Blues Trail to preserve NE Miss., Union County musical past

Blues history is part of the foundation of what makes Mississippi unique. Preserving that history and educating others of its substance is a task to embrace in order for the history to thrive.

The setting of the Mississippi Blues Commission between October 2003 and July 2004 has brought about the existence of the Mississippi Blues Trail.

New Albany will become a landmark on the trail when it receives two markers which will enshrine the stories of Bob Johnson and Sam Mosley of the Mosley and Johnson Band, along with a separate marker for the blues and gospel preacher duo of Leon Pinson and Elder Roma Wilson.

Pinson and Wilson traveled around the country on a church tour playing gospel and blues music.

“Wilson’s story is interesting in that when he moved to the Detroit area a store manager at a record shop secretly recorded him playing the harmonica one day and licensed and began selling the tracks across the country, without the permission of Wilson,” Jill Smith, Union County Heritage Museum Director, said, “He was into his 70’s and 80’s before he ever received credit for his work.”

Wilson would return to Mississippi in the 1970s and eventually became aware that his recordings were popular on an international scale. At that time he and Pinson teamed again and were very well received on tour and at the Chicago Blues Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The Mosley and Johnson Band made much of their music in New Albany. The two worked for the Malaco Music Group and wrote songs for Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King and Johnnie Taylor, among many other blues legends.

The marker for the Mosley and Johnson is likely to be set near the Heritage Museum in New Albany because the band did much of their writing and practicing not far from the site.

“Where they played is not as easy to get to today for the public; its on the other side of the train tracks and the museum is only about a mile from the spot where they did a lot of their work,” Smith said, “It’s a very significant part of Union County history.”

The Blues Trail consists of roughly 40 markers, with many more in the works, which mark spots throughout the state that hold a vital place in Mississippi blues history.

The state is divided into five different sections: Hills, Delta, Capital/River, Pines and Coast, which represent the distinction between the areas in which blues has been formed.

Currently, there are three markers in the Hill Country region which display information on Elvis, Memphis Minnie and Magic Sam. These are located in Tupelo, Walls and Grenada respectively.