Blues trail stops in Natchez tonight

Published 12:18 am Friday, September 4, 2009

NATCHEZ — Acclaimed bluesman George “Papa” Lightfoot was reared just steps away from Jack Waite Park, where today blues buffs and novices will plant a marker in his honor on the Mississippi State Blues Trail.

The Mississippi Blues Commission, in conjunction with the Mississippi Development Authority and the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, will unveil the second in a series of Mississippi State Blues Trail markers in Natchez at 6:30 p.m. during a “Blues Block Party in the Park,” said Darrell White, director of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture.

“There’ll be plenty of things to do this first Friday weekend — finger food and good music in the park,” White said. “It’s the perfect way to bring an end to a hectic week, and hey, it’s free.”

Email newsletter signup

Lightfoot, an innovative and skilled harmonica player well known among his peers, grew up on Franklin Street and was instrumental during the resurgence of the blues genre in the late 1960s, White said.

Lightfoot began recording as a session man in 1949 and retreated from the blues scene until 1969, when he recorded and released his breakout album, “Natchez Trace,” at the insistence of record producer Steve LeVere.

Sadly, Lightfoot’s comeback was short-lived. He died in 1971.

“Blues Block Party in the Park” will feature music from the Natchez Blues Bluff Band featuring Y.Z. Ealey and Heard Music Company/Stan’s String Shop. Pepsi Cola, The Vue Restaurant at the Grand Soleil Hotel, Walmart, The Natchez Grand Hotel and Natchez Manor Bed and Breakfast will provide snacks and drinks. An after party at Natchez Manor will conclude the night. White estimates 100 people will attend the block party.

White said Natchez is fortunate to have such prominence on the Mississippi Blues Trail. The first marker, commemorating the Rhythm Club Fire in 1941, was unveiled at the NAPAC Museum on Main Street two years ago.

The third marker location is to be announced.