Category Archives: music history

First Chairperson for Paramount Plaza Walk of Fame

Names in the Paramount Walk of Fame through 2008

Grafton, WI

Chairperson of International Committee:   Angie Mack Reilly

(Patriarch of St. Louis Blues) Henry “The Mule” Townsend
(Father of the Delta Blues) Charlie Patton
(Mother of the Blues) “Ma” Rainey
(First Country Blues Star) Blind Lemon Jefferson
(Mississippi Blues Legend) “Skip” James
(Father of Gospel Music) Thomas A. Dorsey
(America’s Jazz Ambassador) Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong
(Preeminent Mississippi Bluesman) Eddie James “Son” House Jr.
(American Jazz Pioneer) Joe “King” Oliver
(King of Ragtime Guitar) Arthur “Blind” Blake

Follow Angie’s Paramount Records Educational Facebook Page

 

 

 

Peonage: Why it Thrived and How Some Escaped

Peonage: Why it Thrived and How Some Escaped

(C) 05/2005 Angela K. Mack

Many people currently and ignorantly believe that the African American was set free with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Yet, the truth is that the lives of many African Americans in the south were trapped in a system of peonage or debt servitude which was just as bad if not worse than slavery. So why didn’t they just run away and head north the moment they heard of their so-called “freedom”? Why on earth did they stay in the south? Why did so many remain on their plantations, on the very land that they were slaves on? At a first glance, it doesn’t seem logical. These questions can be answered as I expand upon the conditions of and reasons for peonage in the south as well as give examples of how some African Americans were able to escape this system of bondage in the post Civil War era.

Peonage is defined by the Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) as “a former system used in Latin America and the southern United States under which a debtor was forced to work for a creditor until a debt was paid”. It actually evolved during the Civil War as the systems of sharecropping and crop-lien began. (August Meier and Elliot Rudwick 166). Sharecropping meant that a landowner would give the laborer a “share” of the crop in exchange for labor of the land. After the Civil War, it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time for both parties. Labor was needed to restore a war torn south and there was a lack of cash. Immediately after the war, landowners tried to operate the farms with hired laborers, but they did not have enough cash to pay the workers. So sharecropping seemed like the perfect system to have the new freedmen work for. “The system not only overcame the disruption of the labor supply but it also helped solve problems resulting from a lack of cash…” (Monroe Lee Billington 228).

Many ex-slaves did not choose to be a part of this system, however. After the Emancipation Proclamation, General Nathaniel P. Banks issued regulations that required freedmen to return to their plantations and work. They could not leave without a pass and received low wages. “The absence of ‘perfect subordination’ could result in freedmen losing pay or food rations”. Furthermore, in 1865 and 1866 southern lawmakers enacted the Black Codes. This system of social control kept the Negro in a subordinate place within society. They were required to provide cheap labor. An unemployed black man without a permanent residence was considered a vagrant. (August Meier and Elliot Rudwick 168, 170).

This system was able to thrive in the south despite Amendment XIII of the U.S. Constitution Section 1 which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Robert A. Divine..et al. Appendix A-15). Yet it contained unjust components which kept African Americans in an even greater bondage than slavery. The term “involuntary servitude” was not clearly defined for a very long time after Amendment XIII. “It was not until United States v. Kozminski (1988) that slavery, in its derivative form, involuntary servitude, was formally outlawed.” (Gale Group Bailey v. Alabama).

But even still, “Negroes preferred to be renters rather than hired laborers. Renting was desirable, even under a sharecropping rather than a cash arrangement, because tenants could organize their own time and be more independent than a hired laborer. Moreover, they could raise their own food.” (August Meier and Elliot Rudwick 172). The fact that they had strong family, friendship, and community ties was incentive enough for them to remain stagnant in the south as well.

However, it did not take long for the African American sharecroppers to realize that they were being taken advantage of and controlled. They needed to purchase items from the store to survive on such as food and clothing. Having no money, they had to purchase things on credit. The crop was the lien. But because of the heavy racism that still existed in the south, merchants charged them unfair and outrageous prices for such items. High interest rates were tagged onto the charges and they didn’t have control or knowledge of the accounts. When the harvest came and the crop was sold, they found themselves in debt to the landowner and merchant. (August Meier and Elliot Rudwick 173)

Because they were in debt, they were forced to stay on the plantation another year to work off their debt. They could not leave. If they did, they could possibly be lynched. The system of peonage offered little, if any, hope.

Founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Carter G. Woodson, describes in 1918 a lack of ambition as being another reason why African Americans remained in bondage to the system of peonage:

“Generally speaking, the Negroes are still dependent on the white people for food and shelter. Although not exactly slaves, they are yet attached to the white people as tenants, servants, or dependents. Accepting this as their lot, they have been content to wear their lord’s cast-off clothing, and live in his ramshackled barn or cellar. In this unhappy state so many have settled down, losing all ambition to attain a higher station. The world has gone on but in their sequestered sphere progress has passed them by.” (Carter G. Woodson 468).

But some were ambitious and did rise above. Former vice-chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Fannie Lou Hamer, was able to escape the sharecropping system despite the hopelessness she felt about it in her childhood. She longed for change yet it seemed impossible. “The weight of the system was too great”. (David Rubel 29). It was her faith in God that carried her through the hopeless times. (13).

Fanny Lou Hamer tells the story about her landowner:

“I can remember very well the landowner telling me one day that if I would pick thirty pounds (of cotton), he would give me something out of the commissionary: some Crackerjacks, Daddy-Wide-Legs (a gingerbread cookie), and some sardines. These were things that I knew I loved and never had a chance to have. So I picked thirty pounds that day. Well, the next week I had to pick sixty and by the time I was thirteen, I was picking two and three hundred pounds.” (14). This “bait and switch” tactic was typical. Landowners and merchants alike took advantage of the sharecroppers by making false promises, and preying upon the uneducated ness of the freedmen. Sharecropping was an awful way for the freed slaves to live. However, because they lacked education and desperately needed work, it left them with little or no options. (David Rubel 14). Fannie Lou Hamer was a fighter, though. She watched James Meredith become the first African American student at the University of Mississippi which inspired her to remain strong. (David Rubel 63). When she tried to register to vote, she was kicked off her plantation but a new life awaited her. Although harassed and beaten in prison, she still fought. She became a worker and, later, a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She began to organize townspeople politically and became an effective fundraiser even though she was making just $10 a week. Finally, she worked her way up to being the vice-chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. (David Rubel 6, 67-68).

