Gray Montgomery loves Natchez and he plans to spread the word

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, July 3, 2018

At 91, Gray Montgomery looks better than most men look at 60, and his wavy gray hair and mustache give him a debonair look belying his blue jeans and plaid shirt.

Comment that he looks a picture of health, and he’ll bow up his bicep to show you it is rock solid. Needless to say, his handshake grip is strong.

Montgomery, a blues, country western and rock ’n’ roll guitarist, who had some success in the late 1950s with a rock-a-billy tune titled “Right Now,” has played with many musicians throughout his career, including Jerry Lee Lewis before he got famous, and others from Nashville to California.

Email newsletter signup

Montgomery can still belt out a blues tune, while blowing his harmonica, with the best of them.

The Mississippi River flood of 1927 forced Montgomery’s family to move to Natchez from the Louisiana community called, ironically, Security. In Natchez he learned to survive on hard work picking cotton and other physical labor, and he also learned to love music by listening to his late father’s Jimmie Rodgers records.

Montgomery, a World War II veteran, has traveled the world but still chooses to call Natchez home. He is full of enthusiasm for Natchez, and he wants the world to share that enthusiasm.

Montgomery recently stopped by The Natchez Democrat to drop off a seven-page handwritten press release to share his plan to “Make Natchez Great Again.”

Montgomery’s plan is focused on Natchez’s connection to the famed “Natchez Trace,” of which he said Natchez gets the tail end, with Nashville getting most of the glory.

Montgomery said he thinks Natchez should cash in on its connection to the Trace, and he is willing to put his feet to the pavement to help make the connection.

Montgomery plans to walk the entire 444 miles of the Natchez Trace from Natchez to Nashville to bring attention to the splendor that is Natchez.

When he finishes the trip to Nashville, he plans to “cut some records and take the money to help make Natchez great again.”

Montgomery’s seven-page press release —  linked as a PDF here — goes into great detail about how Natchez can capitalize on its connection to the Natchez Trace and its history.

As Montgomery told me about his plan his face beamed with excitement.

His love and optimism for Natchez is evident, and he is sincere in his quest.

I, however, could not help but express my concerns about a man his age making such a trek, and he assured me he plans to have someone pick him up at the end of each day and that he plans to stay in hotels along the way, playing his guitar at lounges and bars and backing other bands to help foot the bill.

I have no doubt Montgomery could make it all the way to Nashville on enthusiasm alone, but I’d rather him not put himself through such an ordeal. Perhaps just sharing his tale and his plan for making Natchez great again will suffice.

If not, I wish him Godspeed on his journey and thank him for spreading his optimism for Natchez.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or