Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Pinetop Perkins," Belzoni

Photo by Scott Barretta

On May 3, 2008 a marker was erected on Highway 49 about a mile north of Belzoni in honor of pianist Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins. He was born on July 13, 1913 on the nearby Honey Island plantation.  As a young man Perkins also played the guitar, but switched over to the piano after an angry woman cut the tendons in his arm. As a young man Perkins played around the Delta with guitarists including Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker, performed on the King Biscuit radio program over KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, and taught a young Ike Turner to play piano. 

Perkins later toured widely with artists including Earl Hooker and in 1969 he took over the piano spot in Muddy Waters' band following the death of Otis Spann. Over the last several decades he's enjoyed a successful solo career, and his many honors include a Grammy award in 2008. After the unveiling there was a "Pinetop Perkins Festival" in Belzoni, which featured artists including Bobby Rush and Pinetop himself, who played together with the band of Billy Gibson (pictured below).

Photo by Scott Barretta

On May 9 Perkins was on hand at Hopson for the dedication of the marker "Cotton Pickin' Blues," which acknowledges the role of cotton production in the blues. Hopson was the first place where a crop of cotton was planted and harvested using only mechanized implements, and one of the tractor drivers during this time was none other than Pinetop.  He also showed up for the unveiling of a marker saluting his good friend Hubert Sumlin in Greenwood.

Photo by Scott Barretta

Here's a video about Perkins put together by his label Telarc in tandem with the release of his newest CD "Pinetop Perkins and Friends." One of the artists featured here is B.B. King

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