State to honor Ferriday’s Haney

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FERRIDAY — A bill to proclaim May 22 as Will Haney day made its way through the Louisiana House of Representatives and was sent Tuesday to the state Senate.

State Rep. Andy Anders filed the bill, House Concurrent Resolution 11, at the request of town officials, Mayor Glen McGlothin said.

“We wanted to honor (Haney), honor the contributions of African Americans not only to music but to the culture to the Ferriday area,” McGlothin said. “A lot of the culture in the area you can attribute to the black community, especially the music. Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, they didn’t invent that music, they just were successful with it.”

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Haney was born in Vidalia and, after serving in the military during World War I, moved to Ferriday, where he sold insurance, operated a barbecue restaurant, ran a hotel and most famously opened Haney’s Big House, a nightclub that played host to many famous black musicians on what was known as the chitlin’ circuit.

The chitlin’ circuit was a group of bars, nightclubs and performance venues in the South in which black musicians could play when not all venues were open for them.

Haney’s saw performances from legends such as Fats Domino, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Irma Thomas and Percy Sledge.

“He did a lot to bring a lot of artists to our area who would not have come otherwise,” McGlothin said.

Haney’s Big House burned in 1966.

The purpose of having May 22 proclaimed Will Haney Day is because that is the day the Mississippi Blues Commission will dedicate a Mississippi Blues Marker in Ferriday, McGlothin said.

The marker dedication will be accompanied by the Will Haney Soul Survivor’s Festival, which McGlothin said will include a full day of blues performances, activities for children and even monkey races.

“(The monkeys) perform at the Angola rodeo every year,” McGlothin said. “They are actually monkeys that ride dogs and herd animals. They are called ‘Ghost Riders.’”

The celebrations will also honor Spencer Williams, better known as “Andy” of Amos ‘n’ Andy, McGlothin said.

Williams was born in Vidalia and went on to have a successful career as an actor and director.

The events honoring Williams will include showing some of his films and having speakers talk about him at the Arcade Theater, McGlothin said.

Ferriday will be one of only a few locations on the Mississippi Blues Trail outside of Mississippi. Other blues marker locations outside the state include Chicago, London and New Orleans.