WWII provided an escape for other sharecroppers. As American men went off to war, laborers were needed to fill jobs primarily in the northern, industrial and urban parts of the United States. “One place these laborers were found was in the kitchen, as many housewives went to work. Another place they were found was down on the plantation.” “Many southern blacks were happy to move and leave the plantation behind.” (David Rubel 27-28). PBS used excerpts from The Journal of Negro History by Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia in their documentary film, “Goin’ To Chicago”. There is an account of a letter written by a southern black from Marcel, Mississippi writing to the Chicago Defender on October 4, 1917.

“….I wants to come to Chicago to live. I am a man of a family wife and 1 child I can do just any kind of work in the line of common labor & I have for the present sufficient means to support us till I can obtain a position…..” (George King).

I conducted an interview with Mr. Greg Eskridge who is an Economic Support Specialist for the State of Wisconsin in Milwaukee County. He shared with me some stories of his parents who were sharecroppers. His dad did not have any formal schooling. His mother went to school up until 6th grade. They married when he was 19 and she was 14. His parents worked for Mr. Morgeson in Grenada, Mississippi. Mr. Morgeson gave half of the crop to Mr. Eskridge and kept a half for himself that Mr. Eskridge and his family had to raise chickens on as well as grow potatoes, leafy vegetables, wheat, and cotton. When Mr. Eskridge’s brother was lynched with no explanation, he decided to look for work in the north. He found work in 1946 as a truck mechanic at the Ford Motor Company. He went back to get his wife and spoke with Mr. Morgeson about leaving. Mr. Eskridge called him a “fair man”; an “O.K. boy”. Their ancestors had known each other and acted cordially in the past, therefore, Mr. and Mrs. Eskridge were able to leave on a handshake without any harassment. Mr. Eskridge raised six sons in the inner city of Chicago and later received an assembly line position at the Ford Motor Company. (Greg Eskridge)

Escape from the plantation oddly came through music as well. One of the great founders of the blues, Charley Patton, came off of his Dockery Plantation in Mississippi, and came to Grafton, WI (just a few blocks from my home) to record his legendary blues at Paramount Recording Studios. His music opened the doors for him to escape life in the south. He became a local celebrity and then his fame grew. He eventually ended up in New York to record shortly before he died.

“Patton would be called up to play at plantation dances, juke joints, and the like. He’d pack them in like sardines everywhere he went, and the emotional sway he held over his audiences caused him to be tossed off of more than one plantation by the ownership, simply because workers would leave crops unattended to listen to him play any time he picked up a guitar.” (Cub Koda).

Peonage was able to thrive even after the Emancipation Proclamation because it seemed to be a good solution to the economic setbacks of the Civil War. The law also enabled it to thrive through Banks regulations, the Black Codes, and the unclear definition of “involuntary servitude”. Some African Americans preferred to stay sharecroppers because of strong family ties in the south. Others accepted peonage as a way of life unable to overcome. Fannie Lou Hamer and Charley Patton were kicked off of their plantations and became famous. Others found jobs that were left vacant due to war. The fact remains; the Emancipation Proclamation did not guarantee freedom. Slavery took upon the new name, “peonage”. Thankfully, some were fortunate enough to escape.

Works Cited

“Bailey v. Alabama.” Great American Court Cases. 4 vols. Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. <galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/>.

Billington, Monroe Lee. The American South. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1971

Divine, Robert A…..(et al.), America, Past and Present. NY…(et al.). Pearson Longman. 2005.

Eskridge, Greg. Interview by author. Grafton, WI, 3 May 2005. Koda, Cub.

King, George. “Letters From Mississippians, 1916-1918”. Goin’ To Chicago. PBS Online. < http://www.pbs.org/gointochicago/migrations/index.html>.

Koda, Cub. “Charley Patton Devil Sent the Rain Blues”. (Audio CD insert): La Spezia, Italy: Comet Records. 2004.

Meier, August and Elliot Rudwick. From Plantation to Ghetto, Third Edition. NY: American Century Series. 1976.

Rubel, David. Fannie Lou Hamer From Sharecropping to Politics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Silver Burdett Press, Inc. 1990

Woodson, Carter G. “From a Century of Negro Migration (1918)”. From Bondage to Liberation. New York: Faith Berry. 2001.

Angie’s Early Pioneering Activism for Obscure Local Blues History (2004-07)

Contact:  angie@ozaukeetalent.com for speaking engagments and interviews

December 2004
Angela got in touch with Alex van der Tuuk and began corresponding with him on a regular basis and reading his book

January 2005
ParamountsHome goes online, collects data, and begins networking locally and worldwide

April 2005
Kris of the Grafton Jaycees begins to tackle the project of putting on a blues festival in Grafton after Angie proposed the idea to the group.

May 2005
Angela gets in touch with Michael “Hawkeye” Herman and he begins encouraging her and mentoring her toward her goals.

September 2005
Joe Krupski approaches the Grafton Planning Commission to open a Paramount Restaurant

September 2005
Michael “Hawkeye” Herman does Blues in the Schools for all 3 Grafton Elementary Schools (Thanks to principal Scott Oftedahl, area music teachers and Kennedy P.A.C.E.)

