MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Cresap plays for tips that he donates to local United Way

Published 6:53 pm Monday, September 3, 2018

It’s almost noon on a Wednesday, and the words of an old folk song drift across the porch of the Levee Street Marketplace, “When John Henry was a little baby, sitting on his daddy’s knee, he picked up a hammer and a piece of steel …”

Eddie Cresap is in his usual spot at Levee Street Marketplace this particular day, decked out in a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat, strumming his guitar and singing for the customers who visit Mary Landers’ store on Levee Street; his tip box sitting on the floor in front of his speaker.

The message on the box tells people who generously drop a dollar or more in it that their tips are going to a good cause — United Way of West Central Mississippi.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I’m singing out for United Way,” he said.

A native of West Tennessee, Cresap came to Vicksburg in 1979 when he took a job at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Plant in Port Gibson after leaving the Navy.

“I was a nuclear power electrician (in the Navy),” he said. “I rode what are commonly called ‘boomers’ that carried (ballistic) missiles, and our job was for some period around two months to remain undetected and be ready to fire our missiles if ordered to do so.

“I made five patrols and taught at the nuclear power program.”

He began playing at Levee Street Marketplace about four months ago after overhearing a comment about music by Landers.

Now retired from Grand Gulf, Cresap and his wife Rosemary have a booth at the store selling embroidery.

“We were here one time putting embroidery in our booth when I heard Mary talking about picking on the porch, and I said, ‘I’d like to come pick on the porch,’ and here I am.”

Cresap said he usually tries to coordinate his performances with the tour boat visits, because of the increased foot traffic.

“It’s advantageous to Mary, because the purpose for her is to try and draw customers to her store. And for me it’s the people who wander in and out.

“My daughter, Michele (Connelly) is the executive director of United Way, and I was thinking if I ever get any tips, what better place to do it than to give them to United Way to support their processes and programs,” he said.

“The little money I get as tips will go much further in their programs than it would at my house.

Michele tells me every two dollars I get in tips will feed a senior (citizen) for a week. I’ve been donating ever since I’ve been working. Now that I’m retired, I do volunteer. We’ve helped in the color runs and all the big activities, my wife and I, and we enjoy that.”

Enjoys playing

Cresap began playing the guitar during the early 60s folk music revival, adding, “I had maybe three or four false starts where I didn’t have anyone to help me, and I just didn’t succeed. Finally, I somewhat succeeded.

“Playing is personally enjoyable, because I like playing. And the other thing, it’s enjoyable because I know I’m raising money to help someone that needs some help; unable to help themselves.

“Every tip I get goes to United Way. Some days are better than others. I’ve made as little as $2 in a two-hour period and as much as $50. When I complain about small tips, my daughter reminds me that $2 will feed a senior for a week.

“I certainly couldn’t make a living at it,” he said with laugh.

Cresap plays what he calls “Americana music; what some folks might call old folk music. I also do a lot of late 60s to late 70s acoustic music.”

A member of Porter’s Chapel United Methodist Church, he also played and sang gospel music and hymns during the church’s early Sunday service.

Presently, he’s getting ready to play for United Way’s “Supper on the ‘Sip,” fundraiser Sept. 27 where participants will be able to dine on the old Mississippi River Bridge eating dished prepared by local restaurants.

“Because we’re right there on the bridge and close to the railroad, I’m going to sing old railroad songs,” he said.

Cresap plans to continue picking and singing “as long as my fingers allow me to play. God’s blessed me with a long life and good health. Even though I’ve got arthritis, my fingers are still able to play.”

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.

email author More by John