Criticism of state slogan unwarranted

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “If you’re not criticized, you may not be doing much,” which is probably true, but when an organization such as the Mississippi Development Authority is criticized, that quote could in no way apply to their endeavors.

For the department to be criticized by the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat for its selection of “The Birthplace of American Music” as the general slogan for the entire State of Mississippi is disturbing to all of us who work in tourism and work with this group of outstanding people who work diligently to keep Mississippi in the scopes of all potential industry. For Mrs. Cooper to suggest that Ferriday, La., would be a more appropriate locale to be touted as such is a clear indication we might need to enlighten folks on our rich music history.

There is no disputing that the Blues originated in the Mississippi Delta, and the world knows it has influenced every subsequent genre, including jazz, rock-and-roll, R&B and yes, even country music. Selecting the slogan “The Birthplace of American Music” for Mississippi, was based upon the one common thread which runs throughout the state; music.

Natchez is as much a part of that thread as Tupelo, Clarksdale, Meridian and a host of others. Proper research would have revealed that native son, Glen Ballard, has been a music industry icon for over 35 years. Ballard has won numerous Grammy’s for composing hits for musical talents such as Alanis Morrisette, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Dave Matthews and a number of others. Olu Dara, a Natchez born musician and songwriter, used his Mississippi roots to create a mix of blues, jazz, gospel and R&B, and has spread his music across the globe. The thread crosses Mississippi from Pascagoula (Jimmy Buffet), to Clarksdale (Mary Wilson), and all points in between.

In addition to the Kings (B.B. and “the”), Mississippi celebrates being the birthplace of a host of other great singers and songwriters. Extraordinary talents such as Robert Johnson of Hazlehurst; Faith Hill of Star; Lance Bass of Clinton; rapper David Banner of Jackson; LeAnn Rimes of Pearl; Charley Pride of Sledge; and Three Doors Down of Escatawpa, just to list a few of the many.

Natchez also incorporates music into nearly every single event held here, i.e. Spring Pilgrimage, the Natchez Bluff Blues Fest, the Natchez Festival of Music and the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race to list a few. To say that our friend, Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin, would foot the bill for a U-turn sign posted just off the bridge, right below the slogan, to direct music fans to highly musical Ferriday, is also an indication that Mrs. Cooper is simply not up to speed on the history of American music; more specifically, Mississippi’s numerous contributions to it.

Natchez borders Louisiana, and as it is the entryway into our state via the El Camino Corridor, its Visitor Reception Center serves as a state welcome center, easily justifying placement of a “Welcome to Mississippi” sign at the bridge. The Natchez CVB is disheartened by the column and we would welcome an opportunity to share everything we learned about our state’s many talented musicians and songwriters at the 2010 Governor’s Tourism Conference. It took place in Tupelo, “Birthplace of Elvis!”

Connie Taunton

Natchez director of tourism