Mississippians were singing the blues during the first round of voting for The Ultimate Mississippi Playlist.
Robert Johnson’s seminal Cross Road Blues becomes the first single to make the list, receiving 33 percent of the votes over Mississippi Queen by Mountain, Roll on Mississippi by Charley Pride and Mississippi Girl by Faith Hill.
Next up, four new nominees for you to listen to and decide which among them deserves to be included on the playlist: The Heart of Dixie by Tricia Walker, Starkville City Jail by Johnny Cash, The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King and Ubangi Stomp by Warren Smith.
To salute the significance of Mississippi music during our state’s bicentennial celebration, we’re asking you to vote for songs that best represent the reasons our state is considered the birthplace of America’s music. All of the nominated songs are about Mississippi or performed by Mississippi artists.
You can listen to four songs and vote for your favorite on mississippitoday.org. You also can vote on our Twitter account. Every two weeks, a fresh ballot of four new nominees will be published. The top vote-getters will be revealed on The Ultimate Mississippi Playlist in December.
All of the contenders were selected by Mississippi music authorities, Mississippi Today and The ‘Sip magazine.
Contenders in Round 2:
• The Heart of Dixie by Tricia Walker. Walker, a native of Fayette and the director of Delta State University’s Delta Music Institute, wrote The Heart of Dixie about the close ties she had with Dixie, the African -American woman who helped raise her and worked for Walker’s family for three generations. The Heart of Dixie, a touching tribute that crosses the lines of gender, class and race, was included in Oxford American magazine’s 2001 Southern Music Sampler.
• Starkville City Jail by Johnny Cash. Country music legend Johnny Cash was arrested for public drunkenness in Starkville and held overnight at the Oktibbeha County Jail on May 11, 1965. His arrest was the inspiration for Starkville City Jail. The song appears on the album At San Quentin. In 2007, more than 40 years after his arrest and four years after his death, the City of Starkville pardoned the late country music legend and held a three-day Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival in his honor. At the time of his arrest, Cash claimed he was just picking flowers.
• The Thrill Is Gone by B.B. King. The Thrill is Gone became a major hit for B.B. King in 1970 after it appeared on his album Completely Well. The song became one of the legendary bluesman’s signature tunes and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1970. King, who was born on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Many other artists also have recorded The Thrill is Gone, but King’s version placed No. 183 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
• Ubangi Stomp by Warren Smith. Ubangi Stomp is an American rockabilly song written by Charles Underwood, who worked with Sun Studios founder Sam Phillips in Memphis, and first released on record by Humphreys County, Mississippi, native Warren Smith in 1956. While the song didn’t make the charts, it went on to become a rockabilly standard and has been covered by many artists. Early in his career, Smith performed with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. Smth’s recording of Ubangi Stomp appears on many compilation albums, including The Sun Records Collection and The Best of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour.
Now, crank up the volume and vote.