Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Annual graveside jam at Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery, Blanchard-LatexRd near Mooringsport, remembers Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter; event Sat, Oct 22, noon

Article by Katy Ray for

"It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home…"

The great American songwriter and folk singer Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) was thinking about his hometown of Mooringsport, La. when he sang these words at the turn of the twentieth century.

On October 22, 2011 at noon, you have the chance to visit Leadbelly's grave and hear this song (and others) performed by north Louisiana musicians in the Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery right there in Mooringsport, at the annual pilgrimage known as the Leadbelly Era Celebration.

If you don't know who Leadbelly is, chances are you know the songs he wrote or performed. "Cotton Fields Back Home" is an old favorite of our grandparents and great-grandparents—probably ingrained in the memories of even the youngest modern Southerners. And Leadbelly wrote many songs that became part of the Great American Songbook. "Midnight Special," "In the Pines," "Black Betty," "Goodnight Irene," "Birmingham Jail"... The list goes on and on.

To summarize, he was an iconic traveling musician who, like his compatriot Woody Guthrie, wrote songs documenting American life in the 1800s and 1900s. He was a fascinating character with a colorful personal history.

And every fall, the musicians of his home region gather together at the foot of his grave, in a humble church cemetery, to pay homage to the great musician buried beneath there. All are welcome, and welcome to bring their own instruments and join their voices to the chorus.

It's a low-key affair, but truly special and sweetly spiritual in nature. It's worth the short drive through the beautiful countryside to commune with nature, some top-notch musicians and fellow music lovers (about 45 minutes outside Shreveport).

Leadbelly Era Celebration
Saturday, October 22, 12pm-1pm
Free admission. All are welcome.

Directions: Take I-20 Exit 3 (LA -169), North 10 miles to Caddo Parish #6. (a.k.a. Blanchard-Latex Rd.). Turn left on Caddo Parish #6, drive 2.6 miles to Shiloh Baptist Church.

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