Fall 2005
“Embrace the Legacy” concert series designed to educate adults about Paramount at the Timothy Wooden Building/North Shore Academy of the Arts (Thanks to Barbara Krause and Grafton Area Live Arts)

October 2005
Angie pitches the “Paramount Blues Festival” to the Cedarburg Cultural Center.  Angie helped plan the event featuring Ann Rabson, Fruitland Jackson, and a Paramount panel discussion

October 2005
Ad Hoc Committee forms to discuss the possibilities of incorporating the Paramount theme into the downtown redevelopment and Grafton’s identity. Ad Hoc Committee Members Present: Jim Brunnquell, Jim Grant, Angela Mack, Tom Sweet, Melissa Schmitz, Darrell Hofland, and Michael Rambousek. Discussion begins about creating a Paramount music society of sorts

December 2005
Paramount GIG (Grooves in Grafton) begins to form and later brings “the mobile museum” to area banks, businesses, and the library to educate the community. (Thanks to Missy Schmitz)

January 2006
Grafton Blues Association begins to form out of members from the Grafton Jaycees

July 2006
Paramount GIG presents “A Dance With Early Jazz” to raise funds for the etching of artists into the Walk of Fame

July 2006 ParamountsHome wins the annual Wisconsin Historical Society website award

July 2006
PBS History Detectives films in Grafton upon Angie’s written request and story pitch

August 2006
“Lost Musical Treasure” by PBS History Detectives airs nationwide

August 2006
The Grafton Hotel is purchased by Rob Ruvin

September 2006
Angie presents “Passionate about Paramount and the Blues” at the Grafton children’s library

September 2006
First annual Paramount Blues Festival presented by the Grafton Blues Association and attended by first lady Jessica Doyle

September 2006
Representative Mark Gottlieb issues a legislative citation to the Village of Grafton acknowledging the importance of the history and praising the Village, individuals, and groups who have embraced the history

September 2006
The Village of Grafton holds the first annual Walk of Fame ceremony to honor Henry Towsend as the first inductee into the new Walk of Fame.  Angie provides a team of youth singers to accompany the event.

September 2006
North Shore Academy of the Arts (Angie) presents a second annual “Embrace the Legacy” concert featuring the Paul Curtis Band

October 2006
ParamountsHome (Angie) lectures at the Wisconsin State Historical Museum

October 2006
Henry Townsend Memorial Benefit Concert presented by the GBA- American Legion, Grafton

November 2006 Grafton Blues Association becomes organization of the year – Grafton Chamber of Commerce

November 2006 Paramount Plaza tree lighting ceremony – Grafton Chamber of Commerce

December 2006 Paramount Restaurant opens and begins to provide a venue for musicians to play (Thanks to Joe Krupski)

December 2006 North Shore Academy of the Arts (Angie) finishes its recording studio and does some makeshift recording projects with Scout Groups, classes and birthday parties

December 2006 Paramount GIG begins to merge into the Village of Grafton Historical Preservation Commission

The News Graphic lists Angie as one of the most influential leaders in Ozaukee County. (2006)

June 2007 Playwrite Kevin Ramsey announces his new musical, “Grafton City Blues” to be performed at the Milwaukee Rep Theatre Jan-March 2008.  Angie’s interview of Kevin is published in the playbills.

June 2007 Paramount Walking Tour is completed

Summer 2007 Many of the components of the Paramount Plaza are completed

September 2007 2nd annual Paramount Blues Festival

September 22, 2007 Walk of Fame ceremony inducting Louis Armstrong and Son House. Dick Waterman came for the ceremony and gave the Grafton Historic Preservation Commission a photo of Son House and Skip James that hasn’t ever been published before.

October 18, 2007 Village of Grafton and Grafton State Bank formally dedicate the sculpture by Norm Christensen

world music foundation

Listen to Podcast Paramount Records:  the Rise, Fall and Resurrection featuring Alex van der Tuuk and Angie Mack Reilly presented by The World Music Foundation

Flowers for Blind Blake’s Grave from Detroit Michigan

Hi Angie,

A few years ago, my oldest brother stumbled on an article from OnMilwaukee.com with your journal entries on finding Blind Blake’s grave. He sent it to me and told me to read it, which of course I did. Our dad raised him, me, and my other brother on the blues, so we have an attachment and respect for anything like this.

To make a very long story short, we did a Mississippi Blues Trail road trip last summer with our mom that took us from Tupelo to Indianola to Memphis to St. Louis, and we planned one for this past weekend in the Chicago area. We made a trek up to Milwaukee specifically to see Blind Blake’s grave. We were actually concerned that we weren’t going to make it in because the hours online said it was closed Saturday and Sunday (thankfully that was just the office hours).

We found it on Sunday tucked away in the back corner past the infant section, starting to get overgrown. But that was the reason we brought gardening tools on this trip. Like your journal says, that entire section is so hard to navigate. We cleaned it up and placed some flowers on top and were happy to see other trinkets have been left.

I attached the picture we took on Sunday; I thought you’d appreciate seeing it. I also wanted to thank you for your searching and dedication and the fact that you got him a headstone so blues fans can come and pay their respects. Honestly, if it wasn’t for you, your team, and your research, we wouldn’t have even gone to Milwaukee on this trip. It was definitely something special—and something I’m not going to forget anytime soon.

Regards,

Christina Lazzara, Detroit Michigan

Interview with TennJim on Living in the Rural South During the Great Depression

This was previously published on creativeconnectionarts.com and has not been edited since 2006.

“Interview with a Tennessee Native”
“Interview with Tennesse native :The cultural landscape of Tennessee from a once poor,  white man’s perspective”
by Angela K. Mack (c) 12/06(This man who wishes to remain anonymous is from  Murfreesboro, Tennessee and was born in 1934. He recently retired as a V.P. General Manager of a fortune 500 company.)  He is also a musician.   Check out his country music here:  http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=698443

Angela:   I have written a scholarly in depth article about peonage/sharecropping in the south.

“TennJim”:  Angela,  thanks for the article. Having grown up in the rural south during the depression, I can attest to the validity of your essay. Sharecropping during that period resulted in forced indenture as you so aptly put it, however, the alternatives to both african-americans as well as uneducated caucasians were not too attractive. History will substantiate that the basics of life in the agrarian south was hard to come by. Unless you had access to land on which to grow food, there was little option available to prevent starvation. That meant for basic survival, you needed access to land. That was only available by renting land from existing landowners, purchasing land for yourself, or entering into an agreement to “sharecrop”. The more enterprising individuals would rent the land from a landowner who was facing eviction from his farm for overdue taxes. Then they would solicit credit from the local seed company to plant their crops, paying back the cost of the seeds as well as the rent on the land when the crop was harvested and sold. After a successful first year, they could recycle their portion of the seed for next years crop. Remember, cotton gins typically retained half of the cotton seed as their “toll”. The only drawback to this rental system was the initial cash required to rent the land. That led to the option whereby the tenant could rent the land for 50% of the crop returned to the landowner.

