Wesson pursuing Blues Trail marker

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wesson city leaders want to bring the blues to town.

     Mayor Alton Shaw is in talks with the Mississippi Development Authority to put Wesson on the Mississippi Blues Trail, and the mayor feels optimistic.

     “It is pretty much a done deal,” Shaw said Monday.

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     Shaw has applied to the MDA tourism division to have a Blues Trail marker honoring Houston Stackhouse placed in Wesson. Stackhouse, born Houston Goff in Wesson in 1910, never achieved much fame for his own name, but mentored and played with a number of well-known blues artists, including Robert Nighthawk.

     Stackhouse also lived in Crystal Springs; Helena, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn.

     Shaw said he’s wanted to get Wesson on the trail for some time.

     “I’m trying to get some tourism through the trail,” Shaw said. “I’ve been looking at it for several years.”

     Though a blues marker wouldn’t create a booming tourist economy, Shaw hopes it might at least drive a little more business to local shops.

     He’s also got a personal interest in putting Wesson on the trail.

     “I love the blues,” Shaw said.

     After Shaw spent some time researching Mississippi blues artists, he identified Stackhouse as a bluesman with Wesson connections. When he contacted the MDA, he was told Stackhouse was on a list of artists MDA wanted a marker for, but MDA hadn’t found a site yet.

     Enter Wesson.

     Shaw said there will be a site inspection sometime next week, perhaps on Thursday. The purpose of that will be to determine a location for the marker within the city.

     “They recommended not putting it on Highway 51 because it’s such a high traffic area people couldn’t stop to look at (the marker),” Shaw said.

     A location near the Old Wesson Public School seems likely right now, the mayor said.

     The school is undergoing renovation projects right now and will become a community center. Shaw said there has also been talk of putting a small museum at the school site, and material about Stackhouse could be featured at the museum.

     “We might be able to put some memorabilia in there if we can find it,” Shaw said.

     In addition to the blues trail marker, Shaw said the latest round of renovations to the building have just completed, but now the city seems likely to receive additional funds for the future community center.

     “It looks very good to receive another $240,000 to finish out the elevator, finish the lift for the stage and put some parking in the rear,” Shaw said. “That will pretty much complete out everything we need for a community center.”

     This latest round of funds would come through MDA.

     The Old Wesson Public School was built in 1889 and renovation efforts have been ongoing for nearly 10 years.

     If all goes as he hopes, Shaw would like to see the next round of renovations at the old school building start up at the first of next month, with most of the work done by the end of the year.

     Shaw said he hopes to have an opening ceremony and public open house for the community center around Christmas or New Year’s. He believes the elevator and lift will be done by then, though the parking lot may not be wrapped up.