Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Senatobia to Honor Two Music Stars with Music Trail Markers

Senatobia has been chosen as the site for two new Mississippi music trail markers. O. B. McClinton will be honored with the Country Music Trail marker and Jessie Mae Hemphill and the Hemphill family will receive a Mississippi Blues Trail marker. These two internationally known music artists were born in Tate County and made their homes here. The fund raising drive in support of erecting the markers is led by the Tate County Economic Development Foundation with support from the Sycamore Arts Council.

“We are excited to be the location for two music trail markers in the state’s heritage tourism program,” said Janie Mortimer, executive director of the Tate County Economic Development Foundation. “These markers will literally put Senatobia and Tate County on the map for people who visit the state because of our musical heritage.”

While the Mississippi Development Authority/ Tourism Division oversees the creation of the trails, the research and naming of artists and communities, it is the local town and county that are responsible for purchasing each marker.

“MDA provides the opportunity for local communities to be a part of the music trail program, but it is up to us to fund the markers,” Mortimer said. “Our fund raising efforts have generated a gratifying and wide-ranging level of community interest and support. We hope that everyone interested in supporting this project will do so. Every dollar is important.”

A fund raising drive has been started to raise the monies needed to bring these markers to Senatobia. Any amount may be contributed, but sponsorship categories are $100 for Individual Sponsors and $250 for Corporate Sponsors. Persons or businesses wishing to make a donation may do so by sending a check to the Tate County Economic Development Foundation at 135 N. Front St., Senatobia, MS 38668. For more information about your donation, call The Foundation at 662-562-8715.

O. B. McClinton began listening to country music as a child and bought his first guitar in Memphis on Beale Street. O. B. attended Rust College in Holly Springs on a choir scholarship and graduated in 1966. He served in the Air Force where he won service talent shows, which spurred him on to write songs. A friend introduced him to a Charlie Pride album and he turned his attention to country music. In 1971, O. B. became the first Country Music artist on Stax Records country label. He also recorded for Mercury and Epic Records. He considered his first country music chart single “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” his best work. But he is best known locally for his hit “Obie from Senatobie”. He charted 15 singles on the Billboard magazine Top 100 Country Chart during a career that lasted from 1973- 1987. His last recorded performance, just weeks before he died, was on the Ralph Emery Show in Nashville where he performed a song about returning to his hometown of Senatobia. O.B. died on September 23, 1987 after a year-long battle with abdominal cancer.

Jessie Mae Hemphill was born into a multi-instrumental musical family in 1923. She followed in the footsteps of her renowned grandfather, blues player Sid Hemphill. She had several family members who were artists in their own right- her great grandfather, grandfather, two aunts and her mother were all musicians. She began playing guitar at the age of 8 and later played in her grandfather’s band. Throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s she stayed close to her musical roots and played on Beale Street. Jessie Mae’s solo career began in the early 80’s with the release of her first album, “She Wolf”. Hemphill won the W.C. handy Award for Best Traditional Female Blues Artist two years in a row- 1987 and 1988. Her album, “Feelin’ Good” brought her the Handy Award for Best Acoustic Album in 1991. In 1993, Jessie Mae suffered stroke that left her left side paralyzed. Although she could no longer play guitar, she still sang, but retired from touring and returned to Senatobia. She was coaxed out of retirement in 2003 to record one last CD and DVD, “Dare You To Do It Again”. Jessie Mae passed away July 22, 2006 and is buried in Senatobia Memorial Cemetery.

The Mississippi Country Music Trail was unveiled in 2010, following the success of the Mississippi Blues Trail, which now boasts over 100 markers across the state and other locations. The markers are tourist attractions bring thousands of music fans to the state every year.
For more information on how to help with this project, contact the Tate County Economic Development Foundation at 662-562-8715 or

Submitted by Sharon Rone Self, Sept. 15, 2010