'Sleepy' Southern Town

DATELINE:  April 26, 2001
Port Gibson, Mississippi

New Someday Baby Blues

During the Civil War, U.S. Grant said Port Gibson, Mississippi was a town "too beautiful to burn."  Grant must have fallen under the spell of bayous flowing through the marshlands and deep loess soil, and with trees bearded in

That's how Eddie describes F. S. Wolcott's old office.    "The gas station is little bitty and the dance hall is really big."

For all the many reasons there are to visit and marvel at Port Gibson, the reason we chose doesn't top many folks list.  F.S. Wolcott ran the Rabbit Foot Minstrels from here in 19***.  That made Port Gibson Rabbit Foot Central.

The townsfolk were warm and generous to us.  When we first arrived and drove around checking out the town, Linda Williams flagged us down to prevent us from turning the wrong way up a one way street.  We later discovered she now lives in the house F.S. Wolcott built in town when his mansion on the outskirts burned.  *** from the local paper came by to take our picture, *** from the Piano works cafe practically next door invited us over.  A man driving by on the street while I took pictures of Wolcott's office, stopped to tell me to be sure to go inside and take a picture of the "Pecky Cypress" walls. 

Joan Beesley and her stepson Val, who now owns this building, met us there early and took us upstairs where we recorded "Someday Baby Blues."

Sleepy John Estes was born in Brownsville, Tennessee.  We record his song here because like so many talented musicians of his era in the rural South, Sleepy John got some of his seasoning by touring for a time with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.  John got his nickname because he liked to take naps.  One story is he got the name when he went to sleep on the bandstand at a country dance.  His songs and performances are anything but sleepy, and his song writing is remarkably descriptive, telling the stories of life as a musician in a small southern town.

Sleepy John's song "New Someday Baby" has become a blues standard and one of his trademarks.  It opens with the line, "When the trouble first started, it was at my front door."

Minstrelsy can certainly be seen as a dangerous tool in the

hands of ignorance, but it almost appears to have been a Vaudevillian Trojan Horse in a complex cultural exchange.  Will we ever be able to reach beyond the dark stereotypes of an era to see the richness and beauty added to our Global Culture?  Perhaps Someday Baby...

Copyright 2001 Thomasfilms, Inc.