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Papa Lightfoot to be Honored with Mississippi Blues Trail Marker

George "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.

The Mississippi 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 arrest.

Other 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.
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