John Lingan is the author of Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk. He lives in Maryland and is writing a biography of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
An essay from the Place Issue
As a music writer and amateur New Orleans obsessive, I’ve known of Buddy Bolden for years—known what there is to know, that is, about a musician who left no recordings. The shotgun on First Street was deemed a New Orleans Historic Landmark in 1978, but the last ten years for this house, his longest and final residence, have been a saga of demolition by neglect, the City Council’s term when levying fines.
Johnny Mercer drew from the same black musical traditions as Elvis would a generation later and made, if not quite a billion dollars, certainly an inexhaustible fortune, and left behind a half-dozen of America’s most indelible melodies besides.
“They all seemed together by ear,” according to Nancy Blake. “It was the first time I’d ever seen hillbilly string musicians hit that Charles Mingus headspace. I knew there was music coming into the world that had never been in it before.”