I remember seeing a large african-american family of 8 coming to my Grandfather’s farm in 1943. The family was homeless and had no money for food or shelter. The father of that family ask my Grandfather if he could live in an old shack we had behind one of the barns. My Grandfather gave him rights to live in the house and use a large plot for a garden. In return, he allocated a 40 acre field to his family on which they were to plant a cotton crop, work it and harvest it. 50% of the crop would be given to my Grandfather, the remainder was theirs. My Grandfather provided the seed, mules and plows, gave the family garden seed and equipment and let them have milk, eggs, etc. from the animals on the farm. The women of the sharecropping family were expected to help out with the preservation of food from our garden, help with the butchering of pork and beef and some other chores. The 40 acres produced around 60 bales of cotton which were worth around $2,000 back then. The sharecropper had $1,000 in cash at the end of the year. The family that we had were frugal and made most of their clothes or bought them from “rummage” sales. They preserved enough food to carry them through the winter with some small exceptions. After about 3 or 4 years, they were able to move out and get a small farm of their own. I even remember my grandfather selling them some calves to get them started.

So, yes, the servitude referred to is accurate. There were a lot of large landowners who did take advantage of the plight of the freed blacks to create an environment of forced servitude. I was friends with a large plantation owner’s son in Tunica Mississippi. I have seen first hand the Plantation Store charging $10.00 for a $2.00 pair of work pants, $5.00 for a $.50 sack of sugar, $1.00 for a 5 cent pack of garden seed, etc. and “putting it on the due-bill”. Also, I’ve seen this same landowner cheat the sharecropper out of their half of the crop by showing a gin-ticket that only produced half of what the crop really made. Then after extracting the ginning toll, instead of the share cropper getting $1,000, they only received $500. After extracting the Plantation Store bill, the sharecropper was left owing $500…meaning he had to work another year to work off his debt. Keep in mind, most of these sharecroppers (black and white) were illiterate so it wasn’t hard to mislead them.

Both scenarios happened. Some were fair and honest, some very unfair. Maybe that’s why blues music came out of some of those unfair situations. They represented the hopelessness of the social systems prevalent on some plantations.

Angela:  Wow. Fascinating stories. I like first hand stories the best. It sounds like your grandfather saved this family. I take it that you owned a plantation? Would you mind telling me what state you grew up in? I am fascinated with understanding the south during this time period. You brought up something that I haven’t heard much of……those plantation owners who WERE fair and helpful. Why do you suppose some were fair and some not? Human nature?

“TennJim”:  I grew up in Tennessee. My Grandfather was a Doctor and had acquired land over the years, some as payment for his services, the rest as an investment. As the depression deepened, all of my relatives moved to the farm. Jobs in the cities just weren’t available and we all had to eat. My Grandfather was a very strict man and demanded everyone work. I remember chopping cotton right beside some of those sharecroppers. Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t treated the same as the African-Americans, but I was expected to carry my own weight when it came to the work.

I knew a few land owners who were fair. Most went to the same church as my family and we would talk about the general economic conditions after church service. Often the conversation would center around the labor needed to harvest the year’s crops and where that would come from. My Grandfather knew that to get the temporary labor from “town” when September came, he would need to be known for fair play. There was a very developed line of communications between the sharecroppers and the itinerate workers who lived in town and eked out their living by doing odd jobs for shopkeepers. Every Saturday night the entire “black” community would gather along a section of town that was considered “their area” and chat about the week’s events – both in town and on the farms. Since there was typically a shortage of temporary laborers at harvest time, the available workers would go to the farms that were known for fair practices.

The largest plantations had sufficient workers in most cases to handle their harvest, and thus were not dependent on the temporary labor pool. That meant they could be less fair in their dealings, hence, the conditions I described above.

I had an uncle who ran one of the stores where the “black community” would congregate on Saturday night. I remember when he died and we had to inventory his store, we found deeds to large parcels of land in shoeboxes at the back of the store. Apparently, he loaned money to landowners during this depression era and they had given him the deed to their property as collateral. If we had pursued this collateral, it would have created critical economic problems for the small town. I remember my Grandfather burning those deeds to make sure no one ever tried to repossess the lands. There were also several “due-bills” to the African-Americans, some over 20 years old. Again we just burned them.

Angela:  What disparities were there in how you were treated and the African Americans were treated? Did they ever get together and sing or play music?

“TennJim”:  Disparities. I remember one Christmas eve when another Uncle came by our house. Now this Uncle was one of the “unfair” landowners. He had a little “black” boy with him. This child was dressed in a Tuxedo and was carrying my Uncle’s whiskey jug. My Uncle would offer the adults in my family a drink and tell the little boy to give them the jug. Then he would have the little boy take a drink from the jug. Everyone would have a big laugh. I remember feeling sorry for the child but knew that because he was black, there was nothing I could do. I also remember that the school bus that carried the white children to school would stop right at the front gate to our farm. There was no bus for the black children. They had to walk around 4 miles to get to school. Most of the black children just gave up and quit school. Every year at harvest time, the black schools closed for “cotton-picking” season. The schools would be out for around 4 weeks while all of the black children would help with the cotton picking. Remember, the cotton pickers could earn 1 cent per pound for picking cotton. The more family members you had picking, the more money you made. The white schools would stay in session except for the last week of the harvest season. That’s when we had the county fair and school would be out for that. I remember the bus depots with their “white” and “colored” bathrooms, drinking fountains. It was only a couple of years ago that the local Doctor’s office eliminated the “colored” waiting room.

Angela:  What denomination were you a part of?

“TennJim”:  I was and still am a Southern Baptist. Services on Sunday use to be an all day event. Families would bring a covered dish to one of the homes and in the summer we would have a big spread on tables in the yard. Most of the time, the “black” sharecropper families would assist in the preparation and serving of the food. When all of the “white” families had eaten, the “black” families would help themselves to the leftovers.

Angela:  Did you have a phonograph? If so, what types of music did you listen to? Did you know any white musicians?

