Historic Farish Street
Drive through Historic Farish Street* , now under development as Jackson’s newest entertainment district. Farish Street is to Jackson what Beale Street is to Memphis and Nelson Street is to Greenville. Soon, you’ll be able to hear the famous “Farish Street Sound” once again at all-new clubs and restaurants. Can you find these landmarks?
- Speir Phonograph Company, 225 N. Farish St. H.C. Speir, a white store owner, traveled the South as a talent scout in the twenties and thirties, finding blues artists for record companies. Charley Patton, Skip James, and Willie Brown were among Speir’s discoveries.
- Ace Records, 241 Farish St. Producer Johnny Vincent started Ace in 1955 to record New Orleans artists Earl King, Huey “Piano” Smith, and Bobby Marchand.
- Record Mart (and Trumpet Record Company and Diamond Recording Studio), 309 N. Farish Street. This building was once a furniture store; its function began to change when the owner’s wife, Lillian McMurry, heard Wynonie Harris’s “All She Wants to do is Rock.” McMurry started ordering and selling blues and gospel records from her husband’s store. The record department soon took over the store, and she founded the Trumpet label and began recording music. She was the first to record Sonny Boy Williamson II and later produced most of his hits.
- Alamo Theater, 333 N. Farish St. This grand old theater, one of the first renovations on Farish Street, once hosted vaudeville shows, movies, touring jazz acts, and a weekly talent contest. Dorothy Moore of “Misty Blue” fame, a native Jacksonian still performing today, was a frequent winner. Nat King Cole was performing at the Alamo when he got the news that his daughter Natalie was born.
- Big Apple Inn, 509 N. Farish St. Sonny Boy Williamson II and his wife Mattie lived in the upstairs apartment during the years he was recording at Trumpet. Later, that apartment became the state NAACP headquarters, and civil rights leader Medgar Evers worked there as state field secretary. He was murdered in 1963 at age thirty-six. His home at 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive is now a museum (Call 601-977-7839 for information). The Big Apple, once known as Big John’s, is famous for its “Smokes” (minced sausage sandwiches), and you can still buy a bagful, as well as pig ear sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, and hot tamales.
- Birdland, 538 Farish Street. This bar was once the Crystal Palace, which brought in touring jazz and R&B acts. The old name is still visible in fading paint on the brick wall on the building’s south side.
*For more information on blues sites in Jackson and throughout Mississippi, pick up a copy of Blues Traveling by Steve Cheseborough, published by University Press of Mississippi. Portions of the text above were excerpted from this book by permission of the author.