

“Later on, Gladys Knight heard that version and wanted to change it because they’re from Atlanta. It just made sense to them. It also gave them the opening to sing all those backing vocals that made it such a big hit record,” Weatherly said. “I’ve known songwriters who dug in their heels and didn’t let anybody change anything, and they would miss out on big cuts. I really have always been an artist’s person when it comes to my songwriting. If somebody can help me have a hit record, I’m all for it.”

It’s a practical approach.

“If it becomes a big hit, great,” he said. “If it doesn’t, nobody will ever hear it anyway.”

More to come

His hits include “The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” “The Need to Be,” “Neither One of Us,” “Where Peaceful Waters Flow,” “A Lady Like You” and “Someone Else’s Star.”

He still writes songs and records them at his home studio in Brentwood. His music is available at www.jimweatherly.com.

One of his recent songs harks back to his earliest musical inspiration, when Elvis was just starting to shake the world.

“It was for a project called ‘This is My America.’ They needed a song about Elvis, and I actually already had a song about Elvis started,” he said. “It’s called ‘Hot Night in Memphis,’ and the subtitle is ‘Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys.’ It’s basically about Elvis’ first recording session. It’s a rockabilly song.”

Billy Burnette sang “Hot Night in Memphis” for volume II of “This is My America,” but not as many people have heard it as Weatherly would like. Now, the decorated songwriter, who’s only a few short months from joining the Songwriters Hall of Fame, finds himself in the uncomfortable role of salesman.

“I would really love for somebody else to come and cut that song, maybe in the Americana genre,” he said, “because not a lot of people are going to hear it unless somebody cuts it who can get it on the radio. That would be great.”

If Weatherly had chosen a career in professional football, he might’ve become a Patriots’ legend and come up with another golden egg or two.

Then again, there’s certainly nothing wrong with gold records. He’s had his share of those, and there’s always hope for more.

“I don’t know if songwriters ever really retire,” he said. “I thought about it. I backed off a little bit. I don’t do it as consistently as I used to, but whenever the mood strikes and I get an idea, yeah, I go write it.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com