"Papa" Lightfoot became the latest Mississippi native to
be honored with state Blues Trail Marker. On Friday, September 4,
2009, the State of Mississippi held the unveiling ceremony in his
hometown of Natchez, Mississippi at Jack Waite Park on McCabe.
Blues Trail eventually will be composed of more than one hundred
and twenty historical markers and interpretive sites located throughout
the state and will continue to be developed in phases as funding becomes
available. Phase 1 of the Trail consists of nine markers that were
funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The second and third phases are being funded by grants from the National
Endowment for the Humanities, the Mississippi Department of Transportation,
and the Federal Highway Administration. Additional support for each
marker has been provided by the Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism
Division, Delta State University, and local communities.
Lightfoot's habit of singing through
his harp microphone further coarsened his already rough-hewn vocals,
while his harp playing was simply shot through with endless invention.
His sessions for Peacock in 1949 (unissued), Sultan in 1950, and
Aladdin in 1952 preceded a 1954 date for Imperial in New Orleans
that produced Lightfoot's "Mean Old Train," "Wine
Women Whiskey" (comprising his lone single for the firm) and
"When the Saints Go Marching In." Singles for Savoy in
1955 and Excello the next year (the latter billed him as "Ole
Sonny Boy") closed out Lightfoot's '50s recording activities,
setting the stage for his regrettably brief comeback in 1969. Producer
Steve LaVere tracked down the elusive harp master in Natchez, cutting
an album for Vault in 1969 that announced to the world that Lightfoot
was still wailing like a wildman on the mouth organ. His comeback
was short-lived; he died in 1971 of respiratory failure and cardiac
marker sites include or will include honors for B.B. King, Big Joe
Williams, Big Walter Horton, Bo Diddley, Bobby Rush, HoneyBoy Edwards,
Howlin' Wolf, Jimmie Rodgers, Robrt Johnson, Jimmy Reed, Son House,
and Robert Nighthawk.