“TennJim”:  My Father had made a Victrola phonograph in shop class in High School. One of those crank up types. We had a large collection of 78 rpm records, many of which I still have. A lot of them were blues (mostly “Stomps”), some country (Jimmie Rodgers” and a few “jazz” – foxtrots. The one song I remember playing over and over was Hobo Bills Last Ride by Jimmie Rodgers. It was interesting that a little later in life I met and played with the Carter Family. Mama Maybelle had played on the same recording session as Jimmie Rodgers in Bristol when he recorded his first records. I later met and played with several “country” music people…Chet Atkins, Hank Williams, Sr., Ernest Tubb, and lest I forget, Johnny Cash and Elvis…

I do remember hearing some old African-Americans sitting on the porch of the Plantation Store on Saturday night. One would be playing an old Stella guitar using a broken “coke” bottle neck for a slide, one a harp and maybe one would have a washboard or nail keg to provide the percussions. I was enamored with the sound of the blues, even though it was inappropriate for me to hang around them. I remember my Father telling me one day, “Son, you have been hanging around those “darkies” so much you’re beginning to turn black yourself…just look behind your ears”. Of course he was referring to the fact that my face needed washing, but the insinuations were there at any rate.

Angela:  This information is extremely helpful. What blues records do you have? Do you have any Paramount records? If so, which ones?

“TennJim”:  I’m not sure which records I have left. They are in Atlanta where my Mother lived until her death last month. I remember we had Al Jolson “Sonny Boy”, numerous Jimmie Rodgers, a song “Grandfather’s Clock”, “Memphis Stomp”, “St. Louis Blues”, and a bunch I can’t remember right now. I’ll have to get my hands on the records and I’ll let you know. If I remember, most were either “Victor” labels or “RCA”.

Angela:  The music you heard them play as a child is so typical. And you are a musician too? What do you play?

“TennJim”:  I am somewhat of a musician…or at least use to be. I play guitar, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass and piano. My instrument of choice is acoustic guitar though and when I was doing session work for various labels around Nashville and Memphis it was with the acoustic guitar…although I do believe I have the honor of playing the first Telecaster on stage at the Grand Ol’ Opry.

Angela:  Did the African Americans in your area have phonographs? Would you let them listen with you?

“TennJim”:  I don’t recall any African Americans having a Victrola when I was growing up. Most didn’t even have a radio. On Sundays, I remember after church when we were having Dinner in the front yard, I would sometimes play the Victrola. The african-americans who were there would listen. But, the most interesting thing I remember was when Joe Louis was fighting Billy Conn for the Heavy Weight title and the fight(s) were on the radio, the black family who lived on our farm would gather outside our window to listen to the fight. They would be rooting for Joe Louis to win, while we would be for Billy Conn…Joe of course won.

Angela:  Was your church all white? What church did the African Americans go to?

“TennJim”:  Oh definitely the churches were segregated. The church I attended as a child didn’t really integrate until the 90’s. I’m not sure if they would have turned away an African-American, but I’m sure some of the old timers would have frowned upon a “black” person entering the congregation. Even though I grew up in a rather unbiased family, we were taught that “separate but equal” was not to be questioned. The African Americans had their own churches, predominantly Baptist and Methodist. Usually they were a small one-room structure located in the section of town set aside for the “black people”. Much the same for their schools. No indoor plumbing, just an outhouse out back. And the one thing I remember about the churches and schools, every one had a baseball field. That was the only sport that we integrated during the 40’s and 50’s.

It wasn’t until 1954 or 1955 that the white kids were allowed to really enjoy “black” music. When Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, et al were just getting started, it was considered inappropriate for white kids to go to concerts where these acts were playing. I still remember the church sermons about how this “devil music” is going to destroy our morals.

Angela:  You have been the most helpful. You have no idea how important this information is. It’s one thing to read about it, but another thing to hear personal stories.

“TennJim”:  Of course it brings back lots of memories. As you may have noticed, the Church keeps coming up in my posts. Church was our escape from the day to day realities of life. The music of the church has always influenced our lives and contributed to the way we intrepret music. From the blues singers I’ve talked to over the years (and I’m 72 this year), most attribute their musical talents to the church.

As many of you know, I was a session guy in Nashville, primarily with RCA. When the musical industry began their shift to Rock and Roll, I went to Memphis to see what connections I could make in the studios there. That’s where I met Sam Phillips and the whole stable of blues artists he represented. As I’ve said in another post somewhere, Dewey Phillips was responsible for the marketing arm of Sun Records. Black music was played on WDIA (I believe that is the right call letters). White music on WHBQ along with other stations, but Dewey was with WHBQ. Without Dewey playing the black artist’s music on WHBQ, I still don’t believe the success of the blues artists would have reached the prominence that it did. That’s just my opinion.

Angela:  You said, “It was only a couple of years ago that the local Doctor’s office eliminated the “colored” waiting room.”  Was this place in operation as a segregated facility? My God…………..

“TennJim”:  No, the facility was integrated. No one really enforced the waiting rooms, it was just that the facility didn’t remove the signs. And most of the African American community still adhered to the signs even though they weren’t enforced. I assume that it was a “comfort” factor for them.

I was thinking last night about how the general public viewed the race issues in the 40’s and early 50’s. I made some references to the “Black Area” of town. In my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee the section of town set aside for the general non-caucasian population was in the flood plain of the Town Creek. Every year in the spring, you could expect the creek to flood at least once. That area was known locally as “black-bottom”. The people who lived there were predominantly african-american but there were a number of “white-trash” families living there as well. The general public viewed both of these social levels as equals and when it came time to hire temporary field workers, farmers would use the caucasians as well as african-americans on an equal basis. The section of town that became the hangout for the African-Americans on Saturday night was known as “mink-slide”. I’m not sure of the origin of this nickname, but it probably related to the color of the mink…predominantly dark skinned. I remember listening to the “Boll-Weevil” song…

“Farmer said to the boll weevil
whatca doin’ here on the square.
Boll weevil said to the farmer
Got a great big family there…
Just lookin’ for a home…
Just lookin’ for a home.”

The black population weren’t permitted to congregate on the town square. If an African-American was caught on the square, he was arrested. “Mink-Slide” was located about a block off of the square and there was an imaginary boundary where they could come to. So, in the context of my home town, the song made sense. The boll weevil was viewed as a metaphor for the African American people and the farmer was wondering why he was on the square.  Just another tidbit.

Angela:  Anything else?

