A Porch with a View

DATELINE:  May 3, 2001
Natchez, Mississippi

Mississippi River Blues

From the front porch of a somewhat forgotten house high up on the bluff in Natchez, we record a song by Jimmie Rodgers, "The Singing Brakeman."  Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1897.  We're in Natchez for the view of the Mississippi River. 

It's on the title words to his Mississippi River Blues that Jimmie Rodgers demonstrates one of  his famous 'Blue Yodels.'

In Natchez, Highway 61 skirts by the mighty river and crosses paths with the famous old Indian trail, the Natchez Trace.  In much the same way, the flow of Jimmie Rodgers' life, though cut short by tuberculosis, skirted by and crossed cultural boundaries which allowed him to introduce elements of the Blues into the hillbilly music of his day.  He is now known as the "Father of Country Music."  About 1/3 of Jimmie Rodgers' 110 recordings are Blues related and Ralph Peer, who discovered and recorded Rodgers for Victor Talking Machine Company, considered this element of Blues to be the key to the singers success.

Eddie and I had Chinese food with our parents the evening before setting out on the excursion that brought us here to Natchez.  My fortune cookie said, "You will have  pleasant trip."  We set out with no particular plan of where in Natchez to record, just knowing that it would not be at the gazebo downtown on the waterfront because we had already made an unsuccessful attempt to record this tune there.  It had been far too noisy, with too much wind off the river.  We moseyed into town and made a quick pass down along Silver Street to Natchez Under the Hill, and then let ourselves drift around town until we settled high up on the bluff at a dead end on Clifton Avenue.

Tucked away within the shadows, we set up among the trees.  The breeze is gentle here and never threatens to be a problem for our recording.

We saw this old house and stopped.  I dosed in the warm car, pretending to watch after our equipment while Eddie went off knocking on doors and the doors of neighbors.  He was gone for quite awhile.  From time to time I'd wakeup and roll down the window and snap a few pictures, just to have proof that I was with the program and not doing what appeared to be sleeping on the job.  Eddie came back with a neighbor, an ally, Mary Jane.  She took us for an introduction to the owner of the old house.  He graciously gave us permission to record on the porch.   The recording went great.  How could anyone complain, especially with that view.  And in the Après travail we talked with our newest friends, Mary Jane and her husband and cousins in from Atlanta for a visit.  Invited into their home, we shared refreshments and stories and were given the chance to witness a Mississippi River Sunset from their balcony.

For once my cookie was right!

Copyright 2001 Thomasfilms, Inc.