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Mississippi Fred McDowell Blues Trail Marker

By Candice Ludlow

Como, MS –
The Mississippi Blues Trail Marker honoring Mississippi Fred McDowell was unveiled Thursday in Como, Mississippi. Candice Ludlow has more.

That's the music of Mississippi Fred McDowell. Notice the resonating slide sound?

Como is where Mississippi Fred McDowell called home. It's located 45 miles south of Memphis along Highway 55.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was born and raised in Rossville, TN, just outside of Memphis in the early 1900's. He learned to play slide guitar from his father's cousin who used a steak bone to slide along the frets as he played. Later, Mississippi Fred McDowell used a bottleneck slide.

Dick Waterman was McDowell's manager during the 60s. "He represents what's called the hill country style. There's the delta style of Charlie Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and that type that went up to Chicago. There's a hill country style that comes from Fred. It's really most prevalent in Como, Senatobia, Holly Springs," Dick Waterman said.

It was sweltering hot on Main Street, a two-lane road through town with brick storefronts. Approximately 200 people were fanning their faces as the dedication began with students from a local high school playing and singing one of Mississippi Fred McDowell's songs.

Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt made a special appearance at the dedication for her mentor. "Well, he was one of the first blues artists that I got to meet, and I fell in love with his music from the first time I heard it on record. To have the honor and privilege to be able to be friends and tour with him in my early career was a gift I think like no other. His style of slide playing and his rhythm playing influenced me tremendously. I don't know why we hit it off so much, but we just loved each other very much. It was a big loss when he passed when I was only 22, so it means a lot to me to be able to be here today.

"Well, I'm so happy to hear that they're doing this blues trail with 150 markers, elevating the music of blues and culture to the rest of the world. It's been long overdue. Mississippi Fred McDowell is a giant in blues and there are so many other people that deserve that attention," Raitt said.

Eventually, there will be 150 Blues Trail Markers throughout Mississippi and in states connected with the blues from Mississippi. The first three blues trail markers were unveiled in 2006 in Holly Ridge, Greenville and Greenwood. The first Mississippi Blues Trail marker to be placed out of state was done so today at Third and Beale. For WKNO News, I'm Candice Ludlow in Como, Mississippi.