“TennJim”:  remind me of the significance of the Illinois Central railroad to the blues music in Mississippi in the 30’s and 40’s. As I said in one of those posts, my Father in Law worked as a contract heavy equipment operator for the I.C. during those years. They were building the tracks and trestles through the Delta and worked and lived along side the African-American “tie-gangs” who were laying the track and crossties. Most of these workers were ex sharecroppers who were trying to escape the peonage situation found on the plantations. In most cases, they had moved to Memphis and found they couldn’t live there without a permanent job. With the expansion of the railroad from Chicago to New Orleans and the movement of industrial products from the Steel Belt to the growing South, jobs were available from the railroad. These displaced African Americans would get a job with the railroad and work (sometimes along side the inmates from Parchman) to complete the expansion and upgrading of tracks. Occasionally a few would catch a freight train north to Chicago thinking that was a better place to live than Memphis.

As I said in that earlier post, my Father in Law would tell of stories of hearing these “Negroes” playing their instruments and singing their blues songs at night. Again, as an escape from the realities of the hard life they were living. He also would tell of the “darkies” having to buy their own tools from the Company Store (which was just a converted box-car). Again, like the plantations, the store charged higher prices for their goods and would put them on a charge system which left the worker with little or no real cash after they settled up their bills. So, in effect, the railroads were contributing to the peonage system. Guess that’s why they were still “Singing the Blues”…

Angela:  How has the African American music that you heard as a child influenced your playing?
Do you have elements of that in your music?  And the whole hillbilly era/stage…………what do you know of that?

“TennJim”:  I had to really think about your question, “How has the African American music that you heard as a child influenced your playing?”. I tried to remember if I even thought of the music as African American. In all honesty, the answer is no. I didn’t know there was such a thing as African-American music or any other “race” related music. All I remember is that when I heard Al Jolson sing Sonny Boy, I enjoyed it. Same with W. C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues. I really didn’t connect it with any specific race.

Most of the music that influenced me has some basis in both African-American as well as Appalachian Mountain Music (Which I prefer to “Hillbilly”). I believe that both styles have some roots in Irish Jigs and Irish Folk Songs. It’s just that the Delta blues incorporated the “shout” used by the field hands on the plantations in their development of the “call and respond” style of the blues while the Appalachian Mountain Music kept pretty much to the style of the Jigs and Folk songs.

It’s interesting to look at some parallels of the growth of the two genre’ of music. Sharecropping or peonage created the environment that led to the delta blues. Of this I have no doubt. The pain, despair, longing for freedom and the hope of one day escaping that condition lives in most of the Blues songs. In the mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina the European immigrants, the Native Americans and numerous runaway slaves toiled in dark, unsafe coal mines working for the “man”. Like their African American counterparts on plantations in the delta who were indentured by the sharecropping system, these people were indentured by the company store and the large coal companies who used them to line their own coffers. Instead of the Delta juke joints, this group of people would gather at a local church to sing songs of pain, despair, longing for freedom and the hope of one day escaping the life in the coal mine. In both styles, the simple acoustic instruments were the choice for the music…Began with the fiddle playing jigs and lullabys, accompanied by banjo’s and guitars, usually for church or local dances.

As I said earlier, my Grandfather on my Father’s side of the family was a Doctor and Landowner. My Mother’s side of the family were from Appalachia. My Maternal Grandfather was a blacksmith in the Coal Mines of Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee. His roots were from Wales and Native American. My maternal Grandmother was Irish and I still remember her singing Irish tunes when I was very young. My maternal aunts and uncles were musicians. When we would get together for family reunions, everyone would play their instruments and sing. So my largest influence was from the mountains.

Electricity didn’t arrive in the East Tennessee mountains until TVA was created under FDR. Exposure to music was limited to church, social events, and if you were fortunate enough to have a battery powered radio, the Grand Ol’ Opry broadcast every Saturday Night on WSM Radio. So other than the music that was handed down from generation to generation by family members, you only knew what you happened to hear on the radio broadcasts. Since battery power was valuable, you didn’t get to hear much of that.

Living so close to Nashville during my younger years and having been exposed to the mountain music and the Grand Ol Opry on Sat. nites, it was natural that my music leaned that direction. I still didn’t connect the blues to the appalachian music until I met the Carter Family. Listening to Mama Maybelle Carter talk about her relationship with Jimmie Rodgers and how he had come from Mississippi with his experiences and exposure to the African American music of that area, coupled with their mutual experiences with the railroad, that I began to put two and two together. I realized that some of the songs I had heard from the sharecroppers on our farm contained the same feelings of despair and hope that I was hearing in some of the music coming from the coal mining communities of Appalachia. I realized just how important the railroad was to the possibility of escape to those in the sharcropping dilema as it was to the coal miners of appalachia. The only way out of the mountains or the delta was on a freight train headed north.

So, does my music relate to African American music. Indirectly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten blues: excerpts from angie mack reilly (2004)

“Forgotten Blues” excerpts

© 11/04 Angela Mack originally published on paramountshome.org and creativeconnectionarts.org

I first became aware of the Paramount story when I received a bulk letter in my Grafton, WI mailbox close to the turn of the 21st century. It was from a man that I did not know. He claimed that Grafton, WI was once the home of a famous record company called Paramount. Immediately, I laughed. “Yeah right”, I thought, “in this totally uncultured town of people”. I knew it was hoax. After all, I had lived in the town for approximately 5 years and was a songwriter and recording artist myself. If a recording studio was truly a part of Grafton’s history, surely I would know about it! This man, John Teftteller, inquired if I had any of Paramount’s 78 records hiding in my basement. He claimed that the records recorded in Grafton were very special. He named some of the recording artists, but I never heard of them. After glancing at the very bizarre letter, I threw it in the trash and forgot about it for another few years.

Then, one day I was bored. So I decided to surf for awhile. Nothing seemed interesting. I decided to look into the history of my hometown, Grafton, WI. I found a lot of information about the town’s pride, the lime kilns that existed long ago and the quarry that used to be mined for limestone. I already knew this. I once saw a picture of the quarry in one of the banks while I was setting up a savings account for my young son. I also live very close to Lime Kiln Park. I live on West Falls Road in Grafton which is the same road that Lime Kiln Park is on. The lime kilns are still there. The quarry has since been filled, leaving a nice place to picnic. To be honest, I didn’t even know what a lime kiln was until I moved to Grafton. But I quickly learned that it as an important part of this community.

