Blues great finally will get headstone at Cedar Hill

Published 9:05 pm Saturday, July 22, 2017

Twenty-three years after her burial in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Lucille Spann’s blues fans will be able to visit her final place of rest.

A native of Bolton, Mahalia Lucille Spann was born in 1938 and grew up singing gospel music in Mississippi and Chicago, where she moved in her early teens.

In the 1960s, she met and married well-known blues pianist Otis Spann, starting a collaboration that produced a series of recordings that eventually ended with Otis Spann’s death in 1970, although she continued her work in music and made a number of further recordings with Mighty Joe Young.

When she died in 1994, the spot where she was buried in Cedar Hill was never marked, and remained unmarked until recently, when the Killer Blues Headstone Project purchased the marker, said Vicksburg Blues Society president Shirley Waring.

Waring said the marker will be dedicated Friday at Cedar Hill. A time has not been set.

The headstone project was begun by Steve Salter, the owner of a CD distribution business called Killer Blues, after he learned the graves of many great blues artists were either marked by small markers or not marked at all. One of those graves was Otis Spann’s.

“Otis Spann was one of the significant postwar blues piano players,” Waring said. “He played with Muddy Waters.”

According to the Killer Blues Headstone Project website, the markers the organization purchases are 1-foot by two feet by 4 inches. The markers cost $300 to $400 each to be carved and each is specific to the artist.

The markers have the name and the dates of birth and death, but then most contain either a graphic relating to the instrument the person played, or a quote from that particular artist, or both.

“The Vicksburg Blues Society thanks Killer Blues for providing this marker, and Greenlawn Gardens for their work to install the marker,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming Steve Salter to Vicksburg, and appreciate the important work is organization carries out.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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