Some more great blues news to round out the month, beginning with the long-deserved placing of a headstone on the grave of Delta blues great Tommy Johnson. Singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt had originally paid for Johnson's headstone back in 2001, but it had been stored in the Crystal Springs, Mississippi library while things were worked out for its placement. Evidently, the cemetery that Johnson was buried in after his death in November 1956 was sandwiched by two private properties, and the only road into the facility was disrepair. It's taken this long for the county to rebuild the thoroughfare to provide access.
On Friday, October 26th, 2012 the Warm Springs Methodist Church Cemetery was rededicated with Johnson's long-overdue headstone in place. A day previous, a ceremony was held at the Mississippi State Capitol where a painting of the Delta bluesman was unveiled and William Woods, chairman of the history department at Tougaloo College in Jackson spoke of Johnson's career and legacy while local blues musician Ben Peyton played his guitar and sang Johnson's "Canned Heat Blues." The underrated Tommy Johnson - no relation to Mississippi Delta blues legend Robert Johnson - was plagued by his own demons but managed to release a significant and influential body of work that blues fans are still discovering today.
The other great blues news concerns the induction of singer and harp player Sugar Ray Norcia to the Canada South Blues Society Hall of Fame. In recognition of a life lived in the blues, honoring Norcia's lengthy career, which has spanned four decades, the induction took place in a ceremony held on Saturday, October 20 th, 2012 at the Canada South Blues Museum in Windsor, Ontario. Norcia and his and the Sugartones rocked an appreciative audience with two lengthy sets, the band including Norcia, guitarist "Monster" Mike Welch, bassist Michael "Mudcat" Ward, keyboardist Anthony Geraci, and drummer Neil Gouvin.
"I am humbled and honored to be recognized for my contribution to blues music," said Sugar Ray in a press release for the event. "Along with my band the Bluetones, the support of Severn Records and the loyal fans who have followed my career, I hope to continue singing and playing this wonderful genre of music for many years to come."
Related content: Sugar Ray & the Bluetones - Evening CD review
Photo of Tommy Johnson portrait courtesy the Mississippi House Of Representatives Information Office