I searched the Internet diligently for some nugget of information about the recording studio that John Tefteller claimed to be here. Sure enough, I found some former articles from the Journal Sentinel that confirmed the reality of its existence. Immediately, I was intrigued. I was obsessed. I was in shock. I was in disbelief. I was in disgust that my city didn’t augment the story more. WHY? It was then that I was propelled into this obsession for finding the facts surrounding the Paramount Record Company in Grafton which flourished in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

I learned that Paramount was located in a Chair Factory which existed just off of the street that I live on. The Chair Factory rested along the Milwaukee River. In addition to furniture, they sold phonographs. In attempts to sell the phonographs, they allowed for a recording studio to dwell in the building which would make records to be given out with the phonographs. In my research, I learned that many African American blues artists came up from Mississippi and Chicago in the dead of the night via the electric train on the Interurban Trail to record their blues………………

Immediately, I contacted my city officials. I expressed my anger that there are seemingly huge events in Grafton’s history that are being forgotten. I expressed my fury that there weren’t any monuments or pictures of these black recording artists. Paramount’s history isn’t accentuated like it should be. I quickly received a cordial response. I was informed that, “just last year”, a historical marker was set up near he location of the Chair Factory mentioning Paramount Records. It was a nice letter, a little too nice? I wondered why it took so long for a historical marker to be erected in honor of Paramount. I wondered if it had something to do with John Tefteller, a man from New York, who shed light into every home in this area?

Next, I attempted to find the historical marker. Funny, but I kept driving past it. I couldn’t figure out where to park. It was hard to get to. Finally, I found it, read the Paramount blurb and wanted to cry. It didn’t seem to say enough. As I gazed down at the Milwaukee River, I heard the river running over the rocks creating beautiful melodies. My heart missed these blues artists, whoever they were. I felt sad for them. I oddly felt connected to them. I felt sorry that, even though the city officials are currently aware of Paramount’s history, the residents aren’t.

Experimentally, I have asked resident after resident if they’ve ever heard of Paramount. The area artists and musicians seem to know a little about it. But the average citizen does not. The area of the torn down Chair Factory is hauntingly eerie. It is fascinatingly compelling. The spirit of the blues is down there. The spirit of the African American singers is down there. I know because I felt it. I had nothing to do but to feel tremendous pride and respect. Greatness dwelt here. But still, I wanted to know more…………….

I began to share my passion over the history of Grafton with my petite Italian friend, Missy…………. She dynamically got on board with the vision and mission. As someone who is passionate about and actively prays for people and society, she shared how she prayed at the historical place years ago but didn’t know the significance of it. She wanted to go there and pray together. So, we went to the historical area to pray. We walked around on the opposite side of the river from the recording studio and prayed among the trees………

Shortly after, Missy and I spread the news of Paramount to our family and friends. Missy discovered that her Grandfather, Joe Gumin, recorded with the sister company of Paramount called Broadway. Her grandfather was from Sicily jazz musician. Missy learned that her deceased grandfather may have some of the rare Paramount records.

I told the story to a group of friends who came over one night. Some of them were shocked that they lived in this area for so long and didn’t know about it. …..

So eleven of us drove in the dark to the location of where Paramount once stood……

When we crossed the bridge to get to our destination, Mark whispered to all of us, “Immediately, I am struck by the noise of the river flowing over the rocks. The river is making music. When we get to the location, let’s quietly listen…………

We quietly walked down by the river and listened. Again, it was eerie. Everyone silently walked around to listen. One of my friends, Kat, was a little afraid. “The sap hanging on the old pine tree seemed to have formed tears”, she said. Then my husband commented, “Imagine what these trees have seen.”
“Hey everybody!” shouted Mark. “Look what I found! It’s one of the beams from the original foundation!” He pulled out a worn piece of wood from a crevice in the cement foundation.

Then my ten year old son cleared his throat. “I think he has something to say,” I said.

“I can just see people playing jazz on the big rocks in the river,” he said motioning toward the river with his hand, “like someone with a cello and other jazz instruments.” Josh was right, I could envision that, too. The rocks were certainly large enough and the water wasn’t too deep.

I shared that if the blues music scene returned to Grafton, it would affect Milwaukee just as the Milwaukee River flows into Milwaukee…….

We continued to walk around in the dark, sharing our thoughts as they came. Together we dreamed. We prayed. We reminisced and tried to imagine. I stumbled upon a huge stump of a tree approximately 3 feet wide at the edge of the river and sat there. I closed my eyes. Again, I was sad. How I wish I could have witnessed it all! How I would have loved to hear Charley Patton, founder of the Delta Blues who recorded at least 28 times in Grafton. I thought about Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Son” House, Tommy Johnson, Skip James, “Papa” Charlie Jackson, Ida Cox, Louise Johnson, and “Ma” Rainey, “Mother of the Blues”.

I thought about the tremendous excitement that they must have felt. After all, Paramount recorded many of the first African American records ever. They recorded at least 1/ 4 of all of the blues music in America at that time. These Delta Blues artists were foundational in American music in general. The Delta Blues was an off-shoot of the African-American work songs. In fact, many of these musicians lived on plantations in Mississippi. The joy they must have felt! Did they celebrate and play in this river together? Did they sit out on the rocks and play the blues to the evening sky? As I listened and wondered, I faintly heard the deep rich voice of a black man and a guitar. I sang with him in a slow and mournful tone, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound”.

When I got up from the tree stump, I listened to more people share their thoughts and feelings. Missy described how there used to be a dam in the river. She talked about the river providing power. Victor, Jodi, and Chris were standing together up by the road reading the Paramount historical marker in the dark. My eight year old son, Timothy, commented, “This is a happy place”.

On the way back to our cars, Victor who looks like a lumberjack in his big fluffy gray beard and hair explained to me that many new species of fish have come up to Grafton from Milwaukee after the dam was broken down. Being a fisherman, he knew much about the river.

Since my friends and I took our little field trip to the Paramount site, I’ve been madly searching for information about the lives of the African American recording artists who developed their dream in Grafton. The more I have researched, the more appalled I have become. WHY ISN’T THIS CELEBRATED IN A BIG WAY? THIS IS A HUGE DEAL IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND MUSICAL HISTORY! It has infuriated me.

