View the h-southern-music Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-southern-music's August 2006 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-southern-music's August 2006 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-southern-music home page.
Dear Friends, If you missed the opening, you still have a chance to see the exhibit. Regards, Dave Rabbit Foot Minstrel Exhibit in Port Gibson until September 30, 2006. "The Blues in Claiborne County: From Rabbit Foot Minstrels to Blues and Cruise," an exhibit exploring the history of the famed Rabbit Foot Minstrel Show from 1900 to 1957, had its grand opening in Port Gibson on Friday, June 30. The opening, which featured a keynote address by David Evans and paperpresentations by Jerry Bangham, Alex Albright, and Jim Sherraden, ended with a concert by Evans and his Last Chance Jug Band. It was a stimulating and satisfying evening for all who attended. The exhibit, which is on display at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, 507 Market Street, Port Gibson, will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment on weekends and holidays, until September 30. It features 18 printed panels tracing the people, places, and events that shaped Rabbit Foot from its founding in Tampa, Florida, by African American showman Pat Chappelle, to its acquisition in 1912 by Fred S. Wolcott in Columbia, South Carolina, after Chappelle's death, to its move to Port Gibson in 1918. From that home base it traveled throughout the South from Florida to Virginia and west to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas until it folded under the pressure of changing tastes in entertainment in the late 1950s in Monroe, Louisiana. Some of the people who performed with Rabbit Foot over the years are blues singers Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Ida Cox, and "Diamond Teeth" Mary Smith, Harlem nightclub and Broadway dancer "Jazzlips" Richardson, rhythm and blues great Louis Jordan, Memphis showman Rufus Thomas, Charles Neville of the popular Neville Brothers from New Orleans, and Leon "Pewee" Whittaker, who played in brass bands all over Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, ending his career with Hezekiah and the Houserockers in Natchez. Also featured in the exhibit is a modern blues performer, Bobby Rush, who relates how he was influenced by Rabbit Foot. The panels include 75 photographic prints, 20 reproductions of vintage newspaper accounts and advertisements, and 13 excerpts from oral histories from participants and audience members. Visitors who pause to read will come away with a new understanding of the importance of the minstrel show tradition in American popular culture. In addition to the panels, the exhibit includes an open tent sending forth a soundtrack of music from the minstrel show tradition. At one end of the tent are two mannequins dressed in period costume as members of the "High Brown Follies" chorus standing on stage in front of a huge enlargement of a chorus line from the 1940s, a vintage piano, and typical brass band instruments representing the $10,000 Rabbit Foot gold band. At the other end are life-sized cutouts of Bobby Rush and two of his backup singers, and a performance costume worn by Bobby Rush, representing how the blues continue at the annual Blues and Cruise Festival each 4th of July weekend. Other artifacts in the exhibit are fixtures from vintage Palace Pullman Cars which F. S. Wolcott and his family traveled on when they were with the show. These include three stained glass cornices from over doors, a car door with an etched glass panel, three sconce-style reading lights that fold out of the wall and turn on when raised, and two overhead light fixtures with four bulbs each. The exhibit is funded in part by the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Claiborne County Port Commission, Port Gibson Main Street, Inc., and other generous businesses and individuals.