Blues Trail adds new marker

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lennard Sibley was 12 the first time heheard the song, a popular blues hit from the 1950s.

    “This was back in the days of cassettes,” said Sibley, rememberinghis early teen years in Jayess. “My dad bought a Time-Life cassettetape of blues music.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

    One of the songs on that cassette tape was “Mama, Talk to YourDaughter” by J.B. Lenoir.

    As the song played, part of Sibley’s heritage became real tohim.

    Lenoir was a cousin of Sibley’s grandmother, but Lenoir died in1967 due to injuries from a car wreck, so Sibley never met theblues man. Listening to that cassette tape was Sibley’s firstexperience with Lenoir’s music.

    Now, Sibley’s heritage is part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.

    The Trail’s 145th marker honors Lenoir and has been placed inMonticello.

City officials, Blues Trail representativesand Lenoir’s relative Sibley gathered in Monticello Saturdaymorning in front of the Lawrence County Civic Center to celebratethe marker’s unveiling.

    “He was an outstanding individual in the blues scene,” said AlexThomas, a program manager with the state Music Trails.

    Lenoir was born in 1929 on a farm near Monticello. He learned toplay guitar from his father. Angry at the discrimination he faced,Lenoir eventually left the area and by 1949 had settled into theChicago blues scene.

    Smith discussed Lenoir’s notability following the Monticellomarker’s unveiling.

    “What made J.B. stand out was his lyrics,” Smith said. “They tendto be controversial. Lenoir was talking about things a lot ofmusicians were afraid of.”

    Those lyrics often dealt with political themes, including Southernracism, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

    Lenoir’s protest songs were recorded later in his career, in the1960s.

    His biggest hit occurred earlier, though. It was the 1955 “Mama,Talk to Your Daughter,” a straightforward expression of longing fora woman.

    Lenoir’s politically charged 60s output was recorded for Europeanmarkets and played during a European tour. It was deemed toocontroversial for American labels and was not commerciallyavailable in the U.S. until years later.

    Sibley, who now lives in McComb, said it is a tragedy Lenoir diedwhile he still had much of his career ahead of him. He added,though, that what Lenoir left behind is legacy enough.

    “The music speaks for itself and lives on,” Sibley said.

    The Monticello marker comes about three weeks after the dedicationof a marker honoring Little Brother Montgomery in Brookhaven.

    With a marker honoring Bo Diddley already in McComb, SouthwestMississippi is gaining more of a presence on the Blues Trail.

    “When people think about Mississippi blues they usually think aboutthe Delta, but the I-55 corridor was where many of them were from,”Smith said.