If I was in charge of Grafton, immediately I would erect a museum honoring the Delta Blues. I would visually show how the African American slaves gave us their spirituals and work songs. These beget Delta Blues. Delta Blues beget other blues. Later, many other styles like Dixieland and Boogie Woogie came along. Then came Be-Bop and, eventually, Rock and Roll. Everybody would know how foundational Delta Blues was in American music overall.

I would open a happening blues club with all sorts of memorabilia about Paramount and its recording artists. We would have our Chatton Burgers, “Ma Rainey” fries and Skip James pizza. I would make sure that everybody remembers their names. Their pictures would be painted on a mural.

I would also hold a yearly national blues festival bringing in all sorts of musicians. I bet Eric Clapton would come.

I would make sure that every music program in Ozaukee and Milwaukee County teaches their children the story and takes their children to Grafton for a field trip. I would celebrate it in the parades. (Not one of the parades has done this yet.) Instead of just the lime kilns, the black recording artists’ photographs would be permanently hung in our banks.

Busloads of kids from Milwaukee would come to Grafton on the weekends to attend blues workshops. They would learn to be proud of the blues. I would get Oprah to come to town and tell the entire world about how great these recording artists were. I would make a feature film about the lives of the famous people who came here. I would make music videos with artists playing their instruments on the rocks in the river and while standing on the big tree stump along the river’s edge. Yes, I have big dreams for Grafton, WI but no money. What’s a student to do?

I don’t know why my town doesn’t make a big deal out of the stories behind Paramount. God, I hope it isn’t because they don’t want to attract blues lovers and artists to Grafton. I hope that the blues story isn’t forgotten or diminished on purpose. This would be a travesty. Maybe they are just ignorant….ignorant about African American and music history. If that is the case, I will do my best to keep the city informed and I will pray that somebody or some group comes along with some money to bring the story of the forgotten blues alive.

Taken from my website http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com

NOTE: SINCE THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN 2004, MANY GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS IN GRAFTON HAVE BECOME EXCITED ABOUT GRAFTON’S MUSIC HISTORY. THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS NEWFOUND AWARENESS:

December 2004
Angela got in touch with Alex van der Tuuk and began corresponding with him on a regular basis and reading his book

January 2005
ParamountsHome goes online, collects data, and begins networking locally and worldwide

April 2005
Kris Marshall of the Grafton Jaycees begins to tackle the project of putting on a blues festival in Grafton after Angela Mack proposed the idea to the group.

May 2005
Angela gets in touch with Michael “Hawkeye” Herman and he begins encouraging her and mentoring her toward her goals.

September 2005
Joe Krupski approaches the Grafton Planning Commission to open a Paramount Restaurant

September 2005
Michael “Hawkeye” Herman does Blues in the Schools for all 3 Grafton Elementary Schools (Thanks to principal Scott Oftedahl, area music teachers and Kennedy P.A.C.E.)

Fall 2005
“Embrace the Legacy” concert series designed to educate adults about Paramount at the Timothy Wooden Building/North Shore Academy of the Arts (Thanks to Barbara Krause and Grafton Area Live Arts)

October 2005
“Paramount Blues Festival” at the Cedarburg Cultural Center featuring Ann Rabson, Fruitland Jackson, and a Paramount panel discussion

October 2005
Ad Hoc Committee forms to discuss the possibilities of incorporating the Paramount theme into the downtown redevelopment and Grafton’s identity. Ad Hoc Committee Members Present: Jim Brunnquell, Jim Grant, Angela Mack, Tom Sweet, Melissa Schmitz, Darrell Hofland, and Michael Rambousek. Discussion begins about creating a Paramount music society of sorts

December 2005
P
aramount GIG (Grooves in Grafton) begins to form and later brings “the mobile museum” to area banks, businesses, and the library to educate the community. (Thanks to Missy Schmitz)

January 2006
Grafton Blues Association begins to form out of members from the Grafton Jaycees

July 2006
Paramount GIG presents “A Dance With Early Jazz” to raise funds for the etching of artists into the Walk of Fame

July 2006

ParamountsHome wins the annual Wisconsin Historical Society website award

July 2006
PBS History Detectives films in Grafton

August 2006
“Lost Musical Treasure” by PBS History Detectives airs nationwide

August 2006
The Grafton Hotel is purchased by Rob Ruvin

September 2006
North Shore Academy of the Arts presents “Passionate about Paramount and the Blues” at the Grafton children’s library

September 2006
First annual Paramount Blues Festival presented by the Grafton Blues Association and attended by first lady Jessica Doyle

September 2006
Representative Mark Gottlieb issues a legislative citation to the Village of Grafton acknowledging the importance of the history and praising the Village, individuals, and groups who have embraced the history

September 2006
The Village of Grafton holds the first annual Walk of Fame ceremony to honor Henry Towsend as the first inductee into the new Walk of Fame

September 2006
North Shore Academy of the Arts presents a second annual “Embrace the Legacy” concert featuring the Paul Curtis Band

October 2006
ParamountsHome lectures at the Wisconsin State Historical Museum

October 2006
Henry Townsend Memorial Benefit Concert presented by the GBA- American Legion, Grafton

November 2006 Grafton Blues Association becomes organization of the year – Grafton Chamber of Commerce

November 2006 Paramount Plaza tree lighting ceremony – Grafton Chamber of Commerce

December 2006 Paramount Restaurant opens and begins to provide a venue for musicians to play (Thanks to Joe Krupski)

December 2006 North Shore Academy of the Arts finishes its recording studio

December 2006 Paramount GIG begins to merge into the Village of Grafton Historical Preservation Commission

June 2007 Playwrite Kevin Ramsey announces his new musical, “Grafton City Blues” to be performed at the Milwaukee Rep Theatre Jan-March 2008

June 2007 Paramount Walking Tour is completed

Summer 2007 Many of the components of the Paramount Plaza are completed

September 2007 2nd annual Paramount Blues Festival

September 22, 2007 Walk of Fame ceremony inducting Louis Armstrong and Son House. Dick Waterman came for the ceremony and gave the Grafton Historic Preservation Commission a photo of Son House and Skip James that hasn’t ever been published before.

October 18, 2007 Village of Grafton and Grafton State Bank formally dedicate the sculpture by Norm Christensen

content rescued from https://web.archive.org/web/20130507120517/http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=50