Local singer and Grammy Nominated songwriter Lamar Thomas has embarked upon a spiritual and musical pilgrimage to the Mississippi Delta, the “Cradle of the Blues.” His newly released film, Take Me Home 2 Da Delta, celebrates the Delta legends who rose above oppressive poverty, illiteracy, and oppression to give birth to a musical style that would shape American culture.
“Too many Delta musicians have become forgotten pioneers,” Thomas explains. His one-hour film, which airs throughout March and April on Blue Ridge Channel 13, “is a tribute to those who were there first.” The acoustic sounds that first filled juke joints, riverbanks, and train platforms weave a story of both black culture and American music in the film that Thomas co-produced with his wife Judy. “The Delta is the heart of the blues,” he reflects, and borrowing a quote from Muddy Waters, he adds, “The blues had a baby, and they called it Rock N’ Roll.”
The Delta is also home to Lamar Thomas himself, who was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi and grew up in nearby Leland “would lay in my bed at night in Leland and listen to the Randy Radio show, a national station out of Nashville, Tennessee that played all black music,” he reflects. “As I lay in my bed listening to the music of Sam Cooke, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, I realized that I could travel even farther using my imagination.” At 15 years old, Thomas left home for New York City. His travels have led him to writing and recording over 25 CDs, earning a Grammy nomination, and eventually finding a home in Tobyhanna.
Take Me Home 2 DA Delta threads together film clips and narration featuring such influential blues artists as:
Howlin’ Wolf – A leading figure in electric blues, known to “rock the house down to the foundation”
John Lee Hooker – born to a sharecropper family, and whose country blues influenced such musical greats as the Animals, John Mayall, and Canned Heat.
“Big Mama” Thornton – who first recorded her hit song “Hound Dog” in 1952, and three years later, Elvis recorded his version. “Big Mama” wrote and recorded “Ball ‘n Chain,” a song that Janis Joplin later immortalized.
“Sonny Boy” Williamson – whose song “Eyesight to the Blind” was performed by The Who in their rock opera Tommy. His music influenced such artists as B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, and Aerosmith.
“Mississippi John” Hurt – a sharecropper and self-taught musician whose songs have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and Taj Mahal.
“Son” House – Whose blues style influenced such artists as Bonnie Riatt and The White Stripes
The title of the film comes from a track on Lamar Thomas’ newly released CD Dry Water Wet Tears. The film DVD is available at local libraries. “This film is for anyone who loves music, anyone who cares where R& B started, and for everyone who needs to know that Rock ‘n Roll started with dirt-poor, self-taught musicians in the Mississippi Delta.”
In the photo: Lamar Thomas’s great grandfather, Jim Moore (seen here with his wife, Lucy Phineses Moore), was a road buddy of the great Mississippi Delta blues player, Robert Johnson. As a witness to musician’s Johnson’s death, Moore signed the death certificate. According to legend, a bottle of strychnine-laced whiskey, offered by a crossed lover, proved fatal for Johnson. Legend also claims that Johnson acquired his musical genius by selling his soul to the Devil at the placed called the crossroads highway 49 & 61) located in Clarksdale Mississippi.