Howlin’ Wolf, Magic Sam to get Miss. Blues Trail markers

Published 3:19 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mississippi is giving posthumous honors to two more of its musical legends this week with markers on a Blues Trail.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, a marker will be dedicated in Grenada for Sam Maghett, best known by his stage name Magic Sam.

At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, one will be unveiled in West Point for Chester Burnett, or Howlin’ Wolf.

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Magic Sam was born on Valentine’s Day 1937 in Grenada County. He earned a following in Chicago blues clubs and in Europe. In 1969, he had a breakout performance at the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Blues Festival and died of a heart attack later that year.

Howlin’ Wolf was born in 1910 in the tiny community of White Station, near West Point. He studied under legendary blues players Charley Patton and Willie Brown, and country/blues legend Jimmie Rodgers of Meridian. He loved the way Rodgers yodeled, and developed a similar style that would influence musicians such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Howlin’ Wolf died Jan. 10, 1976, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Cook County, Ill.

“These two markers are special for a lot of reasons,” says Alex Thomas, director of the Blues Heritage Trail program. “A lot can be said for Howlin’ Wolf leaving a small town in Mississippi and making a name for himself worldwide. And the people he influence helped change history.

“Not as many people know Magic Sam, but he was only 32 years old when he died,” Thomas said. “He had just blown people away with his music in Ann Arbor, and a lot of people wonder where destiny would’ve taken him had he lived longer.”

Two more markers will be added in September. Memphis Minnie, considered one of the greatest female blues artists, will have a marker placed near her grave in the Delta town of Walls. Catfish Alley, an area of Columbus where many blues musicians played, will be recognized.

Fifteen other Blues Trail markers have been placed around the state to honor legendary musicians or places important to the history of blues music.

The Mississippi Blues Commission plans for more than 100 markers to be put up across the state.